Kellyanne Conway Defies House Democrats’ Subpoena at White House Direction

WASHINGTON, DC - JULY 02: Counselor to the President Kellyanne Conway talks to reporters outside the West Wing following a television interview with FOX News at the White House July 02, 2019 in Washington, DC. Conway berated reporters as they asked her about President Donald Trump's planned speech on the …
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Kellyanne Conway, a top adviser to President Trump, defied a subpoena from House Democrats calling on her to testify to Congress over allegations she violated the Hatch Act.

The White House asserted immunity for Conway, White House Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham said in a statement Monday that accused House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Elijah Cummings (D-MD) of harassing the president.

“Today, Chairman Cummings and Democrats on the House Oversight Committee continued their purely political campaign to harass the President and his close advisors,” she said.

She added:

Democrats continue to overreach and politicize the Office of Special Counsel – this time, by trying to silence Kellyanne Conway with ill-founded, phony allegations about the Hatch Act. The Committee clearly knows that under long-standing, bipartisan precedent founded in the Constitution, a President’s senior advisers cannot be compelled to appear before Congress.

Immunity has been asserted for Ms. Conway, which the Department of Justice Office of Legal Counsel and White House Counsel strongly reaffirmed. This constitutional protection ensures that future Presidents of the United States can effectively execute their responsibilities of the Office.

Pat A. Cipollone, counsel to the president, sent a letter to Cummings on Monday that said Conway could not be compelled to testify “in accordance with long-standing, bipartisan precedent.”

“The Department of Justice (the “Department”) has advised me that Ms. Conway is absolutely immune from compelled congressional testimony with respect to matters related to her service as a senior adviser to the President,” he said.

“The Department has long taken the position-across administrations of both political parties-that “the President’s immediate advisers are absolutely immune from congressional testimonial process,” he wrote.

Cipollone wrote that the immunity arises from the president’s position as head of the Executive Branch and from Conway’s position as a senior adviser to the president.

He also wrote that the threat of compelled interrogation about confidential communications with the president or his senior staff  “could chill presidential advisers from providing unpopular advice or from fully examining an issue with the President or others.”

He also argued that since the testimony of a senior presidential adviser falls within the scope of executive privilege, compelling that testimony is unlikely to promote any valid legislative interests. He said it would be “inefficient and contrary to good-faith governance.”

Finally, he wrote that the constitutional immunity of current and former senior advisers to the President exists to protect the institution of the Presidency, and as stated by former Attorney General Janet Reno, “may not be overborne by competing congressional interests.”

“Because of this constitutional immunity, and in order to protect the prerogatives of the Office of the President, the President has directed Ms. Conway not to appear at the Committee’s scheduled hearing on Monday, July 15, 2019,” he wrote.

“The long-standing principle of immunity for senior advisers to the President is firmly rooted in the Constitution’s separation of powers and protects the core functions of the Presidency. We are adhering to this well-established precedent in order to ensure that future Presidents can effectively execute the responsibilities of the Office of the President.”

The White House also released a letter to Cipollone from Assistant Attorney General Steven A. Engel providing the DOJ’s legal advice on the matter.

The Hatch Act limits federal employees from engaging in political activity in their official government roles. The White House has rejected a report from the Office of Special Counsel that stated Conway violated the Hatch Act.

The OSC’s report stated:

Ms. Conway regularly participated in official media interviews in her capacity as a White House spokesperson to answer reporters’ questions about the Administration. Beginning in February 2019, Ms. Conway, during official media appearances, engaged in a pattern of partisan attacks on several Democratic Party candidates shortly after they announced their candidacy for President.

Conway told Fox News’s Sean Hannity on Monday, “I’m concerned that there’s such a weaponization and politicization of this thing called the Hatch Act.”

 

Follow Kristina Wong at @kristina_wong.

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