White House Counselor Kellyanne Conway did not show up to testify at a hearing on Monday about Hatch Act violations for a second time, despite being issued a subpoena by the House Oversight and Reform Committee following her absence at the first hearing last month.
“In defiance of that subpoena, Ms. Conway is, again, refusing to appear,” Committee Chairman Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) said during opening statements. Cummings said he hoped Conway would reconsider her decision not to testify, but if not, the committee will have a meeting to hold her in contempt on July 25.
The White House called the hearing “purely political” and asserted in a press release that Conway has constitutional immunity. “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 statement read.
In June, the Office of Special Counsel recommended that Conway be removed from office after finding that she committed at least 25 separate violations of the Hatch Act, a 1939 law that prevents most federal employees from using their position to influence an election.
“Although the President and Vice President are exempt from the Hatch Act, employees of the White House are not,” the office said in its initial statement on June 13. “Ms. Conway’s violations, if left unpunished, would send a message to all federal employees that they need not abide by the Hatch Act’s restrictions.”
Conway is not the first federal employee to have violated the Hatch Act, but she’s notable for doing so repeatedly. “We have never had a repeat offender,” Special Counsel Henry Kerner said at the first hearing. “We never had a situation where there were so many violations.”
Because of the recommendation, the House Oversight and Reform Committee announced it would hold a hearing on Conway’s violations later that month. The committee invited Conway to testify, but the White House declined to let her appear in a letter to Cummings.
The president’s closest advisers are “absolutely immune” from testifying before Congress, wrote White House counsel Pat Cipollone. He cited “long-standing precedent” and “established constitutional doctrine” as the administration’s reason for barring Conway from testifying.
The initial hearing was set for June 26. Since Conway didn’t show up, the Oversight Committee voted the same day to subpoena her appearance for the second hearing on July 15. The committee voted 25-16 to subpoena Conway ― mostly along party lines ― except for Rep. Justin Amash (Mich.), who voted with Democrats. Amash has been a vocal critic of the Trump administration for months and recently quit the Republican Party over its hyperpartisanship and blind loyalty to Trump.
Cummings said Conway’s is a clear-cut case of repeated violations of federal law. “This is the opposite of accountability, and it is contrary to our fundamental system of laws in this country. Nobody is above the law, not even Kellyanne Conway,” Cummings said in a statement.