Kellyanne Conway, who serves as senior counselor to President Trump and was Trump’s campaign manager during the 2016 election, has been told by the White House not to testify in front of a House Oversight and Reform committee hearing this week.
The committee seeks her testimony in response to allegations that she may have violated the Hatch Act.
Monday afternoon, White House counsel Pat Cipollone informed the House Committee, chaired by Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), that Conway would not attend Wednesday’s scheduled hearing. In a written letter, Cipollone stated, “In accordance with long-standing precedent, we respectfully decline the invitation to make Mrs. Conway available for testimony before the committee.”
Cipollone continues, “As you know, the precedent for members of the White House staff to decline invitations to testify before congressional committees has been consistently adhered to by administrations of both political parties, and is based on clearly established constitutional doctrines.”
The Hatch Act of 1939 is a United States federal law that prohibits non-policymaking personnel in the executive branch of government from using various forms of bribery or intimidation to gain influence in political activities. In March of last year, the U.S. Office of Special Counsel (OSC) sent President Trump a letter accusing Conway of violating the Hatch Act when she shared her opinions of political candidates in media interviews.
The OSC letter states, “Ms. Conway gave media interviews in her official capacity on November 20 and December 6, 2017. During both interviews she impermissibly mixed official government business with political views about candidates in the Alabama special election. The Hatch Act prohibits federal employees from using their official authority or influence for the purpose of interfering with or affecting the outcome of an election.”
In other words, as a non-policymaking employee of the executive branch, Mrs. Conway was not allowed to share her own views of candidates when being interviewed. This would seem to be fairly broad reading of a federal law that seeks to prevent government personnel from issuing bribes or threats for political gain.
Cummings has indicated that the committee intends to issue a subpoena for Conway’s testimony. Cummings also told CNN that the committee is prepared to hold Conway in contempt of Congress should she, or the White House, refuse to comply.
The Democrat-controlled House Oversight Committee has been at odds with the Trump administration over several issues, including an ongoing dispute with the U.S. Department of Commerce over adding a question to the 2020 census related to citizenship.
The committee is also conducting its own investigations into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.