House Oversight Committee Subpoenas Kellyanne Conway Over Alleged Hatch Act Violations

By Susan Jones | June 26, 2019 | 12:08 PM EDT

White House Counselor Kellyanne Conway speaks to the media on the North Lawn of the White House, on June 24, 2019. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

(CNSNews.com) - In a 25-16 vote, the House Oversight and Reform Committee voted on Wednesday to subpoena Kellyanne Conway, a top adviser to President Donald Trump, to come before the committee and explain her alleged violations of the Hatch Act. (One Republican, Justin Amash, voted with Democrats.)

A federal agency, the Office of Special Counsel (OSC), on June 13 recommended that President Trump fire Conway for repeatedly violating and showing disregard for the law that bars federal employees from using their official position to influence the outcome of an election -- in this case, the December 2017 special election in Alabama for U.S. Senate.

Conway, in two television interviews, advocated for and against specific candidates running to replace Sen. Jeff Sessions, who had been named to serve as President Trump's attorney general.

The OSC also noted that during a media interview on May 29, 2019, Conway "downplayed the significance of the law as applied to her. When asked about the Hatch Act, she stated, ‘If you’re trying to silence me through the Hatch Act, it’s not going to work,’ and ‘Let me know when the jail sentence starts.’”

 

According to the Official of Special Counsel: “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. Her actions thus erode the principal foundation of our democratic system—the rule of law.”

At Wednesday's hearing, Kerner said Conway left him with no choice but to recommend her removal:

I want to make it very clear at the outset that with respect to Miss Conway's First Amendment rights, we in no way wish to assist anyone in silencing her speech. The president has stated publicly that he considers her an effective proponent of his policies, and we have no intent of depriving the president of that assistance.

That said, over the past one and a half years, OSC has received numerous, separate Hatch Act complaints against Miss Conway. As with all Hatch Act complaints that OSC receives, career Hatch Act unit attorneys conduct a thorough and impartial investigation of her alleged political activity.

On March 6, 2018, OSC issued a report to the president documenting multiple Hatch Act violations by Miss Conway. Although Miss Conway had the opportunity to respond to our report, she chose not to do so.

The most recent [June 13] report was the result of a months-long investigation that began with complaints about her Twitter activity back in December of last year and came to include a multitude of violations during media appearances about which OSC has received complaints.

Let me also be clear: The statements made by Miss Conway that violated the Hatch Act were her political opinions. Miss Conway was not talking only about facts during her media appearances in question. Instead she pivoted, sometimes completely unprompted, to attacking the Democratic candidates personally, such as calling the entire field of Democratic candidates wood chips; and calling Sen. Booker tinny and sexist. Those statements are not facts, they're campaign rhetoric, and they are forbidden by the Hatch Act when she says them in her official capacity.

During the recent investigation of Miss Conway, OSC had substantial communication with the White House Counsel's office. OSC repeatedly offered Ms. Conway the opportunity to come into compliance with the law. She refused to do so. In fact, the frequency of her Hatch Act violations only increased.

This left us with no choice but to make the recommendation we made, which is that given the evidence of her clear, repeated and knowing violations of the Hatch Act, and her apparent unwillingness to come into compliance with the law, the only appropriate recommendation to the president under these circumstances was removal from office.

In Conway's defense, Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), the committee's ranking member, called the allegations against her "ridiculous."

"Let's be clear about the Hatch Act," Jordan said. "Federal employees can't come to work, hand out partisan literature, come to work and hand out yard signs. Federal employees can't come to work, raise funds for a candidate or pressure subordinates to support a particular political party, but a senior adviser to the president of the United States can sure as heck go on cable news shows and answer questions.”

Jordan noted that former Obama advisers David Plouffe and David Axelrod did it.

"But now -- now that it's a strong-willed Republican helping President Trump, oh, can't have that! Can't have that. All of a sudden, nope, got to stop that."

Jordan said Kerner felt "slighted" by Conway's failure to listen or respond to them; and they also felt "pressured" by the leftwing political group that filed the complaint -- the "same leftwing political organization that raises tons of money by attacking President Trump and his administration," Jordan added.

Jordan said Conway is being targeted, "not just because she's a conservative; not just because she's in the Trump administration, but she's being targeted because she's good at what she does. And that's why this should not stand.

"And the idea that the Democrats are now going to subpoena her is just ridiculous. They're going to do it because she does her job so well. That's why we're here. And I hope in the next few hours we can get the truth out about the Hatch Act and really expose the motives that drive this whole darn thing in the first place."

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