RAPID RESPONSE: Issa Scuttles Hearing Testimony After Cummings Plays Video
Washington, DC—Today, Rep. Darrell Issa, Chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, suddenly halted a hearing on the new White House Office of Political Strategy and Outreach (OPSO) and its compliance with the Hatch Act.
Last Friday, Ranking Member Elijah E. Cummings sent a letter objecting to Issa’s unilateral subpoena to compel testimony today from David Simas, Assistant to the President and the Director of the new White House Office, despite the fact that the Committee has identified no evidence of inappropriate activity by Simas or the office he directs.
Issa has now issued 99 subpoenas without any debate or a vote of the Committee since he became Chairman three and a half years ago—more than all three previous committee chairmen combined—in less than half the time.
Issa’s actions halting today’s hearing came directly after a devastating opening statement by Ranking Member Elijah Cummings, who played a video of Issa promising the Committee in its first organizational meeting in 2011 to hold votes on controversial subpoenas.
“If we cannot come to an agreement, a vote of the Committee may very well be the most legitimate way to resolve a difference of opinion between us. I don’t see any of those here today. … And if I want a subpoena, and you really object, I am going to take your thoughts on why you object seriously. To be honest, I will ask other members of my Committee, am I doing the right thing, and seek their guidance. And by the way, not just former Chairmen. I will also undoubtedly talk to other members on your side and say, am I nuts? Am I wrong? Is this somehow a subpoena that’s outside the mainstream? So I don’t intend on simply writing subpoenas endlessly.”
Last night, the White House refused to make Simas available, stating that “the Committee has been unable to point to any indication that OPSO has violated the Hatch Act.”
Today, the Committee was scheduled to hear testimony from Carolyn Lerner, the Director of the Office of Special Counsel (OSC), which is charged with enforcing the federal Hatch Act’s prohibitions against federal employees engaging in political activity, but Issa halted the hearing before she could speak.
The Committee obtained her written testimony on Monday, which shows that she would have testified that her office has also identified no inappropriate activity by the new White House Office. Had Issa permitted her to speak, she would have testified:
“OSC received copies of correspondence between Chairman Issa and the White House concerning the establishment of the Office of Political Strategy and Outreach (OPSO). The White House did not consult with OSC about establishing the OPSO. However, based on our review of the White House correspondence to the Committee, it appears that the White House adhered to OSC guidance in determining the scope of activity for the office. To the extent that OPSO’s activities are limited to those described in the White House correspondence, OPSO appears to be operating in a manner that is consistent with Hatch Act restrictions.”