Karen Grigoryan/Shutterstock.com

White House Again Rebuffs Issa Subpoena of Political Chief

Head of outreach strategy office David Simas is no-show at hearing.

For the second week in a row, President Obama’s staff has rejected a subpoena from the House Oversight panel chairman compelling live testimony from the head of the White House Office of Political Strategy and Outreach.

At a brief Friday morning hearing of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., officially noted that Obama political aide David Simas was absent “but not excused,” saying the White House had informed him at 7:30 a.m. that morning that the witness would not be testifying.

The hearing, titled “White House Office of Political Affairs: Is Supporting Candidates and Campaign Fund-Raising an Appropriate Use of a Government Office?,” was originally scheduled for July 16, but the White House at that time declined to permit Simas to appear. Also scheduled to appear—but cancelled due to Simas’ absence—were Special Counsel Carolyn Lerner and former George W. Bush White House Associate Counsel Scott Coffina. 

In a July 15 letter to Issa, White House Counsel W. Neil Eggleston asked Issa to withdraw his subpoena, invoking a doctrine of executive branch independence articulated by the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel going back to the Reagan and Nixon administrations. “You have made no effort to justify your extraordinary demand that one of the president’s intimate advisers testify at a committee hearing,” Eggleston wrote. “The committee’s current interest in the [Office of Political Strategy and Outreach] lacks any predicate of wrongdoing or misconduct.”

The White House further noted that during earlier controversies over a previous entity, the White House Office of Political Affairs, then-Oversight Chairman Henry Waxman, D-Calif., interviewed Bush White House employees without live testimony. Eggleston offered alternatives such as more staff-to-staff meetings.

Obama shut down the White House Office of Political Affairs—which planned presidential and Cabinet member political travel—early in his term. That office differed from the more restricted current setup, Eggleston added, challenging Issa’s characterization that the old political office had been “reopened.”

Issa told the sparsely attended hearing that he knows of no “wrongdoing or predicate claim of wrongdoing” that motivates his demand for Simas to testify. “But there have been two Cabinet member violations of the Hatch Act in the past, and we have to look at [that] for all government officials, even those not covered by the Hatch Act,” he said. “Isn’t oversight our right? We have to ask whether this four-person office is a necessary office, and what happens when the call comes in and someone on the government’s dime decides to send a Cabinet member to some congressional district. Because this office closed after a [Bush-era] scandal, it’s probably the most important oversight we do.”

Issa agreed that all presidents combine business travel with campaigning and fund-raising. “But if something bad happens, it’s not a scandal but a chance for further reform,” he said. “Oversight is ongoing. We’re not asking what the president said on what trip or what was decided, but how it was decided by federal employees.”

Ranking member Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., expressed hope that the two sides could avoid the subpoena and cooperate at the staff level. “We’re wondering when the constant questions would end, and whether the chairman is not moving the goal posts,” Cummings said.

Issa said he had sought alternatives to the subpoena such as transcribed interviews, but that lifting it would be “inappropriate” because Simas might then not appear. “We’re not moving the goalposts,” he said. “We expect there to be lots of questions from both sides.”

At a later business meeting, the committee then approved a resolution enforcing its rejection of the White House argument that Simas is immune from testifying on matters relating to his official duties. That prompted Cummings to release a letter from the special counsel’s office saying that the White House had “adhered to OSC guidance” in determining the scope of the new White House political office in a “manner consistent with Hatch Act restrictions.”  Cummings did not, however, endorse the White House claims of strict immunity from testifying.

(Image via Karen Grigoryan/Shutterstock.com)

X
This website uses cookies to enhance user experience and to analyze performance and traffic on our website. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners. Learn More / Do Not Sell My Personal Information
Accept Cookies
X
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Do Not Sell My Personal Information

When you visit our website, we store cookies on your browser to collect information. The information collected might relate to you, your preferences or your device, and is mostly used to make the site work as you expect it to and to provide a more personalized web experience. However, you can choose not to allow certain types of cookies, which may impact your experience of the site and the services we are able to offer. Click on the different category headings to find out more and change our default settings according to your preference. You cannot opt-out of our First Party Strictly Necessary Cookies as they are deployed in order to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting the cookie banner and remembering your settings, to log into your account, to redirect you when you log out, etc.). For more information about the First and Third Party Cookies used please follow this link.

Allow All Cookies

Manage Consent Preferences

Strictly Necessary Cookies - Always Active

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data, Targeting & Social Media Cookies

Under the California Consumer Privacy Act, you have the right to opt-out of the sale of your personal information to third parties. These cookies collect information for analytics and to personalize your experience with targeted ads. You may exercise your right to opt out of the sale of personal information by using this toggle switch. If you opt out we will not be able to offer you personalised ads and will not hand over your personal information to any third parties. Additionally, you may contact our legal department for further clarification about your rights as a California consumer by using this Exercise My Rights link

If you have enabled privacy controls on your browser (such as a plugin), we have to take that as a valid request to opt-out. Therefore we would not be able to track your activity through the web. This may affect our ability to personalize ads according to your preferences.

Targeting cookies may be set through our site by our advertising partners. They may be used by those companies to build a profile of your interests and show you relevant adverts on other sites. They do not store directly personal information, but are based on uniquely identifying your browser and internet device. If you do not allow these cookies, you will experience less targeted advertising.

Social media cookies are set by a range of social media services that we have added to the site to enable you to share our content with your friends and networks. They are capable of tracking your browser across other sites and building up a profile of your interests. This may impact the content and messages you see on other websites you visit. If you do not allow these cookies you may not be able to use or see these sharing tools.

If you want to opt out of all of our lead reports and lists, please submit a privacy request at our Do Not Sell page.

Save Settings
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Cookie List

A cookie is a small piece of data (text file) that a website – when visited by a user – asks your browser to store on your device in order to remember information about you, such as your language preference or login information. Those cookies are set by us and called first-party cookies. We also use third-party cookies – which are cookies from a domain different than the domain of the website you are visiting – for our advertising and marketing efforts. More specifically, we use cookies and other tracking technologies for the following purposes:

Strictly Necessary Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Functional Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Performance Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Social Media Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Targeting Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.