Republicans rebuke Obama aide for avoiding congressional inquiry

Committee Chairman Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) strikes the gavel at the beginning a House Oversight Committee hearing January 16, 2014 in Washington, DC. Drew Angerer, Getty Images

The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee on Friday rebuked a White House official for ignoring subpoenas to testify before the committee.

The committee voted along party lines to pass a resolution rejecting the argument that David Simas, the director of the White House Office of Political Strategy and Outreach, is immune from being compelled to testify on matters relating to his official duties.

Simas has ignored two subpoenas to testify before the committee about his office's activities.

Committee Chairman Darrell Issa, R-Calif., said the committee has a "right and obligation" to investigate the White House office due to its history through past administrations.

"We are not accusing the president, neither this four-person office, of any wrongdoing," Issa said. However, he added, "Inherently, when an office is closed -- one might say in scandal and it's a multi-presidential scandal -- and it is reopened, it is probably the most important oversight we can do."

Rep. Jackie Speier, D-Calif., called the hearing a "patently political action" and a "fishing expedition." Other Democrats echoed those remarks.

Last week, White House counsel Neil Eggleston told Issa that the attempt to compel Simas to testify "threatens longstanding interests of the executive branch in preserving the president's independence and autonomy and his ability to obtain candid advice and counsel to aid him in the discharge of his constitutional duties."

Committee Chairman Darrell Issa, R-Calif., said the committee has a "right and obligation" to investigate the White House office due to its history through past administrations.

"We are not accusing the president, neither this four-person office, of any wrongdoing," Issa said. However, he added, "Inherently, when an office is closed -- one might say in scandal and it's a multi-presidential scandal -- and it is reopened, it is probably the most important oversight we can do."

Rep. Jackie Speier, D-Calif., called the hearing a "patently political action" and a "fishing expedition." Other Democrats echoed those remarks.

Last week, White House counsel Neil Eggleston told Issa that the attempt to compel Simas to testify "threatens longstanding interests of the executive branch in preserving the president's independence and autonomy and his ability to obtain candid advice and counsel to aid him in the discharge of his constitutional duties."

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