Live

Watch CBSN Live

House Oversight Committee to vote to subpoena Kellyanne Conway over Hatch Act violations

Watchdog: Kellyanne Conway violated Hatch Act

The House Oversight and Reform Committee will vote to subpoena White House counselor Kellyanne Conway Wednesday, after the White House blocked Conway from testifying before the committee. A federal watchdog recommended President Trump remove Conway from federal service earlier this month for violating the Hatch Act.

In a statement, Democrats on the committee said they are holding a hearing Wednesday "to examine violations of the Hatch Act under the Trump Administration." The Hatch Act prohibits federal employees from engaging in political speech.

"Although Kellyanne Conway was invited to testify at this hearing, the White House sent a letter this week notifying the Committee that Ms. Conway will not appear," the statement said. "The Committee will move forward with a vote to subpoena Ms. Conway to compel her appearance at a future hearing."

In his letter to the committee on Tuesday, White House counsel Pat Cipollone cited "clearly established constitutional doctrines" that allow the president to block White House staff from appearing before Congress.  

"In accordance with long-standing precedent, we respectfully decline the invitation to make Ms. Conway available for testimony before the committee," Cipollone said. 

The nonpartisan Office of the Special Counsel — the ethics office for the White House, which is unrelated to former special counsel Robert Mueller — sent a report to the president earlier this month finding that Conway had violated the act "on numerous occasions" by criticizing Democratic presidential candidates in TV interviews and on social media. While the president and vice president are exempt from the Hatch Act, that privilege does not extend to federal employees.

"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," the OSC said in the letter to Mr. Trump, calling Conway a "repeat offender."

However, the White House was quick to defend Conway. "The Office of Special Counsel's (OSC) unprecedented actions against Kellyanne Conway are deeply flawed and violate her constitutional rights to free speech and due process," White House deputy press secretary Steven Groves said in a statement.

Conway herself has seemed unconcerned with the allegations against her. "If you're trying to silence me through the Hatch Act, it's not going to work," she said in May.

"Let me know when the jail sentence starts," Conway said.

Conway went a step further Monday, suggesting the White House isn't sure the law even applies to officials like herself.

"Well, it would be good if I really ... had a quick tutorial on the Hatch Act, what it is and what it is not," Conway told "Fox and Friends" Monday morning. "It's not even clear to us here at the White House, according to White House counsel, that the Hatch Act applies to assistants to the president."

Conway had already received "significant training" on the Hatch Act as of March 2018, according to the OSC, which claimed she violated the Hatch Act after that training. 

Kathryn Watson contributed to this report