Issa won't lift White House subpoena

Greg Nash

House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) will not lift a subpoena of the director of the White House's political office after a 75-minute meeting between administration and committee staff on Tuesday.

The White House asked Issa on Monday to drop the subpoena of David Simas, head of the White House Office of Political Strategy.

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But Issa said Tuesday he wants to hear from Simas himself before doing so.

“The committee has outstanding questions for Mr. Simas, who did not take part in the briefing, and it is necessary for him to appear at tomorrow’s hearing,” Issa said in a letter to the White House.

Oversight has scheduled a hearing for Wednesday, and has subpoenaed Simas to testify.

“I believe his on-the-record testimony will provide valuable insight into White House efforts to ensure appropriate use of taxpayer funds,” Issa said in the letter.

White House officials briefed Issa’s staff for more than an hour and answered all of their 45 questions, a Democratic source said.

Democrats had expected Issa to attend the briefing after he took the rare step of unilaterally subpoenaing a top administration official, but the California Republican was not in attendance.

Becca Watkins, Issa's communications director, said the meeting had “always been presented as a staff level briefing.”

Issa’s office noted that Simas did also not attend the briefing.

White House counsel Neil Eggelston said on Monday that Issa’s subpoena was “surprising” since he said the White House offered to brief his staff on the issues and “the fact that you have not pointed to any evidence” the office violated federal law.

“Moreover, your subpoena, which directs Mr. Simas to appear at a public hearing three business days after it was issued, unnecessarily constrains our ability to work together by limiting the time we have to explore mutually-agreeable ways to provide you with the information you seek,” Eggleston added.

White House spokesman Josh Earnest dismissed Issa’s probe last Friday, stating that the political office “operates in full compliance with the Hatch Act, and to date there is not even any suggestion or let alone evidence that we've deviated from the requirements of the Hatch Act.”

The Hatch Act prohibits federal employees from engaging in partisan political activities.

Ranking Member on the Oversight Committee Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) blasted Issa for failing to lift the subpoena in a statement Tuesday.

“It’s bad enough that Chairman Issa issued a unilateral subpoena to a senior advisor to the President with absolutely no debate or vote by the Committee, but in this case, there is no evidence whatsoever to suggest that Mr. Simas or anyone on his staff did anything wrong," Cummings said. "Today’s briefing from the White House was detailed and thorough, and Committee staff were able to ask all the questions they had.  There seems to be no reason to continue this ridiculous confrontation other than to manufacture false controversy as Chairman Issa’s tenure comes to an end.”

 

This story was updated at 5:11 p.m.

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