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House panel votes to subpoena Kellyanne Conway over Hatch Act testimony

The House Oversight and Reform Committee on Wednesday voted to subpoena White House counselor Kellyanne ConwayKellyanne Elizabeth ConwayPence urges 'positive' agenda to counter Biden in first speech since leaving office Kellyanne Conway joins Ohio Senate candidate's campaign Mark Zuckerberg, meet Jean-Jacques Rousseau? MORE after she did not appear voluntarily at a hearing focused on her repeated alleged violations of the Hatch Act.

The committee voted 25-16 to compel Conway's testimony following roughly 30 minutes of arguments over the validity of the Office of Special Counsel's (OSC) findings that she repeatedly violated the law, which prohibits federal officials from weighing in on elections in their government capacity.

Rep. Justin AmashJustin AmashCheney set to be face of anti-Trump GOP Biden: 'Prince Philip gladly dedicated himself to the people of the UK' Battle rages over vaccine passports MORE (Mich.) was the lone Republican to side with Democrats to authorize the subpoena.

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The White House blocked Conway from appearing for public testimony before the committee Wednesday, citing "long-standing precedent" of declining to offer presidential advisers for congressional testimony.

"There are rarely issues that come before our committee that are so clear-cut, but this is one of them," committee Chairman Elijah CummingsElijah Eugene CummingsOvernight Health Care: AstraZeneca may have included outdated data on vaccine trial, officials say | Pelosi says drug pricing measure under discussion for infrastructure package | Biden administration extends special ObamaCare enrollment until August Pelosi: Drug pricing measure under discussion for infrastructure package Bottom line MORE (D-Md.) said in opening remarks. "This is about right and wrong. This is about the core principle of our precious democracy, that nobody, not one person, nobody in this country is above the law."

Cummings called the White House's reasoning for blocking Conway's testimony "baseless," noting the committee was not seeking information on private conversations involving the president.

The OSC, which is unrelated to special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) MuellerSenate Democrats urge Garland not to fight court order to release Trump obstruction memo Why a special counsel is guaranteed if Biden chooses Yates, Cuomo or Jones as AG Barr taps attorney investigating Russia probe origins as special counsel MORE, sent a report to President TrumpDonald TrumpGOP-led Maricopa County board decries election recount a 'sham' Analysis: Arpaio immigration patrol lawsuit to cost Arizona county at least 2 million Conservatives launch 'anti-cancel culture' advocacy organization MORE earlier in June stating that Conway repeatedly violated the Hatch Act. The office previously found her in violation for her comments on a 2017 special U.S. Senate election in Alabama, and more recently found she violated the law with comments about 2020 Democratic presidential candidates. The June report also noted Conway's public indifference toward the violations.

Henry Kerner, the head of the OSC and author of the report, testified Wednesday that Conway's conduct "created an unprecedented challenge to OSC's ability to enforce the Hatch Act.

"Her conduct sent a false message to other federal employees that they need not abide by the Hatch Act, or that senior officials are above the law," Kerner testified. "I'm here to emphatically say that's not the case."

The White House and Conway have rejected the office's findings. The White House counsel argued the report violated Conway's free speech rights, while Conway has suggested the law may not apply to her.

Trump has said he has no plans to remove Conway.

Wednesday's subpoena vote was preceded by an intense back-and-forth between Cummings and Reps. Jim JordanJames (Jim) Daniel JordanSunday shows preview: House GOP removes Cheney from leadership position; CDC issues new guidance for fully vaccinated Americans GOP votes to replace Cheney with Stefanik after backing from Trump Roy to challenge Stefanik for Cheney's old position MORE (R-Ohio) and Mark MeadowsMark MeadowsBoehner finally calls it as he sees it Stephen Miller launching group to challenge Democrats' policies through lawsuits A year with the coronavirus: How we got here MORE (R-N.C.). The latter two, who are fierce defenders of the president, argued the OSC's report was personally and politically motivated.

Jordan, the committee's ranking member, called the report "unprecedented" and "unfair," while Meadows asserted Conway had not even violated the law.

Kerner, a Trump appointee who described himself as a "conservative Republican," noted in his opening remarks that he authored a report criticizing the IRS under the Obama administration for targeting conservative groups.