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 ConwayThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by JUUL Labs - House to vote to condemn Trump tweet George Conway calls Trump a 'racist president' in new op-ed George Conway's group: Trump tweets 'should be rejected by every American' 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 AmashSC Republican Mark Sanford considering primary challenge to Trump Democrats erupt over Trump attacks Juan Williams: GOP in a panic over Mueller 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 CummingsHouse poised to hold Barr, Ross in contempt Trump's family separation policy has taken US to 'lowest depth possible,' says former immigration lawyer Hillicon Valley: Twitter says Trump 'go back' tweet didn't violate rules | Unions back protests targeting Amazon 'Prime Day' | Mnuchin voices 'serious concerns' about Facebook crypto project | Congress mobilizes on cyber threats to electric grid 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) Swan MuellerTop Republican considered Mueller subpoena to box in Democrats Kamala Harris says her Justice Dept would have 'no choice' but to prosecute Trump for obstruction Dem committees win new powers to investigate Trump MORE, sent a report to President TrumpDonald John TrumpEsper sidesteps question on whether he aligns more with Mattis or Trump Warren embraces Thiel label: 'Good' As tensions escalate, US must intensify pressure on Iran and the IAEA 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 JordanKellyanne Conway defies congressional subpoena at Trump's direction Social media summit highlights partisan approaches on tech The 27 Republicans who voted with Democrats to block Trump from taking military action against Iran MORE (R-Ohio) and Mark MeadowsMark Randall MeadowsHouse Republicans dismissive of Paul Ryan's take on Trump The 27 Republicans who voted with Democrats to block Trump from taking military action against Iran Live coverage: House Oversight examines Trump family separation policy 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.