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 ConwayObama, Bush among those paying tribute to Cokie Roberts: 'A trailblazing figure' Journalists, political heavyweights pay respects to Cokie Roberts: 'A pioneer for so many' Iran's supreme leader rules out talks with US at all levels 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 AmashAmash: 'Bolton never should have been hired' Romney: Bolton firing 'a huge loss' for nation Amash says Sanford presidential bid won't impact decision on whether he runs in 2020 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 CummingsThe Hill's Morning Report - What is Trump's next move on Iran? House committee launches investigation into Transportation Secretary Chao Pence extends olive branch to Cummings after Trump's Baltimore attacks 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 MuellerFox's Cavuto roasts Trump over criticism of network Mueller report fades from political conversation Trump calls for probe of Obama book deal MORE, sent a report to President TrumpDonald John TrumpBusiness, ballots and battling opioids: Why the Universal Postal Union benefits the US Sanders supporters cry foul over Working Families endorsement of Warren California poll: Biden, Sanders lead Democratic field; Harris takes fifth 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 JordanMeadows to be replaced by Biggs as Freedom Caucus leader House Republicans want details on Democrats' trips to Mexico GOP lawmakers, states back gunmaker in Sandy Hook appeal MORE (R-Ohio) and Mark MeadowsMark Randall MeadowsMeadows, Cotton introduce bill to prevent district judges from blocking federal policy changes The Hill's Morning Report - Trump ousts Bolton; GOP exhales after win in NC Meadows to be replaced by Biggs as Freedom Caucus leader 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.