Issa steers Oversight back to ObamaCare

Issa steers Oversight back to ObamaCare
© Getty Images

House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell IssaDarrell Edward IssaREAD: The Republicans who voted to challenge election results Gingrich: Trump should attend Biden inauguration Rep.-elect Issa says Trump should attend Biden inauguration MORE (R-Calif.) will summon a former top administration official back to Capitol Hill as he refocuses his attention on ObamaCare.

In a letter sent Wednesday and obtained exclusively by The Hill, Issa seeks a second interview with Tony Trenkle to clarify his testimony on HealthCare.gov security concerns.


Trenkle is the former chief information officer for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). He left the CMS last November after eight years with the agency for a job with IBM. [READ THE LETTER]

“Based upon additional information obtained by the Committee, it appears that you were not candid and fully forthcoming with the Committee,” Issa said. “We therefore write to ask that you make yourself available as soon as possible for another transcribed interview in order to clarify your role and actions implementing ObamaCare.”

The letter was also signed by Reps. James LankfordJames Paul LankfordThe Hill's 12:30 Report: What to expect for inauguration GOP Sen. Lankford apologizes to Black constituents for opposing election results 'I saw my life flash before my eyes': An oral history of the Capitol attack MORE (R-Okla) and Jim JordanJames (Jim) Daniel JordanMcCarthy won't back effort to oust Cheney Wyoming GOP shares 'outcry' it has received about Cheney's impeachment vote The Memo: Historic vote leaves Trump more isolated than ever MORE (R-Ohio).

The CMS was responsible for building ObamaCare’s online portal, which was essentially out of commission for the two months following the Oct. 1 launch.

As CIO, Trenkle managed deputy chief information officer Henry Chao, whose testimony Issa has spotlighted as evidence of the confusion between the contractors and government agencies ahead of the rollout.

Issa called Trenkle’s previous testimony, which was given in November at the height of the website problems, “underwhelming.”

“In your testimony, you stated ‘I don’t recall’ a staggering 95 times in full or partial response to Committee’s questions,” Issa wrote. “Your memory consistently failed when you were asked about ... the federal exchanges and the security risks you had knowledge of prior to the Oct. 1, 2013 launch.”

The letter says Trenkle failed to inform the committee about “key recommendations you received ... about key information security risks you discussed with senior CMS officials ... about your prominent role in allowing states to connect to the federal data services hub, and about your current employment status.”

Issa says the CMS left consumers vulnerable to identity theft and fraud. He also said that because IBM has contracts with the CMS and Health and Human Services, Trenkle’s failure to respond to questions about his pending employment “appears to be an attempt to prevent the Committee from learning about your involvement in ongoing federal projects.”

The letter revisits some of Issa’s harshest accusations against the administration and some of the most contentious moments between himself and Oversight Committee ranking member Rep. Elijah CummingsElijah Eugene CummingsHouse Democrats reintroduce bill to reduce lobbyist influence Trump voters and progressives have a lot in common — and Biden can unite them We must act on lowering cost of prescription drugs MORE (D-Md.) from late 2013, when officials and contractors were routinely brought before Oversight to testify on the problem-plagued ObamaCare rollout.

Issa previously accused the Obama administration of lying when it said Healthcare.gov was adequately tested before its launch, that it's tested on an ongoing basis, and that nobody in the administration pushed for a delay of the rollout over security issues.

“As of September ... most states had not completed formal testing, CMS had not conducted necessary site visits, reviews of security documentation had not been completed, and weaknesses were not well known,” Issa wrote Wednesday.

Issa has also previously accused HHS Secretary Kathleen SebeliusKathleen SebeliusBiden seeks to use the bully pulpit he has on COVID-19 Biden unveils COVID-19 task force Biden's COVID-19 crisis team takes shape as virus rages MORE of ignoring security warnings and providing “false and misleading” testimony to Congress, and has threatened to investigate her for perjury. In addition, he has accused the administration of obstructing his ObamaCare investigation.

The HHS has rebuked each of these allegations and produced documents detailing the ongoing security testing at the website. And Cummings has accused Issa of recklessly handling sensitive material and cherry-picking data to mislead the public.

The Issa-Cummings feud came to a head earlier this year when the Obama administration allowed Oversight to view documents from independent security tester MITRE Corp., but wouldn’t allow the committee to take control of the documents.

MITRE said the documents contained "software code and other technical information that is highly sensitive and could give hackers a roadmap to compromise the security of the website and the personal information of consumers,” and the administration said Issa couldn’t be trusted with them.

The chairman ultimately took possession of the documents via subpoena. Issa revisited the controversy in his Wednesday letter, saying that Trenkle “didn’t inform them about concerns shared about the ability of MITRE Corp ... to adequately assess the security of the federal exchange.”

While the ObamaCare hearings strained the relationship between Issa and Cummings, the feud finally boiled over earlier this month at an Oversight hearing on the IRS targeting of conservative groups.

Issa wouldn’t let Cummings speak at the hearing and motioned to have his microphone cut off. He later apologized.