Issa invites Sebelius, Solis to testify in White House probe

Issa invites Sebelius, Solis to testify in White House probe
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House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) is asking two former Obama Cabinet members to testify before his panel as part of an investigation into the White House political office. 

The invitations to former Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen SebeliusKathleen SebeliusNew Dem Kansas gov reinstates protections for LGBT state employees Next Kansas governor to reinstate LGBT protections for state workers Progressives set to test appeal of prairie populism in Kansas primary MORE and former Labor Secretary Hilda Solis follow Issa's subpoena of Obama chief of staff Denis McDonoughDenis Richard McDonoughSenate Intel leaders ask judge not to jail former aide amid leak investigation Live coverage: Justice IG testifies before House on report criticizing FBI Ex-Obama chief of staff: Obama's Russia response was 'watered down' MORE for documents last week. 

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The probe asks whether the White House is using taxpayer dollars for political purposes. Democrats have called it a fishing expedition designed to stir up critics ahead of the election. 

Issa defended the investigation in a statement that tied the effort to President Obama's use of executive action. 

"As the Obama administration increasingly embraces a go-it-alone approach to public policy, the importance of oversight only increases," the California Republican said.  

"This administration's misguided belief that its advisors enjoy absolute immunity from testifying … will [not] deter us from continuing." 

Sebelius and Solis were specifically asked to testify on the Hatch Act, a law that limits the political activities of executive branch employees.

Both were accused of violating the statute ahead of the 2012 election, though only Sebelius received an official determination of guilt from the Office of Special Counsel. 

It is unlikely that either will agree to come before the Oversight Committee, where they could face hostile questions from Republicans. 

Issa has ramped up the pressure in his investigation ever since David Simas, the director of the White House Office of Political Strategy, cited executive privilege and refused to testify before the committee. 

The White House has said the office operates in "full compliance" with the Hatch Act and its staff has been cooperative with Issa's demands.

Oversight Committee ranking member Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) said the invitations "make little sense" as part of the investigation because the White House political office was established in 2014, two years after the incidents occurred. 

"For the past several months, it appears that you have been trying to implicate the new White House Office of Political Strategy despite the complete lack of evidence of any wrongdoing by David Simas, a senior advisor to the President and the Director of OPSO, or anyone in his office," Cummings wrote in a letter Tuesday.