House panel subpoenas Trump counsellor Kellyanne Conway on ethics law violations

The House Oversight Committee voted on Wednesday to subpoena testimony from Kellyanne Conway after she failed to appear at a hearing about her alleged violations of the Hatch Act, a law that limits federal employees' political activity.
A report recommended that Trump fire Conway (above), one of his most dogged defenders.
A report recommended that Trump fire Conway (above), one of his most dogged defenders.PHOTO: AFP

WASHINGTON (NYTIMES) - A House panel voted on Wednesday (June 26) to subpoena Kellyanne Conway for her testimony after she failed to show to a hearing at which a special counsel told the committee she should be fired from the White House for her "egregious, repeated, and very public violations" of federal ethics law.

The House Oversight and Reform Committee's action against Conway escalates the standoff between the Democratic House and President Donald Trump as the White House stonewalls Democratic oversight inquiries, moving to keep the deliberations of its top officials confidential.

The White House blocked Conway, a counsellor to the president, from testifying about allegations of repeated violations of a federal ethics law that prohibits government officials from engaging in political activities at work.

Her failure to show set up yet another clash between the executive branch and Congress that may end with an administration official held in contempt of Congress.

Representative Justin Amash of Michigan, the one Republican who has called for Trump's impeachment, joined Democrats to vote for the subpoena, 25-16.

In pointed testimony, Henry J. Kerner, the special counsel, whose work is unrelated to the office that was run by Robert Mueller, detailed how the White House counsellor's conduct created an "unprecedented challenge" to his ability to enforce the federal ethics law, known as the Hatch Act.

The repeated violations, "combined with her unrepentant attitude, are unacceptable from any federal employee, let alone one in such a prominent position," Kerner testified.

 

House Democrats on the panel requested Conway's testimony after the Office of Special Counsel, an independent government agency tasked with enforcing the ethics law, recommended in a report released earlier this month that Trump fire Conway, one of his most dogged defenders, citing her penchant for "partisan attacks" on Democratic Party candidates during interviews in her capacity as the president's counsellor.

For Democrats, who have made imposing stricter ethics rules on federal officials one of the centrepieces of their legislative agenda, the opportunity to shed light on one of Trump's most public advisers is a propitious opening.

Representative Elijah E. Cummings of Maryland, the chairman of the committee, made clear he is prepared to hold Conway in contempt if she does not comply with the subpoena.