White House counselor Kellyanne Conway on Monday defied a subpoena to testify, instructed by President Donald Trump, a move which would likely increase the likelihood that the House Oversight and Reform Committee will hold her in contempt.
The committee was informed of the decision in a letter by White House counsel Pat Cipollone, which also noted that Trump had instructed Conway not to appear before the panel, arguing that she is immune from mandated congressional testimony about her work in the West Wing, The Hill reports.
“The long-standing principle of immunity for senior advisers to the President is firmly rooted in the Constitution’s separation of powers and protects the core functions of the Presidency,” Cipollone wrote to Oversight and Reform Committee Chairman Elijah Cummings in the Monday letter.
He added that the administration was adhering to that “well-established precedent” so that any future president can freely execute his or her responsibilities in office.
Cummings said afterwards that he would schedule a vote on July 25 to hold Conway in contempt if she does not decide by then to appear for testimony.
“We hope Ms. Conway will reconsider. Our goal is to hear from Ms. Conway. If she does not change course, we have no choice but to hold her accountable,” he stressed.
Republicans quickly condemned the hearing, saying it was politically motivated and part of an effort “to silence one of the President’s top advisers.” White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham said Democrats were hellbent on harassing “the President and his close advisers.”
“Democrats continue to overreach and politicize the Office of Special Counsel — this time, by trying to silence Kellyanne Conway with ill-founded, phony allegations about the Hatch Act,” Grisham said in a statement.
This is not the first time that the White House has asserted immunity to stop administration officials to testify before Congress. Former White House counsel Don McGahn and former communications director Hope Hicks were likewise instructed not to appear before congressional panels.
The House committee subpoenaed Conway last month after the special counsel’s office issued a report saying that she repeatedly violated the Hatch Act. The office said Conway erred by “disparaging Democratic presidential candidates while speaking in her official capacity during television interviews and on social media.”