Will Issa try to hold White House adviser in contempt for defying subpoena?

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Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif) is considering whether to pursue a contempt vote for the White House political adviser who refused to show up for a hearing under congressional subpoena on Wednesday, according to his staff.

Issa, who heads the powerful House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, has accused the Obama administration of trying to avoid congressional scrutiny of the White House Office of Political Strategy and Outreach, led by David Simas. The panel’s top Democrat, Rep. Elijah Cummings (Md.), has said there is no evidence of wrongdoing to justify questioning Simas.


House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) listens to testimony during a hearing in June 2014. (Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP)

The White House issued a letter to Issa late Tuesday saying its political adviser is “immune from congressional compulsion” and would not appear before the panel. Issa ended the hearing on Wednesday without hearing testimony from the other witnesses after he and Cummings delivered their opening remarks.

Frederick Hill, a Republican spokesman for the committee, said the panel is “reviewing relevant precedents as it considers next steps regarding both Mr. Simas and the need for oversight of White House political activity following abuses by members of President Obama’s cabinet.”

Issa argued Wednesday that White House officials do not have absolute immunity from appearing before Congress. He cited a 2008 federal-court decision upholding a subpoena by the Senate Judiciary Committee, which had demanded that then-White House Counsel Harriet Miers testify about the controversial firings of U.S. attorneys during the George W. Bush administration. The court said Miers had to show up for a hearing but didn’t have to discuss privileged information.

Democrats and Republicans have accused each other of forgetting where they stood on the issue when Bush was president.

“Sadly, some of the same Democrats who fought to create this precedent during the Bush administration are now contorting themselves to argue it should not apply to President Obama,” Hill said.

Similarly, Democrats have pointed out that Issa opposed the 2008 contempt resolution for Miers, noting that he joined a group of Republicans who walked off the House floor during a vote on the measure.  Issa was among 164 GOP lawmakers who were listed as “not voting.” (See Issa walk out below, or click this link if you have trouble viewing the video on this site).

Josh Hicks covers the federal government and anchors the Federal Eye blog. He reported for newspapers in the Detroit and Seattle suburbs before joining the Post as a contributor to Glenn Kessler’s Fact Checker blog in 2011.
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Josh Hicks · July 16