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House Panel Subpoenas Kellyanne Conway over ‘Egregious’ Ethics Violations

White House Counsellor Kellyanne Conway speaks at CPAC at National Harbour, Md., February 23, 2018. (Joshua Roberts/Reuters)

A House panel voted on Wednesday to subpoena Kellyanne Conway’s testimony after she failed to appear for a scheduled hearing to field questions from lawmakers about her alleged ethics violations.

The House Oversight and Reform Committee called Conway to testify after the Office of Special Counsel, a federal ethics watchdog, called on President Trump to fire her earlier this month, citing “egregious, repeated, and very public violations” of the Hatch Act, which prohibits certain federal employees from engaging in political advocacy while acting in their official capacity.

Conway’s refusal to appear before the Committee represents an escalation in the ongoing standoff between congressional Democrats and administration officials, who have stonewalled oversight efforts, often refusing to testify or turn over documents while under subpoena.

Henry J. Kerner, the special counsel, whose role is unrelated to Robert Mueller’s investigation, argued in his Wednesday testimony that Conway’s repeated violations of the Hatch Act — which stem from her endorsement of Republican congressional candidates during television interviews and on Twitter — created an “unprecedented challenge” to his office’s ability to enforce federal law.

Conway has dismissed the accusations of ethics violations as an unprecedented and politically motivated attack on the administration.

“If you’re trying to silence me through the Hatch Act, it’s not going to work,” Conway said when asked about her alleged violations during a May interview, adding “let me know when the jail sentence starts.”

Kerner, in his letter to the president and in his testimony, argued that Conway’s refusal to accept responsibility created a dangerous precedent and was further reason to dismiss her.

Conway’s repeated violations, “combined with her unrepentant attitude, are unacceptable from any federal employee, let alone one in such a prominent position,” Kerner testified.

Representative Elijah Cummings (D., Md.), who chairs the Committee, said he is prepared to hold Conway in contempt if she defies the subpoena.

“There are rarely issues that come before our committee that are so clear cut, but this is one of them. This is about right and wrong,” Cummings said. “Contrary to claims Ms. Conway and President Trump have made, this is not a conspiracy to silence her or restrict her First Amendment rights. This is an effort to enforce federal law.”

Representative Jim Jordan of Ohio, the panel’s top Republican, argued that Kerner’s findings were politically motivated and, as a result, any attempt to compel Conway’s testimony would be unfounded.

“The report is outrageous, it’s unprecedented, it’s unfair, and it’s just wrong,” Jordan said, adding that the OSC “doesn’t like the fact Ms. Conway is conservative.”

“She’s being targeted because she is good at what she does, and this is why this should not stand,” he said.

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