Issa Statement on White House’s Claim of Immunity from Oversight Subpoena

Published: Jul 15, 2014

House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) today released the following statement in response to the White House’s assertion that the Director of the White House’s Office of Political Strategy and Outreach, David Simas, would defy a congressional subpoena and fail to appear at tomorrow’s hearing titled, “White House Office of Political Affairs: Is Supporting Candidates and Campaign Fund-Raising an Appropriate Use of a Government Office?”:

“The Obama White House’s claim that David Simas, the director of its political office, is absolutely immune from testifying before Congress is a sweeping assertion that a federal court has already rejected. In Committee on the Judiciary v. Miers, a case brought by Congressional Democrats in 2008, a federal judge found that the idea of absolute immunity of a White House official from a Congressional subpoena was ‘unprecedented.’  Relying on Supreme Court authority, the Court held that even if the President of the United States asserts executive privilege, senior advisors to the President of the United States are ‘not absolutely immune from congressional process.’  Flouting a federal judge’s opinion about our system of checks and balances is yet another attack on our Nation’s Constitution by this President.

“This hearing seeks to examine a political office embedded within the White House which, under Democratic and Republican administrations, has had a controversial role of coordinating political campaign activity for the President at taxpayer expense.  We already know that two members of President Obama’s Cabinet violated the Hatch Act, which prohibits the use of taxpayer funds for political campaigning. Given these examples of known wrongdoing, assertions that this Administration’s taxpayer-funded political efforts should be above Congressional oversight are absurd.   I intend to examine whether President Obama actually intends to assert executive privilege, and I will convene tomorrow’s hearing to ensure that Mr. Simas has an opportunity to comply with his legal obligation to appear.”

Today, Issa reiterated that the Committee’s subpoena remained in effect after first announcing the subpoena on Friday after the White House ignored congressional requests for information on the new political office.