Kellyanne Conway continues White House pattern of defying congressional subpoenas

Elijah Cummings has threatened to hold the White House counselor in contempt. "This is a clear cut case," he says

By Matthew Rozsa

Staff Writer

Published July 16, 2019 9:28AM (EDT)

Kellyanne Conway (AP/Evan Vucci)
Kellyanne Conway (AP/Evan Vucci)

Kellyanne Conway, the White House counselor to President Donald Trump, has refused to comply with a congressional subpoena, continuing a pattern of defiance pursued by administration officials after Democrats in the House of Representatives regained oversight responsibilities earlier this year.

"The subpoena appears to seek testimony from Ms. Conway concerning her service in the White House," Pat A. Cipollone, White House counsel, wrote in a letter to House Oversight Chairman Elijah Cummings. "As you know, in accordance with long-standing, bipartisan precedent, Ms. Conway cannot be compelled to testify before Congress with respect to matters related to her service as a senior adviser to the president."

Cipollone concluded that "because of this constitutional immunity, and in order to protect the prerogatives of the Office of the President, the president has directed Ms. Conway not to appear at the committee's scheduled hearing on Monday, July 15, 2019. 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. We are adhering to this well-established precedent in order to ensure that future presidents can effectively execute the responsibilities of the Office of the President."

Before adjourning the hearings on Monday, Cummings made it clear that he would not accept the Trump administration's arguments, threatening to hold Conway in contempt of Congress.

"This is a clear cut case," Cummings said in a statement to Politico. "We are not requiring her to testify about advice she gave the president or about the White House’s policy decisions."

"We are requiring her to testify before Congress about her multiple violations of federal law, her waste of taxpayer funds and her actions that compromise public confidence in the integrity of the federal government," he added.

Conway is not the first Trump administration official to defy a congressional subpoena. Last month, Cummings wrote a pair of scathing letters to Attorney General William Barr and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross over their refusal to honor subpoenas regarding the failed attempt tot add a citizenship question to the 2020 U.S. Census.

"Unfortunately, your actions are part of a pattern," Cummings said. "The Trump administration has been engaged in one of the most unprecedented cover-ups since Watergate, extending from the White House to multiple federal agencies and departments of the government and across numerous investigations."

Barr was also criticized earlier this year for refusing to appear before the House Judiciary Committee regarding his controversial handling of the release of special counsel Robert Mueller's report regarding the Trump-Russia scandal.

"If left unchecked, this act of obstruction will make it that much harder for us to hold the executive branch accountable for waste, fraud and abuse; or to enact legislation to curb that kind of misconduct — no matter which party holds this chamber or the White House at a given moment," House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler said at the time.

"In the days since the Department of Justice released a redacted version of the report, President Trump has told Congress that he plans to fight all of our subpoenas," he later added. "The average person is not free to ignore a congressional subpoena — and neither is the president."

By Matthew Rozsa

Matthew Rozsa is a staff writer at Salon. He received a Master's Degree in History from Rutgers-Newark in 2012 and was awarded a science journalism fellowship from the Metcalf Institute in 2022.

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