White House counselor Kellyanne Conway claimed Monday that House Democrats are seeking to compel testimony from her about alleged violations of the Hatch Act in retaliation for her successfully managing President Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign.
The House Oversight Committee is planning to vote Wednesday to subpoena Conway if she does not voluntarily appear at a hearing on allegations of her repeatedly violating the law that bars federal employees from engaging in political activity in the course of their work.
“You know what they’re mad about?” Conway said during an appearance on Fox News. “They want to put a big roll of masking tape over my mouth because I helped as a campaign manager for the successful part of the campaign. ... So they want to chill free speech because they don’t know how to beat (Trump) at the ballot box.”
Conway, a native of Atco, Camden County, went to St. Joseph High school in Hammonton and still has roots in South Jersey.
A report submitted to Trump last week by the Office of Special Counsel — which is run by a Trump appointee — found that Conway violated the Hatch Act on numerous occasions by “disparaging Democratic presidential candidates while speaking in her official capacity during television interviews and on social media.” It recommended terminating her federal employment.
The Office of the Special Counsel is a quasi-judicial independent agency that adjudicates claims of retaliation by whistleblowers and administers the Hatch Act and other civil service rules. It is a separate agency from the office run by former special counsel Robert S. Mueller III, who led the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.
Because Conway is a presidential appointee, the Office of Special Counsel has no authority to discipline her. The office can make recommendations, but it falls to Trump to make a decision. Trump last week indicated he has no plans to fire Conway.
Following that, the Oversight Committee announced plans to hold a hearing about the agency’s recommendation to remove Conway, as well as its reports about other Trump administration appointees.
Both Conway and Henry J. Kerner, the head of the agency, were invited to attend.
According to a letter sent to committee members, if Conway does not appear, the committee will hold a vote to authorize Oversight Committee Chairman Elijah Cummings , D-Md., to subpoena her.
During her television appearance Monday, Conway argued that it wasn’t clear that she is subject to the Hatch Act as an assistant to the president and that it was being misconstrued.
“We think I’d be the first member of the West Wing to ever be hauled in front of Congress to talk about the Hatch Act,” Conway said.
“The Hatch Act means that you can’t advocate for or against the election of — of an individual,” she continued. “And if I’m talking about the failures of Obama-Biden care, if I’m talking about the fact that 28 million Americans have no health insurance, that’s a fact. If I’m quoting what some of the candidates say about the other candidates, I’m just repeating the news to you as I read it that day.”
In its 17-page report, the Office of Special Counsel found that Conway repeatedly attacked 2020 Democratic presidential candidates while she was being interviewed by media outlets in her official capacity and tweeted about the candidates from her official account.
The agency noted that Conway attacked former vice president Joe Biden’s lack of “vision,” said Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts spent “decades appropriating somebody else’s heritage and ethnicity,” and called Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey “sexist” and a “tinny” “motivational speaker.”
During a one-week period leading up to the 2018 midterm elections, Conway posted at least 15 messages on Twitter that were political and in support of midterm election candidates or the Republican Party, according to the report.
“Her defiant attitude is inimical to the law, and her continued pattern of misconduct is unacceptable,” the agency wrote.