White House senior adviser Kellyanne Conway did not appear Monday before the House Oversight and Reform Committee to testify about allegations she violated the Hatch Act, defying a subpoena the committee had issued following her prior refusal to voluntarily appear to answer questions.
The U.S. Office of Special Counsel recommended in a report sent to President Donald Trump in June that Conway be fired due to multiple violations of the federal law barring government employees from participating in partisan activities.
Chairman Elijah Cummings said in an opening statement that Conway "abused her position of trust" by using her role in government to promote the fashion products of the president's daughter and adviser Ivanka Trump during an interview with Fox News. Conway also "wasted thousands of taxpayer dollars" in travel expenses without reimbursing taxpayers, Cummings said
The congressman questioned why Conway did not show up to Monday's hearing, calling it a "clear-cut case" that the subpoena should have compelled her to appear.
"We're not requiring her to testify about advice she gave to the president or about the White House's policy decisions," Cummings said. "We're requiring her to testify before Congress about multiple violations of federal law," some of which, according to Cummings, occurred on national television.
"This is about holding our government to the highest standard" and not giving government officials special treatment, he said.
Monday's session was the committee's second attempt to question Conway in three weeks.
Though congressional committees have heard testimony from numerous White House officials in the past, the Trump administration has frequently rejected both invitations for officials to appear as well as subsequent subpoenas.
The White House asserted in a statement Monday that Conway's position as a White House official grants her immunity from testifying before Congress. It called the hearing a "purely political campaign to harass the President and his close advisors."
Rep. Jim Jordan, the House Oversight Committee's top Republican, made similar comments, calling the hearing "pure politics orchestrated by left wing" organizations.
Jordan said Conway is being targeted because she is "effective at holding the press accountable," and cited Hatch Act violations committed during the Obama Administration. Former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro was found guilty of violating the Hatch Act in 2016, but then-President Barack Obama decided not to punish him.
Jordan said Conway's past critiques of former Vice President Joe Biden, Sen. Bernie Sanders and Sen. Elizabeth Warren are "honest opinions" that she "has every right to share."
"With the sort of rhetoric you've been using about the administration, do you really think Ms. Conway thought she would get a fair hearing today?" Jordan posed to Democrats on the committee.
If Conway does not reconsider her decision not to testify, the committee plans to hold a meeting on July 25 to hold her in contempt, Cummings said.