Claiming that White House officials have absolute immunity from testifying to Congress, the administration today ignored a subpoena issued by a House committee investigating violations of the Hatch act.
The White House warned Issa late Tuesday that David Simas, director of the White House Office of Political Strategy and Outreach, would not be appearing. White House Counsel Neil Eggleston wrote that Simas is “immune” from any effort by Congress to compel him to testify. “[T]he committee’s effort to compel Mr. Simas’s testimony threatens longstanding interests of the Executive Branch in preserving the president’s independence and autonomy, as well as his ability to obtain candid advice and counsel to aid him in the discharge of his constitutional duties,” Eggleston wrote. “In light of those principles… Mr. Simas is immune from congressional compulsion to testify on matters relating to his official duties and will not appear at the July 16, 2014 hearing.”
Issa said late Tuesday that he would hold the hearing in the hopes that Simas would appear, and when the hearing started Wednesday morning, Simas was not there. Issa started the hearing by saying he received Eggleston’s “deeply disturbing” letter late Tuesday night, and argued that this decision goes against court rulings that say White House officials are not immune from having to appear before Congress. “A federal judge wrote that senior advisers to the president of the United States are ‘not absolutely immune from congressional process,’ ” Issa said.
Why am I so strongly reminded of Richard Nixon and his claim of executive privilege to prevent his subordinates from being questioned by Congress? As Issa notes correctly, the courts ruled against Nixon, and we eventually found out that executive privilege was merely Nixon’s way of stonewalling the investigation. I suspect this is Obama’s sole reason now for stonewalling.