The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee voted 19-14 to reject the administration's argument that executive privilege gave Simas immunity from a congressional subpoena.
On Thursday, committee Chairman Darrell Issa, R-Calif., offered to allow Simas to give a disposition instead, but then rejected a request from White House Counsel W. Neil Eggleston to withdraw the subpoena in the meantime.
The hearing was to examine the reopening of the White House political office, which had been closed in 2011 after the Office of the Special Council found it had violated the Hatch Act, which prohibits taxpayer funds from being used to pay government workers for political activity. The office reopened in 2014, and though Issa said there was no indication of wrongdoing, the committee has "an absolute right and obligation" to conduct oversight.
"This was intended to be a short, and I hope it will be, oversight of a relatively small but in the past controversial office, consistent with our requirement to do oversight even without a predicate of wrongdoing," he said. "This is not alleging a scandal at any level. We are accusing neither the president nor anyone in this four-person office of any wrongdoing."
Issa said past violations justify oversight now, and the White House should have to answer questions about the people responsible for coordinating the people responsible for security and other concerns around the president and the first lady when they take part in political events.
Democrats, led by frequent Issa foe ranking member Elijah Cummings, D-Md., said they don't support absolute immunity, but said Issa could do damage to the committee's credibility if they push the question toward a lawsuit.
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