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House panel OKs subpoena for Kellyanne Conway

By Nicholas Sakelaris

June 26 (UPI) -- The House oversight and reform committee authorized a subpoena Wednesday for White House counselor Kellyanne Conway, for what U.S. officials have said were violations of the Hatch Act.

The panel convened Wednesday at 10 a.m. EDT, but Conway did not appear to testify about activity the U.S. Office of Special Counsel said this month violated federal law. She is accused of openly campaigning for and against candidates during her capacity as a White House employee, which is prohibited under the Hatch Act. The law bars government officials from becoming involved in or influencing elections while serving in their official capacity.

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The committee voted 25-16 in favor of the subpoena, after brief discussion about the validity of the findings of the Office of Special Counsel, which also said Conway should not have a job in government.

"There are rarely issues that come before our committee that are so clear cut," committee Chairman Elijah Cummings, D-Md. said in his opening statement. "This is not a conspiracy to silence her or restrict her First Amendment rights. This is an effort to enforce federal law."

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Counsel to the president Pat Cipollone wrote a letter Monday saying Conway wouldn't testify or appear before the House committee.

"In accordance with longstanding precedent, we respectfully decline the invitation to make Ms. Conway available for testimony before the committee," Cipollone said.

Trump said Conway has a right to free speech and he wouldn't remove her from her position. Trump added that she's a "terrific person" and "tremendous spokesperson."

RELATED Trump: Conway's right to free speech under attack; he won't fire her

Wednesday's vote was preceded by a terse exchange between Cummings and Ohio Rep. Jim Jordan, the panel's ranking Republican.

Jordan said the OSC findings are unfair, unprecedented and wrong. He cited examples of previous White House counsel who openly supported Democratic candidates.

"Now that it's a strong-willed Republican helping President Trump, we can't have that," he said sarcastically. "They don't like the fact that she's conservative. She's being targeted because she's good at what she does."

RELATED Special counsel: Kellyanne Conway violated Hatch Act, should be removed

Cummings said Conway is a repeat offender who openly mocked the Hatch Act and once told a reporter, "'Blah, blah, blah .... Let me know when the jail sentence starts."

"Congress has never accepted the claim that White House advisers are immune," Cummings said.

Trump's daughter, Ivanka Trump, has also been accused of violating the Hatch Act.

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The White House has previously ordered other figures not to appear for congressional testimony on other issues, including Attorney General William Barr, former White House counsel Don McGahn and former communications chief Hope Hicks.

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