On Friday July 25, 2014 the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee approved a resolution to reject White House assertions of “absolute immunity” for David Simas, who has failed to appear under subpoena before the Committee on two separate occasions.
Simas, who is currently Assistant to the President and Director of the Office of Political Strategy and Outreach, was previously Director of Opinion Research for Obama for America and served as an aide to Senior Advisors David Plouffe and David Axelrod.
Why is the committee so interested in Simas’ testimony? The White House reopened the Office of Political Strategy and Outreach in January. It must be noted that the Bush Administration repeatedly violated the Hatch Act. The Hatch Act prohibits most high-level executive branch officials from engaging in partisan political activities in their official capacities.
Following Simas’ failure to appear under subpoena before the committee, Chairman Issa played an audio tape of former Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis making illegal campaign solicitations.
The Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel believes Simas is immune from congressional compulsion to testify on matters relating to his official duties but Issa has rejected that assertion by jogging the memory of Democrats serving on the committee that a 2008 federal court case, Judiciary v. Miers, found that senior advisors are “not absolutely immune from congressional process.” The case was brought by Henry Waxman (D-CA) and Patrick Leahy (D-VT). Although Issa hasn’t alleged any actual misconduct by Simas, that particular office has a history of Hatch Act violations.
During Friday’s hearings, Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-District of Columbia) demonstrated her adroit
lack of knowledge ignorance of Supreme Court rulings on the subject of
Congressional investigatory power.
In Watkins v. United States, 354 U.S. 178, 187 (1957), Chief Justice Warren did not question the basic power. “The power of the Congress to conduct investigations is inherent in the legislative process. That power is broad. It encompasses inquiries concerning the administration of existing laws as well as proposed or possibly needed statutes. It includes surveys of defects in our social, economic or political system for the purpose of enabling the Congress to remedy them. It comprehends probes into departments of the Federal Government to expose corruption, inefficiency or waste.”
She called Issa's subpoena a "showcase fishing expedition." She went on to argue "You don't have a right to know everything in a separation-of-powers government, my friend. That is the difference between a parliamentary government and a separation-of-powers government.”
After showcasing her anger and her stupidity, Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD) said, “I associate myself with your comments.”
Those two made it clear they believe the American public has no right whatsover to know what’s going on inside the White House. Hmmm.