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tv   House Oversight Hearing on Office of Special Counsel And The Hatch Act  CSPAN  June 26, 2019 10:03am-1:37pm EDT

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the committee will come to order. the chair is authorized to declare recess of the committee at any time. the full committee is convening, regarding violations of the hatch act under the trump administration. i now recognize myself for five minutes to give my opening statement. today, we are holding a hearing on a very troubling report issued by the office of special counsel on june 13th of this year. this report finds that kellyanne conway, counselor to president trump, violated the hatch act
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dozens of times, and it reasonable degree of medical certainty -- recommends the president fire her immediately for repeated violations. rarely issues come before the committee that are so clear cut, but this is one of them. this is about right and wrong. this is about the core principle of our precious democracy, that nobody, not one person, in this country is above the law. contrary to claims from miss conway and president trump, this is not a conspiracy to silence her or restrict her first amendment rights. this is an effort to enforce federal law, to enforce federal
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law which very clearly, no ambiguity here, which very clearly prohibits employees from engaging in political activities on federal property or while using their official position. this report was issued by special counsel henry kerner. he leads the office of special counsel. the independent agency charged with enforcing the hatch act. listen to this. mr. kerner was nominated to his position by president trump in 2017. and all of the republicans and democrats in the senate approved his nomination by a voice vote. mr. kerner worked on the republican staff of this very
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committee for several years under both chairman darrell issa and jason chaffetz. in this report, the special counsel describes and i quote persistent notorious and deliberate hatch act violations, end of quote. this report explains how miss conway violated law dozens of times by using her official position to criticize democratic candidates and support republican candidates. i should not have to say this, but obviously that is against the law. it is against federal law. unfortunately this was not the first time the special counsel informed the president that miss conway violated the law.
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in 2018 special counsel sent president trump a report finding that miss conway violated the hatch act twice. yet the president took no disciplinary action against her. instead, with the president's full support, miss conway engaged in an astounding show of defiance by increasing the frequency of her illegal activity and disparaging the law itself. on may 29, 2019 she answered a question from a reporter about her violations saying, and i quote, blah blah blah. end of quote. she then stated dismissively, and i quote, let me know when the jail sentence starts, end of quote. miss conway is apparently
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comfortable escalating her violations and her defiance because she knows president trump will not take any disciplinary action against her. the president stated during an interview with fox news, and i quote, no, i'm not going to fire her. i think she's a terrific person. she's a tremendous spokeswoman. she's been loyal. end of quote. this is not a question of whether somebody is a terrific person. it is not a question of whether they're tremendous spokesperson. it is not a question as to whether they're loyal. it is a question of whether they obeyed the law. period. now things are getting worse. in response to the special counsel report, the white house
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and miss conway have gone on the offensive by arguing the hatch act does not even apply to her. tell that to all of the other federal employees that have to adhere to this law. in a letter to special counsel june 11, the white house counsel claimed there were no violations, quote, even assuming that the hatch act applies to the most senior advisers to the president in the white house. end of quote. similarly, miss conway stated this week, quote, it is not even clear to us at the white house according to the white house counsel that the hatch act applies to assistants of the president, end of quote. let me make this abundantly clear. the hatch act absolutely applies to miss conway.
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period. it is written in black and white. we are the committee on jurisdiction over this law. and neither congress nor the courts have ever suggested that a president's adviser is exempt. finally, i want to address the white house's baseless arguments for refusing our request for miss conway's testimony here today. they sent a letter to the committee monday arguing that miss conway is, quote, absolutely immune, end of quote, from testifying. a claim that this principle has been, quote, consistently adhered to by administrations of both political parties. end of quote. ladies and gentlemen, this is simply not true. congress has never accepted the claim that white house advisers
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are absolutely immune. in fact, our committee obtained public testimony from numerous white house officials while they served in the white house. these include multiple white house counsel, deputy counsel to the president, associate counsel to the president, a deputy assistant to the president, and the director of the white house office of security. in the case of miss conway, the white house's arguments have even less merit. we're not asking about any conversations she had with the president. and we're not asking about any advice she gave to the president. here we have a clear cut case of a federal employee violating federal law over and over and over again. we have video of that same
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federal employee mocking the law itself, claiming it does not apply to her. and we have the white house asserting that congress may not question this employee, may not investigate her repeated violations, and may not conduct oversight relating to legislation we on this committee passed. this is the opposite of accountability. it is contrary to our fundamental system of laws in this country. again, nobody is above the law, not even miss conway. for these reasons we will hear from the ranking member. we will hear special counsel kerner's opening statement, then we will pause the hearing so the committee members can vote on a subpoena to compel miss conway's appearance at a hearing later
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today. with that, i will yield to the distinguished ranking member. >> mr. chairman, the report from the office of the special counsel is outrageous, it is unprecedented, it is unfair, and it is just flat out wrong. to be honest, the reason we're here today is mr. kerner got his feelings hurt, he told that to the white house counsel's office. said he took great offense to miss conway's response. that's why he rushed the report and only gave miss conway 16 hours to respond. mr. kerner felt slighted. miss conway didn't pay enough attention to him in his office. you know why she didn't? because the allegation is ridiculous. let's be clear about the hatch act. federal employee can't come to work, hand out partisan literature, come to work, hand out yard signs. federal employee can't come to work, raise funds for a candidate or pressure subordinates to support a particular political party, but
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a senior adviser to the president of the united states can sure as heck go on cable news shows and answer questions. david plouffe did it, david axelrod did it, john podesta, they all did it for president obama. but now that it is a strong willed republican helping president trump, oh, can't have that. can't have that. all of a sudden nope, got to stop that. mr. kerner and office of special counsel felt slighted. they also felt pressured, again, he said it. he told the white house counsel he felt pressured, pressured by the leftwing political organization that filed the complaint, same organization that raises tons of money by attacking president trump and his administration. they felt slighted. they felt pressured. so they were unfair.
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in the obama administration, hilda sol ease, josh earnest found to violate the hatch act. osc didn't recommend they be fired. some of the people, they didn't even issue a report. americans hate unfairness, know it when they see it. they also hate double standards. by the way, you know what else a federal employee can't do? you know what else they can't do? they can't target people for their political beliefs. remember this a few years ago, when the irs systematically targeted people because they had different political persuasion? federal employees can't do what lois learner and the irs did when they targeted tea party groups. they applied one standard to their ideological friends, a different standard if you were conservative. here's the irony. office of special counsel seems to be doing the same thing to
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miss conway. democrat political group that filed the complaint and the osc, they don't like the fact she's conservative. but it is not even really that. it is not even really that. the irs really didn't target tea party groups because they were conservative, you know why they targeted them? because they were effective. and that's the same thing you see in play here. miss conway is being targeted not just because she's a conservative, not just because she's in the trump administration, but she's being targeted because she's good at what she does. that's why this should not stand. the idea that the democrats are going to now subpoena her is just ridiculous. they're going to do it because she does her job so well. that's why we're here. i hope in the next few hours we can get the truth out about the hatch act and really expose the motives that drive the whole darn thing in the first place. with that, i yield back.
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>> mr. kerner, i would like to welcome henry j. kerner, office of special counsel. if you would rise and raise your right hand. i will begin by swearing you in. [ giving oath ] let the -- you may be seated. let the record show that the witness answered in the affirmative. i want to thank you for being here. mr. kerner, i remind you since you're familiar with the hearing room, being in these settings, the
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for five minutes. >> thank you, mr. chairman. i have a prepared statement, since the ranking member mentioned the irs targeting scandal, i thought i would point out when i was working on the senate side, we authored a 37 page report criticizing the irs for targeting conservative groups and tea party groups. i was the author of that report. we were very strong in making clear that that was unacceptable and that the irs should not have targeted the conservative groups. >> no kidding. >> do not interfere with the witness. let him testify. no, no, no, no, no. he's talking. >> sorry. i just want to make that clear. otherwise, good morning to chairman cummings and to ranking member jordan, members of the committee. thank you for the opportunity to appear before the committee to discuss the work of the hatch act unit.
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i am proud to be here representing osc and back where i started my federal career. i came to work at ogr because i wanted to make a difference. i am proud of work we did to hold government officials accountable all the way up the attorney general. republican staffer here on two separate occasions under chairman issa and chaffetz, i learned two lessons. one, the importance of accountability, especially of high government officials. two, treating everybody the same. holding the little guy to the exact same standard as those who are part of the politically well connected class. we cannot have two set of rules. instead we need equal treatment under the law. i have taken those two lessons to my new job at the office of special counsel. speaking of office of special counsel, i'm proud of the long standing work of osc to hold government officials at all levels accountable for violations of the hatch act. when president trump appointed me to the position of special counsel, and i'm honored by that
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appointment, i accepted this job with the expectation or obligation that i would uphold the constitution, and discharge my duties in a fair, impartial manner. i knew from 18 years as prosecutor in los angeles, doing so would mean hard calls. osc investigation into kellyanne conway's violations of the hatch act. i want to make it clear at the outset that with respect to miss conway's first amendment rights, we in no way wish to assist anyone in silencing her speech. the president has stated publicly he considers her an effective proponent of his policies. we have no intent depriving the president of that assistance. that said, over the past one and a half years, osc has received numerous separate hatch act complaints against miss conway. as with all hatch act complaints that osc receives, career hatch act unit attorneys conduct thorough, i am portion
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investigations of her alleged political activity. on march 6, 2018, osc issued a report to the president documenting multiple hatch act violations by miss conway. although miss conway had the opportunity to respond to the report, she chose not to do so. the recent report was result of a months long investigation that began with complaints about her twitter activity last year, came to include a multitude of violations of media appearances where we also received complaints. statements made that violated the osc had substantial
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communication with white house counsel office. osc repeatedly offered her the opportunity to come into compliance with the law. she refused to do so. the frequency of hatch act violations only increased. it left us with no choice but make the recommendation we made, which is given evidence of her clear, repeated and knowing violations of the hatch act, and her apparent unwillingness to come into compliance with the law, the only appropriate recommendation under these circumstances was removal from office. i want to emphasize one more time, we did not make the recommendation lightly, but as professor jonathan turly, nationally recognized constitutional law scholar wrote on his blog. miss conway's behavior presented a quote direct and existential challenge to the office of
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special counsel. they had to act in the face of flagrant, repeated violations, end quote. so why do we even have a in 193 its central purpose remains unchanged, to separate nonpartisan governance from partisan political campaigning, by maintaining separation, hatch act protects two groups, federal workers who are protected from the possibly they could be ordered or pressured into taking part in partisan campaigns, and the american people. they're also protected, they know their tax dollars are spent on government, not on election campaigns they may or may not support. to achieve these worthy goals, hatch act places limitations on the political activity of federal executive branch employees. political activity is defined in hatch act regulations as any activity directed toward successor failure of a political party, partisan political group,
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or candidate for partisan political office. one of the act's core restrictions prevents government employees using influence to interfere with or effect results of an election. the supreme court twice affirmed it as perfect miscible speech. it struck a balance between fair and effective government and first amendment rights of individual employees. as former congressional staffer, i am well aware of restrictions placed on congressional staff and even members in regard to mixing political activity with one's official duties. just like the hatch act, those restrictions play a crucial role, reassuring the american people their government is working on their behalf, regardless how they voted or which party or candidate they support. some have questions, why it should apply to someone like miss conway, former campaign manager for president trump and presently serves as one of his
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senior counselors. as conduct in past administrations, david axelrod, karl rove, has shown being an adviser doesn't require her to leverage official authority to attack candidates of the opposing party or otherwise engage in political activity defined under the act. another example is the now departed press secretary, sarah huckabee sanders who pivoted away from questions that were posed to her by the press corp about election issues. miss conway's comments by contrast were indistinguishable from partisan attacks a campaign official would make. miss conway's repeated attacks of multiple democratic party candidates which mr. conway is permitted to make as a private citizen are wholly unrelated to work of governing on behalf of the american people. some tried to argue that osc holding miss conway to a higher standard, and treating her more harshly than high level
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officials of the obama administration. the opposite is true. the career supervisor of osc hatch act unit not only are aware of but investigated violations by obama administration officials and their recommendations are carefully calibrated on severity of the violation based on precedent. kath lean sebelius had two hatch act violations at a single event. in response, acknowledged error, reimbursed the treasury for expenses associated with that event. interesting at the time they issued the report, some republicans on house side conservative groups called for her removal. in contrast to her, miss conway has ten separate hatch act violations, expressed no remorse, continues to express disdain for the law's restrictions. as stated in the report, miss conway's comment created unprecedented challenge to osc ability to enforce hatch act.
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her conduct sends a false message to other employees they need not abide by hatch act or senior officials are above the law. i am here to emphatically say that's not the case. in closing just as i did when i worked for this esteemed committee, i will work hard to hold federal employees accountable. under my leadership, osc will contin continue distinguished history of enforcing the hatch act. >> thank you very much. we look forward to engaging you in questions when we reconvene after we dispose of some committee business. the hearing will stand in recess. the committee will come to order. without objection, the chair is authorized to declare recess of
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the committee at any time, pursuant to committee rule five, house rule 11. the chair may postpone further proceedings today on the question of approving any measure or manner or adopting an amendment for which a recorded vote for the yay and nay are ordered. now pursuant to notice, i call up a subpoena resolution to compel the appearance of kellyanne conway to testify before this committee. the clerk will report the resolution which was distributed in advance. >> a resolution offered by chairman elijah cummings, thordsing issuance of subpoena related to hatch act. >> it is read and open anytime. the chair recognizes himself to offer amendment in the nature of substitute. copies of the amendment have already been distributed and are on the desk. the clerk will report. >> amendment in the nature of
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substitute to resolution offered by mr. elijah cummings, authorizing issuance of subpoena related to the hatch act. >> without objection, the amendment considered read, will serve as base for the amendment. i recognize myself for a brief opening statement. i've already addressed these issues by my opening statement so i will be extremely brief. our committee has jurisdiction over the hatch act. i personally worked across the aisle to amend this very important law several times over the past decade. the office of special counsel has found that miss conway violated the hatch act dozens of times. let me repeat that. dozens of times. and has recommended that the president fire her. but he refuses to do so. in fact, he refuses to take any disciplinary action against her.
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keep in mind, we have over 2 million federal employees who adhere to the hatch act every day. nobody is above the law. the committee sought her voluntary testimony today, we wanted to hear from her directly. she's a public official who we pay, by the way, who has been accused of wrongdoing. and she refused to explain herself to the office of special counsel. regrettably, miss conway did not appear here today. the white house sent a letter monday, claiming she's, and i quote, absolutely immune. congressional testimony, even if she's violating the law. there's a long-standing precedent for white house aides to testify before this very committee. we have heard from multiple white house counsels, deputy
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counsel to the president, deputy assistant to the president, and director of the white house office of security. the american people demand, they demand that our public officials follow the law and be held accountable for their actions. through the resolution, the committee demands answers, requires miss conway to provide the answers under oath. i urge my members of committee to vote for the resolution and now yield to the distinguished ranking member, mr. jordan. i yield to mr. meadow. >> mr. chairman, this subpoena, one, is not necessary. quite frankly it is not following the law. i can tell you that what we have here is a political spectacle.
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we're talking about keeping politics out of government. this subpoena is nothing more than a political spectacle. we are better than this, mr. chairman. we are better than this. i can tell you as we look at this particular hatch act violation, so-called hatch act violation, if you look at what the hatch act is about, it is about protecting federal employees. we're not doing any of that here today. we're setting a dangerous course where we're going to bring in every federal employee with a hatch act violation when we are going to go and put a subpoena, put them on trial here before congress. it is wrong, mr. chairman. i can tell you that if you look at what the hatch act is all about, it is not about kellyanne conway and her speech. if we're going to have the same standard, let me just tell you, there's ethical complaint about every single member of congress
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that does some kind of tv hit here in the capital where they start to talk about it. mr. swal well, mr. schiff, if we're going to use the same standard, they're violating the very rules of the house. if we start to look at this -- >> will you yield? >> no, i will not. you have time and opposition, here's what is troubling. as we look at the subpoena, we have one standard for kellyanne conway and another standard for everybody else. so if you're going to subpoena people, let's subpoena samantha powers, let's make sure she comes in. you know what i have? i've got emails on her official account where she was going after donald trump while she was working for our government, and indeed at the same time was unmasking individuals. if we want to hold people accountable, let's do it with the same standard because i
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don't think it is right to hold her to a different standard. >> gentleman yield? >> i will to my friend. not to suggest the other person was not my friend. >> thanks a whole heck of a lot, mr. meadows. >> let me be clear. i think that we have gotten to a point sadly where disobeying the law is okay. >> this is not -- >> yes, it is. >> it is my time, reclaiming my time. paragraph e gives a waiver, so i want to hear from mr. kerner, who gets a waiver. when you state a fact, that's not political campaigning, she is not asking for contributions. she is not even campaigning. she has a microphone stuck in her face, she's responding. you've done the same thing, mr. chairman, so i would just say let's be careful about the
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standard we're about to hold. i yield to the gentleman from ohio. >> this is one more example of the democrats' obsession going after this president. you got to go back. remember how this committee started this congress? who was the first announced witness of the entire 116th congress, who was it? michael cohen. >> that is not true. >> michael cohen. the first big hearing. who do they bring in front of the committee and congress? who do they bring in front? a guy that's a convicted liar that sits in prison today. first big hearing. no, i'm not, it is my time, you're out of order. i have 2:58. >> hold it quick. freeze his time. >> no, i don't freeze my time, i have to yield time to you, i am not doing that. are you asking me to yield time? >> i yield my time as 2:58. >> i don't want to take anything away from you.
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the reason you're hearing that, the first hearing was with regard to drugs. >> not the first announced hearing. >> you have to listen to what i said. >> don't be funny with the words. >> i'm not. i said exactly what i meant. >> don't put out things there that are not accurate. that's not accurate. >> do you wish, it is my time, mr. chairman. do you wish you hnlt announced mr. cohen as the first announced witness? is that what you're saying? >> oh, god. >> i'm saying your first announced witness, first big hearing is a guy sits in prison for lying to congress. when he came here, he lied again. now today, now today the democrats instead of focusing on issues that matter to americans, they want to focus on kellyanne conway's tweets. that's the obsession you have with going after this president. mr. meadows is right. i'll yield back time to mr. meadows. we have 2:20.
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downward -- they have been talking about opm, importance of opm. and we're allowing the committee to usurp the authority of opm. he doesn't have authority to write the guidance. yet we're going to bring them in for subpoena. i tell you, i have studied this. you go back to 1939. you go back to the 1990s when they amended this bill the last time. let me just tell you, it has nothing to do with what the hearing is about today. it has everything to do with not coercing federal employees, not giving them special treatment because they're of one party or another. this is a chilling effect on free speech. it is a direct attack on this
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president. it is a direct attack on kellyanne conway. and quite frankly, we're better than this, mr. chairman. if you want to subpoena her, let's add samantha powers, too. she did a peter struck, at the same time she was unmass king those individuals so they could be surveilled. that is not protecting. that should be addressed as well. and with that, i'll yield back. >> i yield to mr. lens. >> thank you, mr. chairman. it is a good time for us to get back to the facts. let's get back to the facts of what we're talking about, the behavior we're addressing. all right. i'll start with right after the president was sworn into office in february, february 13. former director of the office of
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government ethics, walter shob sent a letter to the white house recommending the president take disciplinary action against kellyanne conway. at that time she was violating the federal ethics regulations because she had during interviews started promoting ivanka trump's business line, her product line. then later on in march of 2018 miss conway gave a couple of interviews in support of the senate candidate, roy moore, leading up to the alabama 2017 special election. so that's actively promoting a specific candidate as a federal employee. then leading up to the 2018 midterm elections, miss conway tweeted out request for people to vote for 15 candidates, 15 specific candidates, vote for these people, as an elected
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official, as part of the president's campaign. osc declared there were at least 15 violations during this time period. in december, 2018 miss conway did not take osc's advice, posted another series of tweets, disparaging democratic presidential candidates in spring of 2019. so miss conway has been continually defiant in the face of osc repeated warnings. and we are trying to treat her the same as everyone else. if you look at what happened with sebelius, with mr. castro, both part of the obama administration, you saw that they were -- they had to sees and decist and reimburse the government. we pulled in two postal workers in the last election, in ashtabula, ohio, one supporting trump, one clinton.
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you can't do that actively in the workplace while on the payroll. we penalized both of them from different sides of the political spectrum. but this is about the law, the rule of law. does the hatch act mean anything, are we going to follow the rule of law, are we going to discard it. that's the core question here. these are blatant and repeated examples. this is not a close case. so, you know, i know there's a prevailing attitude and i could suggest where it comes from where some people in the administration don't believe the law applies to them. we see that repeatedly. congress has responsibility to conduct oversight. we have a request outstanding. miss conway knew very well about it. she decided not to come. it is another slap in the face to the rule of law and to this
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body of which you are part. now, you can make excuses why you're not doing your job but they're not valid excuses. i'm talking to the whole committee. i'm talking to the whole committee. we have a responsibility to conduct oversight. you can make an excuse and say it is not a valid subpoena, it is not necessary. we asked her to come, she didn't come. we have repeated attempts by various parts of our government to get her to cease and desist from this activity which is a violation of law. >> if the gentleman would yield. >> sure. >> we keep saying it is violation of the law. let me tell you, if bawe're talking tweets, that's not a violation. >> this is just a partial list. i don't have enough time to read it all. i reclaim my time.
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this is not a close case. this is not a close case at all. >> it should be. >> if we bring in and suspend, suspend two postal workers, postal workers in the workplace, talking to co-workers, pushing a political candidate, within that small work force here we have special counsel to the president on national tv pushing certain candidates or on social media giving out a list of candidates that she wants people to vote for in the middle of an election. come on! this is not close. either we change the law or we abide by it and force people to comply with it. those are our choices. i yield back. >> mr. president. >> i want to thank the chairman for his leadership and for his consistently demonstrated
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professionalism and decorum in the face of what i consider to be unfounded and completely unfair accusations, questioning the character and integrity, intention of this committee. patience is a virtue. i guess i don't have it. but i am grateful that you do. i thank you, mr. chair, for your leadership. i support this resolution which will show the committee support for a subpoena that will require kellyanne conway to testify before us. as to our colleagues across the aisle who feel this is a violation of freedom of speech, instead of appearing before the committee, miss conway appeared on knocks and friends. she appeared on fox and friends. so she is consistent with a contempt, disdain, evading, obstructing, stonewalling, over and over again by this administration. so how is it a violation of freedom of speech when she appeared on fox and friends and said, quote, they want to put a big roll of masking tape over my
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mouth, but we sure as hell heard her loud and clear on fox and friends. so this committee is not trying to silence miss conway. we believe the american people should hear from her. we offered her a platform to explain herself and she did not show up. back in march, 2018, osc issued the first report detailing miss conway's hatch act violations. during that investigation, osc tried to engage miss conway several times. despite repeated attempts, miss conway never responded to osc. after concluding the investigation, before issuing the report to the president, osc provided conway another opportunity to respond to the report. again, she never engaged with osc, never provided response to osc's report. miss conway ignores osc, the hatch act, now is ignoring the committee. this is completely disrespectful to us as a co-equal branch of government that she is not showing up here.
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the committee has no choice but to issue a subpoena. i support the leadership and the chair with this resolution. >> would my friend yield, over here. >> i yield. >> thank you. let me just say this is not a matter of quibbling, and unlike statement of the ranking member this is not some obsession about the president. this is the rule of law. we have in front of us a report from a trump appointed official who is a former staff member of this committee on the republican side. he is not a partisan. he is not some wild eyed liberal. he is doing his job. and repeatedly after being cited for willful violation of the law, a law that's not trivial, a law that's been upheld by
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numerous supreme court rulings as a fair balance between the need to restrict covert political work in the workplace and first amendment rights of federal employees on the other hand. if we take no action which apparently is what the ranking member and my friend mr. meadows want us to do, every federal employee, 2 million, are going to say you've just embraced a double standard. i could be hauled up for political activity but if you're the president's favorite, you can thumb your nose at the law. final point. we're here because of unique circumstances. we have never seen a report like this before. this is not the same. this is actually an extraordinary document calling
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to account a woman who refuses to be taken to account. she has her own rules. and she is being enabled to pursue those own rules by the president of the united states in violation of the law. let's be very clear about that. this is not the same. and she has willfully thumbed her nose at the process at osc and at the law itself, and as miss presley points out, the committee of jurisdiction. we cannot allow that to stand. failure to endorse this subpoena and subsequently enforce it is enabling violations of the law on a selective basis, and i took an oath. i will not violate that oath. i support the subpoena. i thank my friend for yielding. >> there being no further debate, question on the amendment and substitute.
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all those in favor say aye. all those opposed no. >> the ayes have it. >> no, >> the question now occurs on reading to the resolution. all those in favor say aye. those oppose no. no. >> ayes have it and resolution is agreed to. >> we want a recorded report on that. >> all right. >> roll call is ordered for approving the resolution to subpoena miss conway. the clerk will call the role. >> mr. cummings. >> aye. >> miss maloney. >> aye. >> miss norton. >> yes. >> miss clay, mr. clay? >> aye. >> mr. lynch. >> aye. >> mr. cooper. >> aye.
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>> mr. connolly. >> aye. >> mr. morty. >> aye. >> mr. raskin. >> aye. >> mr. rudda. >> aye. >> i hmiss hill. >> aye. >> miss wasserman-schultz? >> aye. >> mr. welch. miss speer, miss kelly, mr. desanya. miss lawrence. miss pleskit. >> aye. >> mr. coner. >> aye. >> mr. gomez. >> aye. >> miss alexandria
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occasio-cortez. >> aye. >> miss presley. >> aye. >> miss talib. >> aye. >> mr. jordan. >> no. >> mmash. >> mr. gosart? >> no. >> miss fox. mr. massey. >> no. >> mr. meadows. >> no. >> mr. heiss? mr. grossman? no. mr. comeyer. >> no. >> mr. cloud? >> no. >> mr. gibbs? >> no. >> mr. higgins. >> no. >> mr. norman. >> no. >> mr. roy? >> no. >> miss miller. >> no.
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>> mr. green? >> no. >> mr. armstrong? >> no. >> mr. stuvy? >> no. >> how was miss fox recorded? >> miss fox was not recorded. >> no. >> miss fox votes no. >> is there any member wishing to vote or wishing to change their vote? the clerk shall report the rote. >> we have 25 yeses, and 16 nos. >> the resolution is approved. the motion to reconsider is laid upon the table. staff is authorized to make any
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technical and conforming changes. there being no further business to mark up, stands adjourned. the hearing will now reconvene. we'll get mr. turner up here. where is he?
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>> good morning. i want to thank all the members for being here. as soon as mr. turner gets to table we'll start the questioning.
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[ waiting for mr. turner to get to the table. ]
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meeting will come to order. mr. kerner, i want to thank you and the hard-working career experts at the office of special counsel who spent many months doing a thorough and careful
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investigation. i understand your recommendation to president trump that kellyanne conway be removed from office was not made without careful consideration. i want to play a clip from a phone interview president trump did last friday on "fox & friends" responding to osc's report. play the clip, please. >> mr. president trump, you're not going to fire her? >> you know, i'm not going the to fire her. i think she's a terrific person. she's a tremendous spokesperson. she's been loyal. she's a great person. i would not think, based on what i saw yesterday, how could you do that. they have tried to take away her speech and i think you're entitled to free speech in this country. >> if you're working for the white house you shouldn't be involved in criticizing other candidates or other politicians,
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and she has. will you encourage her not to do that going forward? >> but it doesn't work that way because let's say that i think biden was one of the people that she was accused of criticizing, and he criticized me and we then criticized him or she criticized him. it's not -- she's making a point. she's trying to make a point and how could you do this? basically you have to take a person off, they wouldn't be able to express themselves. i just don't see it. now, i'm going to get a very strong briefing on it. i'll see. but it stems be very unfair. it's called freedom of speech. >> what message does the president's refusal to fire miss conway send to the over 2 million people in our federal workforce? >> thank you, mr. chairman. from our perspective we follow the statute. we try to apply the law, the facts through through and under the law we issued the report
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with a recommendation to the president. it is the prerogative of the president then to die whecide wf any discipline typical pose. that's his choice. we respect his choice. the president decided to do what he does, and that's consistent with the statute. >> the hatch act was intended to provide the american people with confidence that the government is using tax dollars for the public good and not to influence or fund a political campaign. is that a fair statement? >> yes. >> if a career civil servant violates the hatch act, the office of special counsel can bring an action to discipline the employee before the protections board. ocs does not have the authority, however, to discipline political appointee, is that correct? >> yes that's correct. >> for political appointees, osc
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can write a report and make a recommendation of discipline but ultimately it's up to the president. >> correct. >> on march 16th, 2018 you sent president trump a report that found miss conway violated the hatch act on two occasion and she knew she was breaking the law. did the president ever send you a response to your report? >> no, i don't believe so. >> are you aware whether president trump took any action to discipline miss conway after your first report? >> miss conway mentioned a couple of appearances that she may have been counselled but we're not aware of any particular discipline, no. >> now white house spokesperson, hogan gidly released a statement to the press in response to your first report and he said this. kellyanne conway, and i quote, did not advocate for or against
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the election of any particular candidate. she simply expressed the president's obvious position that, that he have people in the house and senate who support his agenda, end of quote. was that kind of response -- was that the kind of response you would expect to see in the white house, if the white house was taking your report seriously? >> well, we've had conversations with the white house, and we, obviously, try to, try to work with the white house in order to make sure that the hatch act is complied with. so our hope is that we will continue to be able to get the white house to sort of agree to comply with the hatch act and its prohibitions. >> on june 13, 2019, osc released another report that found miss conway broke the law a dozen times. you recommended to the president that he fire her.
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i'm sure that was not a decision you took lightly. why did you recommend that the president fire miss conway? because that's a pretty stiff penalty, would you agree? >> yes. yes, sir, that's the harshest penalty in a civil case like this. we did not take that lightly. it was based on the recommendation of the career folks who prepared the report. it's consistent with merit system work precedent and based on the fact that we've never had a repeat offender. never had anyone. we had a right to report to the president. never had a situation where the there were so many violations and then ultimately she made a comment that seemed to suggest that she didn't feel she was down by the hatch act. so there's no way to stay in federal employment while she done feel she's obligated to abide by this law. >> again, you got these 2
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million federal employees and these cases do come up and where they might have one violation. i mean, you know, we talk about fairness. i mean if a person had one or two violations, we have somebody who has 25 alleged violations, and basically nothing happens, what does that say to him? i mean is that fair? >> well, mr. chairman, from osc's perspective we try to apply the law as fairly as we can. to emphasize what i said in the opener we'll treat the well connected the same as the little guy. we would have a two level system in the hatch act. cases with ordinary federal workers goes to the board. the board may issue punishment that's something different than what he recommend. rebring cases fairly and
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equally. >> if she was a regular civil servant, do you think she would have been disciplined? >> the professionals who work for me and been doing this for just about 40 years, of a said that if this were an mspb case removal would be very likely outcome. >> very well. >> thank you, mr. chairman. i yield to the gentleman far north dakota, mr. armstrong. >> mr. chairman, i think it's important to note at the outset while the hatch act does not apply to members of congress and always interesting to hear from my friends on the other side about the blending of an official when every day we see examples of elected officials to use their present position to propel their campaign messages. having looked through the materials in preparation for this hearing i can't help feel the office of special counsel interpretation of hatch act that mr. trump's top advisors must subscribe to the legal and
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political fiction you can decouple their campaign from their elected position. my interpretation of the hatch act appears to be bipartisan. chairman cummings even sent a letter to osc on december of last year. osc's guidance is long. there's no limit criticizing a policy of a sitting president or any other politician is a violation of the hatch act. apparently that applies unless you're an adviser to this president. all that aside president trump's advisers will act as his surrogates. going forward maybe this hearing can help us understand what a senior counselor to the president is allowed to say on tv or social media without personally offending mr. kerner or anybody else in the osc's office. if we're talking about a sitting senator, medicare for all, is it okay to say i hope bernie sanders medicare for all proposal purely campaign rhetoric because if he were to
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introduce a senate bill that provide a $32 billion pay for people have to give up the coverage they trust and taxpayers would be on the hook for trillions of dollars. is that an okay statement? >> i'm not in a position to judge a statement like that. the way osc works is we get complaints about statements. there's an investigation. we don't just -- >> what if senator warner, a senator and i'm sure presidential candidate decide is jointal plans to cancel student loan debt for 95% of voters, bribing to vote for your is president is a bad way. what if they asked senate democrats campaigning for president instead of being president to support our military could an adviser said senator kirsten gillebrand warn senators should get off the presidential campaign trail and back into the senate to complete the ndeaa. instead the senate minority
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leader is asking for a full stop in the senate until the democratic primary is complete. what if aned a ricer makes an obvious statement, obvious connection between a policy proposal and possible political motivation. is the adviser allowed to highlight the intechkts lawmaker. senators inintroducesed a new tax credit for renters. i'm assuming introducing more free stuff to more people has nothing to do with a presidential campaign. what if they weigh in on a campaign position on adviser. kirsten gillebrand compared pro-life with racism. even further what if a senator claims to support something while running for office but refuses to actually introduce a bill. can the president's adviser comment on how the sitting senator is acting in a political and not a governmental capacity? what about this. senator kirsten gillebrand in her role as senator and not as candidate for president has
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introduced legislation to eliminate pesticides from school lunch programs, demonstrating or misunderstanding of science and production agriculture. i'm sure just a coincidence it happened right around the same time it was mentioned in a campaign speech. if she wants to check with the former first lady she will find out that rural america doesn't like the senate or white house interfering with school lunch programs. can the president's advisors asked if senator elizabeth warren make same-sex couples eligible for retroactive tax refund however she's not supported retroactive credit for other filers who would have a lower rate due to the recent tax cuts. this demonstrates she's acting in the best interest of her political base and not the average citizen. in closing mr. chairman i request unanimous consent to enter the front page of this link. osc finds conrepeatedly violated the hatch act, recommends
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removal from federal office. the argument that this osc apolitical holds no water. osc has routinely targeted this administration and not given a consideration. with that i yield back. >> mr. connoly. >> thank you. i feel a little bit like the image of diogenes with his lantern trying to find one honest in man in town when it comes to my republican friends in holding the trump administration accountable. i mean my lord what happened to the passion of the obama years. it's actually a marvel to behold. but maybe diogenes found an honest man in you, mr. kerner. now are you a liberal democrat
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from, i don't know, new york. >> no, sir. >> what are you? >> i consider myself a conservative republican. i voted for ronald reagan was my first vote for president. >> oh, my lord. >> when it was cool to vote for ronald reagan. i came to d.c. in 2011 for darrell issa. >> horrors, do they ever stop here? so you're not bringing to your job some kind of political bias against this president, is that correct? >> none whatsoever. >> and you're an obama appointee though or a hold over? >> no i'm a president trump appointee. >> president trump appointed you? >> yes he did. >> oh, my lord. well, gosh. so presumably being who you are, you would be inclined not to
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violate the law, not to ignore your duties, but you probably, if you could, you would bend over backwards to counsel someone who was in trouble with the law that you're charged with enforcing to kind of wipe themselves, give them a warning, a chance so it doesn't have to get to a level that it now is. would that be a fair statement? >> i wouldn't say bend over backwards. i do believe it is my job, but in a nonpartisan way to assist the administration in complying with all the laws. osc generally enforces whistle blower laws. one of the things i'm concerned about is make sure whistle blowers are protect. we have a very robust effort to train people on hatch act but it isn't out of a partisan reason. we have career professionals who do this who are not partisan whatsoever. >> did you verbally counsel miss conway, hey, you're crossing a
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line, don't do that? >> i haveoev miss conway but the white house counsel's office gave her numerous trainings. some that our career staff sent over there, powerpoints and other materials on the hatch act and specifically on using her official authority to influence an election. we were clear on this violation. >> your office issued a report on this, is that correct? >> we issued two reports on this. >> have you ever done that before with a white house official >> no. >> nerve >> how old is your office? >> 1989 is when we became independent. >> so since 1989. 30 years. >> 30 years. >> okay. and have you received a response to those reports from the subject in question, miss conway? >> miss conway never respond no,. >> never responded. >> no. >> in the past, ranking member was comparing this case to
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axelrod and pluff and castro. did those people respond to chass chassistizements by your office? we have your testimony earlier that not only one person responded but introduceed a mea culpa. >> secretary sebelius reimbursed the treasury. >> in sharp contrast to the case in point? >> correct. >> could this problem be solved if miss conway simply moved to the campaign? >> absolutely. >> was she counselled, do you know or advised to do that >> we have definitely suggested solutions. not just for moving the campaign but also how to come in to compliance with her twitter feed and how to stay within the rules on her media appearance. >> this is a matter of law
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>> correct. >> she's in violation of the law? >> that's correct. >> you definitively determined that? >> that's correct. >> has the white house counsel been so informed? >> yes. >> what is the reaction of the white house counsel? >> they sent us an 11-page letter that disputed our findings. >> i see. well final thing, if i may, are you concerned about the impact of this defiance of the law on the two plus million federal employees who fall within the hatch act? >> i think it's very important to let the federal workforce know that osc will treat everybody equally. we won't have a two tier hatch act enforment system and we'll do everything in our power to treat everybody the same no matter how well connected they may or may not be. >> thank you very much for your honesty. i yield back. >> mr. roy. >> i thank the chairman.
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thank the witness for being here today, appearing before the committee. i would suggest to my colleague on the other side of the aisle must not be saying when he's seeing one honest man that everyone on this side of the aisle is somehow dishonest. i know that can't be the case, particularly when some of us have broken ranks, for example offering and asking for a subpoena with respect to child separation policies. but to suggest that we're somehow dishonest by saying we're seeking to find one honest man because we believe this is a charade and waste of time of the american people, i think that that is a questionable direction to go and with respect to the obama years i would just raise it would be awfully nice if my colleagues attorney side would recognize the president set up a request for $682 million for i.c.e. when the problem we had at our border is nothing like it is today. our colleagues refused to do that. mr. kerner, on your official
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website congress enacted the hatch act to make sure programs are enacted in a nonpartisan way. it's based on merit and not on political affiliation, is that right? >> correct. >> president trump chose miss conway to be one of his advisors based of her parcy pan? >> he made it clear he chose her because she's an effective advocate. >> so you would agree the original tenet of the hatch act -- >> i would not agree with that. i think the hatch act only exempts two people, the president and vice president from its reach so miss conway is bound by it. >> you're saying it would prevent the white house advisors forced a voluntary indicating on behalf of their boss' policies?
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>> no. she can advocate. not allowed to use her official authority to inject herself in campaign activity. >> in defense of the president's positions as compared to others criticizing them can she defend the president's position. >> yes. >> there are two coordination of employees, restricted and not restricted. >> yes. >> we do treat people differently depending on what their job is and what they are doing. >> the enforcement is not different. >> but we recognize there are differences. true or false? there are differences. >> the statute recognizes that. >> correct. there's significant gap in my opinion between osc's own activity and how it's hands technology conduct during office of. if osc claims certain forms of political speech are permissible under the hatch act where do we draw the line. can miss conway explain why open borders smile bad policy? >> as i indicated earlier to the gentleman from north dakota, i can't get into a specific --
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>> you can't say whether or not she can advocate whether specific policy choice is bad policy. >> i can say she can advocate policy choices. >> can she explain why encouraging people not to adopt a policy is bad policy? >> she can certainly talk about policies. that's correct. >> can she explain why democrat legislation that fails to take meaningful steps to offer up the border crisis, exploiting the tragedy of migrants dying while those very same democrats denied the crisis, refused to address it and act as a hero for throwing money at it. can she explain why that's flawed legislation. >> i can't comment. >> she can speak to the policy. >> yes. >> can she explain why that legislation should be roundly rejected and defeated? the legislation? >> i believe she can comment on legislation. >> can she criticize the
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democrats as a group who fail to take the crisis seriously and allow the crisis to get so bad and people are now dying. >> it's very close who democrats are. >> she can't criticize democrats as a class for failing to do this? >> she can talk about policy proposals. when she starts criticizing people who are running for office. >> if you're a member of congress and running for congress every two years we can't criticize a member of the white house stavgs can't critic jiesz a member of this body for roundly unserious policies suggestions and make that clear to the american people that should not be followed and that's bad policy. >> no. there's a accumulate of other rules. thine run every two years the president declared the day he elected he'll be running again. we didn't deem him a candidate until later. there's a date we take for when you're a declared candidate. that's number one. number two as i indicated absolutely an adviser can advise
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the president on policies. when you talk about democrats and people running potentially for office it gets a little bit closer, which is why we have a very robusted a advisory function. folks sitting behind me who are in the nonpartisan office they advise and get questions like you said. >> point to me in the statute where it would say the political adviser to the president count comment. >> gentleman's time expired. you may answer the question. >> thank you, congressman. the statute specifically says she's not allowed to use her official authority and she can speak for the president in her official capacity in order to influence an election. if she's talking about folks who are running there are restrictions on what she can say about them and that's why we have this very robust advisory opinion. >> the point is all of congress are running? >> they are not running all the
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time. thank you very much mr. chairman. mr. kerner, president trump appointed you to this position, but that's irrelevant because you're a professional, committed to the rule of law and governed by the hatch act itself. i want to ask you about the hatch act because i've got 65,000 constituents who are federal employees. they've been told they cannot wear a button to work that says resist. they cannot talk about impeachment on the job. and the way i understand it is they can do whatever they want on their own private time in terms of electoral activity, but when they come to work they are there to work, not there to campaign for or against anybody. is that a basic intuitive understanding of the statute? >> yes. >> so, what you found with kellyanne conway was that she was actually intervening in the election by making comments about specific candidates, is that right? >> and in her official kparks
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yes. >> she's allowed to say whatever she wants on the weekend and evening but as long as the american taxpayers are paying her salary, congress has said and the court has affirmed this, she can't go and inject herself into political campaigns, is that right? >> that's correct. >> but in january 2018 you started an investigation of miss conway for making partisan statements strongly supporting republican u.s. senate candidate and accused child molester roy moore in the alabama special election. you sent her interrogatories to get her side of the story why she should be able to intervene in that campaign using her official capacity, and what did she say in response to that >> we received no response. >> she didn't respond? >> she did not respond. >> you scene president trump a report finding miss conway's media advocacy for roy moore violated the hatch act. did you give her an opportunity to respond to that report before you released it. >> yes. >> did she respond.
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>> she did not. >> did president trump respond in anyway to discipline this employee when my employees say they can't wear a button that says resist which is a word in the american language. >> we didn't gate response. >> you sent miss conway a letter explaining she can't use the same twitter account for official business and then use it to disparage democratic republicans and support candidates like her beloved roy moore. that gave miss conway to come in to compliance with the law. here's how you separate your official business and partisan political activity. how did she respond to that letter >> we received no response. >> for 18 months you engaged in perhaps eight, ten, 12 different attempts to get a respond. did she ever respond to you? >> she did not. we did have conversation with the white house counsel's office so there were some.
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on her behalf if you will. there was some back and forth in that regard but never heard from her directly. >> she seemed to ridicule the enforcement of the hatch act. she had the audacity to mockingly ask let me know when the jail sentence starts. what message does that start to my constituents who are governed by the hatch act and what does it send, what message does it send to postal workers who have been disciplined for violating the hatch act. >> i thought those comments were very unfortunate. >> does it send a message there's one standard for people in president trump's favor and a different standard at applies too millions of federal employees who are subject to the requirements of the hatch act. >> it sends the wrong message. >> now, look, we've heard some measu murmurings about freedom of speech. that's great people are talking about freedom of speech.
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hatch act has been twice challenged in the supreme court by unions, for working people saying we should be able to express ourselves politically at work. and generally our colleagues said no that's not the case. we want a straight jacket on your political speech at work. the supreme court upheld the hatch act. when you discipline employees do you allow constitutional arguments to take place? can people make a free speech argument? >> sure. when we take a case they can make whatever argument they want. like a regular proegd. >> we just haven't heard anything from miss conway about why the lines should be drawn differently from her than it's been drawn for everybody else. you know, i got to say, her contemptuous defiance of your board and you as the director of it, is unacceptable and intolerable. her defiance of this committee is unacceptable and i hope we'll renter this subpoena quickly and i just want to say the message
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to go out to all employees in the white house if you act in contempt of the american people in congress we'll find you in contempt of the american people and of congress. i yield back, mr. chairman. >> mr. massey. >> thank you very much. mr. kerner, you're not saying that kellyanne conway couldn't say any of the things she said, right? she still has the first amendment. >> correct. >> she can say whatever she wants. you agree she can say all of those things. there's a legal way she can say all of those things. >> correct. >> what you've taken offense with is the manner in which she said them. you said she violated the hatch act. what are the determinants that you and your staff behind you use in deciding whether somebody's speech is their first exercise of first amendment right or a violation of the hatch act? what are some of the factors that go into that? >> so, the way i under it, obviously i don't conduct the
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investigations. it's done from the professional staff. they look at is the person speaking in their official are authority. >> what factors? >> is she speaking on the white house lawn. is she in any other way speaking on behalf of the president rather than i'm kellyanne i want to tell you what i think. in these appearances she's introduced as counselor to the president, her official capacity. >> what about the time she says mr. raskin said to you in a question she can say whatever she wants on the weekend and in the evening and you said correct. >> well i thought there was more to that question. >> there was a little more to that question. did you ever take into account the time at which something is said? >> i'm sure our hatch act unit does. >> what time does your hatch act unit show up to work? >> i'm sure they work regular work hours.
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>> for america that might be longer than d.c. but in d.c. i one it to be about 9:00 to 5:00. >> i think they stagger their times so people are .
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>> if your trying to claim all 24 hours of the day belong to the taxpayers that's wrong. you're not affording her any
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place to express mother-in-law opinion. this is what makes this a sad pursuit. because of the choices, the examples you've chosen wasn't that i yield back, mr.nd to one thing. i understand the argument. i was looking at the first example. she's standing at the white house. >> what about the second and third example. you saidox studios. you're telling me when she's at fox studios at 10:17 p.m. you own her time? i disagree. >> the issue is not about time. the issue is she talkk about official administration matters. and if she's representing what the president thinks, what the president says what the official position is then she's bound by not -- >> mr. chairman, could he explain a way she could do it
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legally? >> mr. ruda. >> thank you, mr. chairman. mr. kerner, thank you for being here today. i want to reiterate again my understanding is you're a conserve republican. >> yes, sir. >> you voted for ronald reagan? >> sure did. >> is that a political statement. >> reclaim my time. i voted for ronald reagan as well. while i disagreed with some of his policies i miss his integrity and character especially in these days. in your position you were appointed by trump as we heard rlier, is that correct? >> yes. >> i want to be very clear. we have a conservative republican who was appointed by a republican president, who delivered this report with how many violations? >> so there were ten media appearances that we found that were violations, along with twitter account. >> in total how many violations?
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>> 11. >> 11 violations. how many violations did you have under the obama administration? >> so, you mean for the entire administration? >> yes. >> if i may -- >> at least with senior aides. >> on cabinet members there were two letters we sent on secretary sebelius and secretary castro. obviously there were some other allegations. >> within the cabinet. so how many in tal for those two. just one snech >> one each. >> over eight years two violations, yet we have one person here in the first two years of this administration slightly over two years who has 11 violations. is that correct? >> yeah. well 11 on this report and two more on the first report. >> in an effort to get her to take a action to rectify these mistakes, these violations, she
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has not agreed to stop. in fact we've seen her testimony just the opposite she's basically making it very clear she doesn't care what you think in this report, is that correct? >> that's fair. >> so we talk about doubling standards and hypocrisy. that's what the ranking member said earlier. i have here multiple quotes from the previous chair of this committee when the current minority was in the majority. and it's very clear when you look at what past chairman issa said that demanding that these hatch violations of obama individuals that they be held accountable. some often demanding for their resignationr firing. yet we see a completely different voice here today. i applaud you for bringing to the office the integrity that it deserves, the nonpartisanship
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that it deserves. i know it's very difficult to do that in these times and i thank you on behalf of the committee and america for doing the right thing. it's clear this white house is systematically and pervasively interfered and obstructed investigations taken by multiple independent agencies in government including the offices ofof government ethics, special counsel robert mueller, inspectors general, the government accountability office and now the office of special counsel. i think if i recall correctly, you had stated that, i think i quote i have here a request from the white house you withdraw and retract the report. your response was holy inappropriate. these request represent a serious encroachment on osc's independence. is that correct >> yes. >> do you stand by that quote today? >> yes. >> can you elaborate why you
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think it's so egregious the white house has taken these actions? >> osc while we're anchored in the executive we're an independent agency. as an independent prosecutorial investigative agency it's important to preserve our ability to do oversight over the executive branch. if the white house can ask for our files and do oversight over us, while we're doing oversight over them, it really undermines our ability to be an independent force for the american taxpayer. >> usually in these type of situations you would see the conservative republican appointed by the republican president being attacked by the democratic side of the aisle but here we have just the opposite. you have the democratic side of the aisle thanking you for your indendence while the republican side of the aisle is questioning your independent analysis and conclusions that you make, and, again, i want to thank you for your time today and i yield back, mr. chairman. >> miss miller.
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>> thank you chairman cummings. can an executive branch employee state the truth when asked on a tv interview? can someone working for the president in the white house state the truth? >> sure. of course they can state the truth. they just can't use the standard we talked about, use their official authority to influence an election or to talk about partisan politics. they just can't doo that. they have to pivot away from that when they are employed, when they are in their official duties. >> is the same staff permitted to offer opinions, could valerie jarrett who was a senior adviser to president obama similar to miss conway say something ligeoe bush enjoys painting and running? >> i don't know enough of the facts? is he candidate at that time? >> how about an opinion on policy? for example, could valerie
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jarrett go on tv and say former vice president dick cheney is hawkish and a hard-liner on foreign policy? >> i think comments on policy are allowed. when they talk about someone who is running for office, a candidate, and they are in their official duties there are restrictions on that. >> mr. kerner is mr. biden creepy because in your letter to president trump you stated miss conway is not allowed to state that. however i think we have all seen pictures where joe biden has acted inappropriately. can she express an opinion about a former elected official. it's an opinion. >> it's an opinion. the argument was she was stating facts and whether a information vice president biden is creepy or not is not a fact it's a an opinion by miss conway. >> in march she stated there's a whole hot mess in the democratic party beginning with right over the bridge here in virginia. mr. kerner i think we can agree that thi is also a statement of opinion on policy.
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i've seen the statement backed up with fact and illustrated in policies like the green new deal which would enact stop air travel all together and inhibit cow emissi as well inci aealth e system which would take medicare away from the elderly and make health care costs skyrocket. my colleagues want to get rid of the tax cut which helped boost our economy. i don't know about you but this sounds like a hot mess to me. mr. chair marc anthony i'm disappointed we're wasting our time on this hearing today. we have a crisis right now, right here on our southern border. we had 144,000 immigrants cross illegally into our country in may alone. 144,000. we have lethal drugs flowing across a porous border. i know that for a fact in my state. they are killing our citizens. my colleagues across the aisle have chosen to focus on the false hatch act allegations.
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that's pathetic. it's not as though 4 million jobs created since 2016 record low unemployment for african-americans and hispanic-americans and major tax reform is enough. no. in order to hide and distract from all of the great growth that's happening in our country they have to hold these hearings with a singular goal to imimpeach and impugn our president. it is disappointing my colleagues across the aisle still have not accepted the results of thee election that occurred nearly three years ago and now at every turn they continue to divide our country and waste our time with these hearings instead of focusing on the real issues facing every day americans. i yield back my time. >> miss hill. >> thank you, mr. chairman. i ask unanimous consent to entear report called hatch act restrictioions on federal employees political activities in the digital age.
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i would like to point out a couple of issues within that report that are addressed in response to my colleagues, a few of my colleagues remarks. the first of which is that there is guidance issued by osc that's described in this that was issued in 2015 which is clearly before the trump administration around the use of social media and there are a number things stated which is that -- let's see. we got employees may not use their official authority influence or interfere affect the results an election, engaging political activity. the activity directed at the success or failure of a political party. comment to a blog or social media site that advocates for or against a political party or par the at the san political group. may not use any email account or social media to distribute, send or forward contend that advocates for or against a party or candidate. and within the same report
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there's clarification for the exceptions to whom the hatch act applies and it is around whether somebody is paid for by the treasury or confirmed by the senate, neither of which applies to miss conway. so mr. kerner i want to thank you and your staff for this investigation and report. and the white house counsel wrote in his letter on june 11th, 2019 that the osc's report finding dozens of hatchct violations by kellyanne conway was the product of a fatally flawed process and that it raises serious concerns regarding osc' currerent investigatory practices. can you respond? >> no i do not believe it was a fatally flawed process. it went through the process we always use. cases are started via complaint. we're mandated by statute to investigate. the career nonpartisan civil servants do that. they conducted a thorough investigation including whatever
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information they need and then take appropriate action or recommend appropriate action. >> nothing unique or different about the process you used to investigate allegations against kellyanne conway. >> no. other than the fact we did that once. we already had the factt she wa aware of the hatch act. the first report lays out six or seven different times she was informed. quicker in terms of that. >> the actual investigaon ever kellyanne conway's compliance with the hatch acwas conducted by career staff and osc's hatch act unit. how experienced are the nt professionals? >> i want to call them the world' greatest experts. i don't want to age anyone but they have about 41 years of combined experience. they apply the law to the facts of the law and the law to facts dispassionately and in nonpartisan way. they are the ultimate professionals and i'm very proud to present them here today. >> did any of them raise a concern to you that they felt the work that went intnto the
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report released on june 13th was the result of a fatally flawed process. >> no. >> so, you were prosecutor for 20 years. i assume you have a lot of experience whether investigation were thorough, is that correct >> yes. >> the white house accused you of rushing to judgment. but according to the osc's report the agency gathered evidence over many months. your report indicates osc first began reviewing miss conway's twitter account in move to of 2018 and agency spent months conducting that review. >> that's correct. >> do you believe that you rushed to judgment? >>e did not. >> osc contacted the white house many time before completing its report. does the osc give career employees that many chances before issuing a finding of violation? >> i think this process had probably more back and forth with the white house than normal case would. >> so, if anything, miss conway and the white house have been given possiblyy more deference
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than most employees would receive. >> that's right. is the >> the white house was provide an opportunity to review the report before it was publicly released. did the white house raise any concern that miss conway said or tweeted the things that osc included in its report? >> no. >> the white house does not dispute the facts. the president does not want to hold kellyanne conway accountable. my observation is the reason for that is that she has been doing exactly what he wants her to do. as in so many other instances this administration believes it should not be held to the same laws that every other american should abide by. the executive branch is constitutionally established to carry out and enforce the laws of the land. so my question is, what does it mean for us if they won't enforce the laws of the land on themselves? >> well, that's a good question for the congress. from osc's pspective we have to make sure we abide by the statute and we conduct a fair nonpartisan investigation that apply facts to the law.
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that's what we did here. and i think other steps are up to this committee and congress. >> thank you. i yield back. >> mr. meadows. >> thank you, mr. chairman. mr. kerner, she made you mad, didn't she? kellyanne conway made you mad? >> i would not describe that, no. >> you mentioned to numerous people that she poked you in the eye. i mean we got -- >> sure. >> so you don't get mad when you get poked in the eye? >> i would describe my reaction as b being disappointed. >> i know you're describing it that way. you talked to multiple people how you were mad and felt pressured to put out this report. is that true? >> that's not true. >> you're under oath, mr. kerner. i want to caution you. you know the rules. so you didn't talk to anyone to say that you felt heat from the media and from some on the left, you didn't feel any heat? you didn't mention that to
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anybody? >> that's not what i said. what i said is that the report was written prior to her making those statemements. >> i asked a different question. did you tell anybody that you felt pressure from media and others on the left to actually address this problem? >> i don't know what address this problem is? >> write the report. >> it's fairly clear. you didn't feel any pressure? you didt tell anyone that you felt pressure? you're under oath. i know you did. just answer it. >> i had a conversation in which i expressed that because she had made shows statements i felt we ought to have an answer to those statements. >> that's not the context of what you said, mr. kerner. >> give me the context. >> i am. did you tell anyone you felt prpressure to do something abou miss kellyanne conway? have you mentioned that to
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anyone? yes or no? >> i do not recall. >> you do not recall. >> i do not recall. >> what aut -- >> in context i can't answer that. >> what about in the response that you actually had to the i did tell them i felt what she said was a poke in the eye. there was no pressure. the report was written. >> that dog doesn't hunt. it wasn't just the white house counsel. under what authority to you have to write prohibitions against using twitter. does osc have the legal authorities to write those prohibitio prohibitions? >> i believe we do. >> under what statute. quote it. it's uniquely reserved for opm. we have office of legal counsel
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that's given an opinion. crs that's been quoted. it's not your authority, wouldn't you agree with that? >> no, i disagree with that. >> quote the statute. >> the hatch act statute and the regulation. >> i know the hatch act. what was the senator's name that did the amendment? >> i don't recall. >> you're the expert. what was senator that was on the house floor or the senate noflo doing the amendment? who was it? >> you're the expert. it's my time to lead. it was senator john glen. i've done the research. everybody the talk about the rule of law and upholdsing the rule of law. it's time you stay consistent with the law.
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you do not have the ability to set the regulations for twitter. >> it provides the power for osc to provide advisory opinions. >> advisory opinions are not rules and regulations. that's different. that's reserved for opm. when it comes to regulation -- i promise you i've done the work. >> i'm in the disagreeing with you. i'm telling you what my staff who has been doing this for 40 years. the my opinion. >> douf you have an advisory opinion for this twitter use that's out there? >> i'm sorry. >> do you have an advisory opinion on twitter use from osc? >> we have a social media guidance. on the conway use, it's not done
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under that. >> isn't it her personal twitter account? >> congressman, it is. it is her personal account. s >> you're telling her she can't use her personal twitter account to tweet something out. is real donald trum his personal account. >> the president is exempt. >> is anything else exempt? >> the vice president. >> is anybody else exempt. >> not that i know of. >> it actually gives other exemptions in the very csr report that miss hill identified. have you read that? >> i do not believe it gives exemptions for use of authority that we have mentioned here. >> it gives exemptions for presidential appointees and cabinet members and it would apply here according to every outside counsel that we checked
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with. >> i do believe, as i've listened to my colleague that your integrity has been challenged. i believe in fairness. if you want to clear up anything, i'm going to give you that opportunity. let me finish. one of the things i noticed is in this committee there is a anxious to find, i don't want t themselves. i'm not questioning that. i'm giving you an opportunity to clear yourself. that's all. if you don't want to, that's fine. >> i'm happy to respond. i did not understand the context of the question and mr. meadows didn't provide me theontext so
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i don't know what he says did you tell anyone. i d't know what i told someone in a hypothetical. >> i can give the context if you want the context. >> mr. meadows, you're out of time. i'm trying to get -- allow. >> he was given ten minutes for an opening statement. >> please. i am trying to be fair to this distinguished conservative republican who has simply come to give his opinion. his integrity has been challenged. i'm simply -- if he doesn't want to take advantage of. i've seen what's happened in this committee over 23 years. all i'm saying is if you want to clear up something, clear it up now. if not, you don't have to. then i'm going to move onto my next questioner. >> i'm happy to clear if i may finish my point. as i indicated, i asked mr.
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meadows for the context prior to now. he wouldn't provide me the context. obviously, just on the lease re of the report. the report was written prior to statements being done. when the states on may 29th were made, it became clear she was not remorseful, which is one of the criteria that's used by the mspb and she was not interested in complying with the hatch act. i felt as an agency that she did poked us in eye. we felt that was a direct attack on osc and that we felt that we have the report and since almost practically no way she was going to come into compliance , it wa time to release the report. it wasn't done because she hurt my feelings or anything like that. i was disappointed that she said these things because i had hoped
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we could reach an agreement with her to get her to abide by the hatch act. i know the white house have counselled her numerable times on that. i want to be clear whatever feelings i had were unrelated to the release of the report. they were just recognition that she was just not going to comply. >> when you say poke in the eye, what does that mean? >> it's a figure of speech. >> thank you. >> when some don't have facts on their side, they resortrt to bullying. our history in america is replete with people who have under the color of theirir authority who have bullied convictions out of folk who is were innocent. who have bullied and berated individuals, accused wrongly of some conduct and that results in
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add missi admissions of guilt even when they are not guilty. i apologize on behalf of the folks on the other side who clearly don't have facts on their side and result to bullying tactics to contribute to trying to undermine your own credibility. with that said, i'm one of the few members on that committee, if not the only one that's balanced a partisan role. not a political role but a partisan role at the same time i had an official one. you're right. you don't control what your called on. i was usually called both. dnc chair and member of congress. i can assure you that when i was there in my official capacity even though the hatch act does not apply to members of congress so i can be as political as i wanted to be, i always made sure especially if the interviewer asked me a political question, i made sure i clarified verbally i was there in my official capacity and it wasn't
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appropriate to answer the question. it's achievable if you're committed to actually abiding by the law or have some ethics. i want to thank you for joining us today. the office of special counsel issued a report that recommended that president trump take appropriate disciplinary action. president trump failed to discipline miss conway. her behavior did not change following that 2018 report, is that correct? >> that's correct. >> her hatch act violations increased rather than decreased. let's watch the clips of interviews so we can see what we're dealing with here that miss conway conducted during one week in april 2019, more than a year after osc's report. >> just today we have the 19th democrat running for president, the fourth person from the house of representatives. i would just remind everybody simple math, whether it's one, the whether it's 19, whethernyt
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equals zero. you want to revisit this the way joe biden wants to revisit because he doesn't want to be held to account for his record. >> 9 whi:04 a.m. >> i found it to be a missed opportunity but very dark and spooky. he doesn't have a vision f the future. >> like you and others looking at 2020 are worried this guy can't be beaten fairly and squarely. why doesn't joe biden come out and say one thing. why would he bring that up? why is he using charlottesville to launch a candidacy, who was vice president. >> do you think president trump's response on charlottesville was here. >> he's going to be held to account. i know he said i asked president am not to endorse me. i'm getting endorsements from the firefighters. do any of you believe that?
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you let him get awa wy with his first lie. >> are these the kind of statements you would expect from a federal official who reformed her actions? >> i believe these are some of the statements that we found to have violated the hatch act. >> mrs. conway violated not one, not two, not three, but four times is that correct? >> i think we chronicled about ten appearances in our second report. >> are you aware of any other senior official who was found to violate the hatch act four times in one week like this one was? >> nooii'm not aware of that. >> how does the conduct undermine public confidence in the executive branch? >> i think it's very important to make sure that when we have a report like this and there's hearing like this, that people in the federal work force understand they will be treated the same. that we're not going to have a two tier hatch act. >> when she was asked about the
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invitation to today, she said, it's not even clear the white house, according the white house counsel that the hatch act applies to assistants of the president. does the hatch act apply to assistants of the president in. >> it does. >> it isn't clear what the hatch act allows. is it credible that she does not know what the hatch act allows? >> no. >> i call on president trump to hold miss conway to the same standards as all other federal employees. president trump must fire kellyanne conway. thank you. yiel i yields back. >> thank you. i'd just like to point out since it was mentioned in the previous comments that 9/04 on saturday. >> do you work on saturday? i work on saturday. >> you mentioned the 9/04. i'm pointing out it was a saturday. i love the fact the membebers o the other side say they want the rule of law abidesed by. i'm sure the several murdered individuals killed by illegal
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immigrants by law enforcement from sanctuary cities, cities designed by the left for the exact purpose of breaking the law. i think they owe them an apology. mr. chairman, i yields my time to the ranking member. >> who complained? kellyanne conway said talking about senator biden, senator sanders. did senator biden or sanders complain? who filed the complaint? >> i don't have the information. >> how did you know that miss conway was in alleged violation of the hatch act? you don't know who filed the complaint. that's how you figure this stuff out. someone complains. >> someone files a complaint. my uni knows who filed. >> can you asked them who complained? what organization? >> apparently there were multiple complaints. we don't disclose who files
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complaints. >> they don't get to know who their accccuser is? >> there is no accuser. >> isn't it true an organization crew has done press releases say they are the ones who filed the complaint with the osc about mrs. conway's alleged violation? >> i believe that's true. >> it was crew who did complain. you knew that. it took me a minute to get you to say that. >> like i said, we have to be careful. >> they publicized it. >> if they publicized, they publicized. we still have an obligation to protect the complaintants. >> do you fwhknow who the forme chairman is? >> i know the current chairman. >> david brock. you know who the board membersr are? >> no, i don't. >> you don't. we checked.
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claire mccaskill. wayne jordan. gave $3 million. he's on the board. sounds like a lot of democrats on this board. there is one republican. evan mcmullen. never president trutrumper. you know who co-founded this organization? >> i don't. >> mr. iyason. >> i know him. >> do you know what he's doing now? >> he's an ethics guy. >> he's working for jerry nadler.
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you know what else is interesting. you brought this after my opening statement. the same organization that sent a bunch of letters to the irs. guess what they said. go after those tea party groups. sounds like a little pattern here. many organizations filed complaints. >> i'm not sure. >> they did. june 20th. you know who they filed that complaint against? >> i don't. >> you don't? ivanka trump. seems like a pattern here. first they go after tea party groups, complaints to the irs. got go after these folks and then complains about kellyanne conway. and nowne week after your
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report file a complaint against ivanka trump. when mr. meadows was talking about feeling pressure, do you feel any pressure from these organizations filing the complain complaints? >> no. >> none whatsoever? >> no i don't. >> irs and two different times with you. >> they're entitled to file complaints. they don't do the investigation. >> we know who does the investigation. we know it's you. we know it's you. >> i don't do the investigation. >> it's your group. >> sure. it's the non-partisan. >> you're not responsible for the investigation that took place. you're the guy in charge. >> you may answer the question. >> did they sign the letter or did you in. >> i signed the letter. i'm responsible but i don't conduct the investigation. that's all i was trying to say. >> thank you very much. let me clarify on what the ranking membering just asked
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here. were there others other than crew who had complaints with regard to miss conway? >> yes, i believe so. >> either organizations. >> come on. i'm listening. >> yes, i believe so. >> okay. i don't want to left hanging. crew was the only folks that may have issued some type of complaint. >> there are other organizations. >> very well. all right. miss kelly. >> thank you, mr. chair. i've said to you on more than one occasion that you have the patience of job and you are certainly showing it now. i've been on the committee for a little over six years and six years of it i was in the minority. we were in the minority and the last administratation was accus of everything they could have been add kccused of and you wou have thought it was the devil himself leading the country and
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it's interesting to hear comments of what the other side is accusiing us of when it was embarrassing and so disrespect what they did to the former president, but any way. osc social media guidance states and i ote, employees may not use social media account designated for official p purpos to share messages at the direct or failure o a party. candidate in a partisan race or partisan political group. the conflicts of conflating official and political activity are innumberable. let's look at three of her appearances on television in which she vioted the hatch act. per filings on february 10th, 2019, the tmp re-election campaign received 1,425 donations tote it willing 71, 0 71,740.11. on the 11th, it received 1,558
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doe naenations totaling $112,00. a 9% increase in donations and 57% increase in value. on the 12th, it received 2,009 donations. march 13th and 18th appearances yielded similar assaults. clearly conflicts about television is only the tip of the iceberg. social media creates many more opportunities for conflicts of interest. in november your office issued warning letters to six white house employees appointed by president trump who used their official twitter accounts for activity to promote president trump's re-election campaign.
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at least six white house employees did not follow osc guidance, correct? >> yes. >> one of the employees who received a warning letter was the former deputy press secretary at the white house. he tweeted a messagege that included a link to a republican national committee web page on the accomplishments of president trump first 500 days in office. should a federal employee be tweeting political research from a party website on his on her official social media account? >> i believe the guidance that the hatch act has given us is they should not. >> osc did not find that kellyanne conway was using official account. we talked about earlier but her own personal twitter account. can you explain how a mesessage sent on a official's personal social media act can count can
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hatch act violation. >> if it has so many official statements it's an official account. if an official media intervieie she gives that account for the reference. it can turn that into an account that violating the hatch act. most of your posts are retweets of your agencies initiative and photographs of you at official even events. you may not use this account to make posts directed at the success or failu of a political party, candidate in a partisan race or partisan police group. this example is exactly what miss conway was doing, correct? >> yes. the white house is arguing that osc does not have the authority to apply its guidance to federal
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employees. do you agree with that new argument from the white house that osc should not provide or use guidance in interpreting the hatch act? >> no, i don't. >> this committee is authorizing for osc and i believe osc does have the authority to issue guidance and the authority to apply that to its determinations of whether the hatch act has been violated. the white house is novel argument is just a distraction which they are very good at from the fact that the president refuses to hold his adviser accountable for actions that violate the law. the president should fire kellyanne conway. i yield back. >> m >> thank you. mr. kerner, in 2013 the osc initiated investigation of hilda
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silas for hatch act violation. you want to talk about political activity, soliciting money. nothing says pushing for a particular candidate like asking subordinates to help raise money for president obama which is exactly why the hatch was enacted in the 1930s to keep fdr from doing the same thing. in a voice mail left on a labor department employee's phone, secretary salis stated quote, hi, this is hilda silas. i'm just calling you off the record here. wanted to ask you if you could help us get folks organized to come to a fund-raiser we're doing for organizing for america for obama campaign. end quote. mr. kerner, this seems like a textbook hatch act violation. is that correct?
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>> i don't know all the facts. it sounds like hatch act violation just from what you've read. >> i think this aligns with congress's intent for enacting the law to protect federal employees from political coercion in the workplace and ensure employees are advanced based on merit and not on political affiliation. did the osc ever file a report against secretary silis? >> i believe we had an open investigation but i do not believe we filed a report. oe osc continue its hatch act investigations after the employee resigns from federal office as a result of the investigation? >> i think it just depends. in most cases osc does not continue the investigation.
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in some cases it does. >> if it did open a against secretary silis, would it have found she violated the hatch act? >> it's a hypothetical and at the time i wasn't there. it's very hard for me to evaluate. i suspect based on the facts you recounted there may have been a hatch act violation given that secretary silis left employment, i know there was no report sent to the president. >> if you found she did violate the hatch act, would the osc recommendsed that president obama remove her from office? >> you know, i think what happppened in that case, my sta tells me they referred her to the justice department for a criminal referral which is very unusual because most cases are simple. i think this case because of the facts you're articulating and some other fact, i believe she was referred to doj for a criminal investigation, for an
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fbi investigation. >> nothing was done by the justice department? >> nothing that i'm aware of, correct. >> okay. on may 4th, 2016, osc sent a letter to white house counsel's office regarding president obama's press secretary. osc laid out a series of hatch act violations perpetrated. let's go through the statements because the case is pretty similar to conway's yet the treatment is vastly different. at the poedium on december 8, 2015, the following comments were made. let me step back and say the trump campaign for months now has had a beneficiary like quality to it from the vacuous slogan to the out right lies to the fake hair. the whole carnival ru teoutine
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have seen for some time. is that a hatch act violation? >> i believe osc investigated this case and did find a hatch act violation. i think that's correct. >> did osc write a letter to the white house asking president obama to fire him? >> no, it didn't. >> there were repeated comments made by josh earnest, very similar to those things that miss conway is being accused of and never did you write president obama and say fire josh earnest, is that correct? >> that's correct. can i indicate why that case may be different? s >> you may answer the question. time is out. >> i completely agree with you. the case was not referred to president for disciplinary
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action. i think the facts are slightly different. in that case after the violation came to osc's notice, mr. earnest was surprised there were violations . he was counselled and there were no further violations. in our case with miss conway, we have two reports. the first was sent to the president. then there was no course correction. that's why the second report resulted in the recommendation. >> i think it has to do with whose president and who is not president. i think that's really the base of it. thank you. i yields back. >> you were appointed by president trump? >> yes, sir. >> it's a little ironic he's accusing you of being biassed. he's the one who picked you to lead this organization. >> i don't recall the president accusing of being biassed. i think he accused of not allowing miss conway to exercise
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her first amendme rights but i don't remember bias but maybe i forgot. >> has anyone in the white house accused i don't have you of conducting an improper investigation? >> sure. the white house counsel. >> i want to be clear that you were appointed by this administration. >> that's correct. >> now, i don't like going after people personally and let me ask you this, it's true that a lot of people in the past have had hatch act violations. i take the severity of these are many many. say kellyanne conway was to come to you today and say i understand what the rules are. i'm willing to abides by these rules and be more willing to actually follow the law. you think that could be way that we can resolve this issue? >> i think that would be an excellent outc maybe me very happy.y. >> i suggest that one way that
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we can move forward and start doing the country's business is to have that reasonable compromise where we're not attacking s someone personally d we're upholding the rule of law. my hope would be that miss conway, come to you and start abiding by the hatch act and we can move forward as a country to focus on other pressing issues. >> would the gentlemen yields? >> yes. s >> you and i have worked in a bipartisan way on a numbeber of issues. here is one of the things that today highlights. we have two different sides saying two different things. if you read the statute it's very ambiguous. clarity with our work force, i'm willing to work with you in a bipartisan way to clarify the hatch act so we do not use
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taxpayer dollars for campaign related activities but work in a way that hopefully will stop this from being an ambiguous point going forward. i thank the gentleman's spirit. >> would the gentleman yields? >> i also appreciate where he's going with this. i think that mr. kerner had given miss conway multiple opportunities to come in about her conduct which is repetitively and egregiously in violation of the law. there was nothing ambiguous about what she did. my constituents need to know because our constituents understand there's a complete ban on their engaging in partisan activity when acting in their official capacity. i think miss conway is capable of understanding that and conforming her behavior to what the rule of law is.
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if the suggestion is by our colleagues across the isaisle tt the hatch act is unconstitutional then we should talk about that. presumely they don't just want a special rule for all the presidents men and women. they would want a rule that applies to everybody in the federal work force. do we want people using their official e-mail for partisan campaign purposes? i think that's a line that's been drawn which makes a lot of sense that we make people use their personal e-mails and not mix it with their official e-mails and they not use the official platform and pulpit they're given as a federal employee to attack candidates that they don't like or to promote candidates that they do like. i y yields back. >> i welcome the effort to work with you and mr. me do meadows.
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i want to re-emphasis that you remain open to having a conversation with miss conway and welcome her acknowledgement of mistakes and willingness to abides by the hatch isn't that correct. >> absolutely. >> thank you. >> thank you, mr. chairman. mr. kerner, on april 30th, 2013, you met with high ranking officials with the irs while you served as senator john mccain's senator. in this meeting you recommendsed harassing non-profit groups until they are unable to continue operating. you said maybe the solution is to audit so many that it is financially ruinous, end of quote. in response, lerner responded it's her job to oversee it all.
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how can we take anything you say as objective when you have a history of questionable ethics? >> this is a debunked story. that has been brought up three times. once in '1'15 against senator mccain and i released the first report and then the second. any claim that i urged the irs to target the tea party is false. this meeting when you talked about so many was not referring to any tea party groups. i want the transcripts. lois lerner was not infamous yet. she was talking to us about sham grps. i was asking a question. notice the quote is not a quote. it's a paraphrase from a long meeting. as i told the ranking member earlier, here is a copy i'm
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holding in front of me of a dissent that we issued on the subcommittee investigations that excoriated the irs for targeting conservative groups. i would never target conservative groups. i'm hear because of the tea party victory. i got the job on this committee in '11. the notion i would ever target the tea party is just false. these allegations are always trotted out when it's time to punish me. as head of the whistle blowewer retaliation agency, i know what retaliatio lks like and it's just a smear. >> gotcha. that does somewhat contradict your boss at the time. i'm from arizona as well. senator mccain was fiery in regards to the tea party. very contradictory to it.
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just making sure i have that fact straight. >> the report comes out. senator mccain was fur roious. the senate has a different vibe than the house does. he instructed me to go all out to show that is unacceptable. if you think about it, senator mccain was into campaign finance. that was one of his issues. this scandal destroyed the bipartisan eft forts he was working on. he said that's it. we're done. >> i just wanted to clear it up.
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i appreciate it. >> the white house is standing behind conway. white house counsel wrote a response to special counsel yourself claiming that the report was based on numerous grave legal and procedural er r erro errors. first, assuming the hatch act applies to most senior add vivi, osc failed to provide miss conway a reasonable opportunity to respond. violated her due process right and abused discretion by issuing a report tainted by influences. the white house counsel's letter says adding. second, osc overbroad and unsupported interpretation of the hatch act risk violating miss nw's firstndment rights.
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third, contrary to your letter, miss conway twitter account and special media appearances do not violate the standards used by osc itself. osc calls to the president to remove miss conway from her federal platform is outrageous as unprecedte what is your response made by the white house counsel? >> we put our a response. the white house, unfortunately, cited the wrong statute. i would say this, the procedure was followed -- that we followed was appropriate. we did what we do in these cases. we got a complaint and investigated. you'll note they barely touch on fact that she spoke ten times to the media and while using under her official authority expressed views that we opinions. she can't do that. i'm as interested as anyone to help her comply and get her into
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compliance. as i told congressman i would like to see nothing better than that. she's not been willing to do that but we're always ready and stand ready to engage any time she would like. >> for unanimous consent. >> i hope can clear a few things up. the first is a copy of the text of five u.s. code section 1212 which establishes the powers and functions of the office of the special counsel. . meadows when you mentioned th t office of the special counsel can't prescribe regulations or advisoryy opinios on social kblemedia, that was concerning to me. it says specifically that the special counsel may prescribe such regulations as may be necessary to perform the functions of the special counsel fitnd second the special counsel may not issue any advisory opinion concerning any rule, law or regulation. i said you might be right. next sentence says other than
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with regards to chapter 15 or subchapter 3 of chapter 73. i look up those and they say around political activity. the special counsel may indeed issue advisory opinions around political activity. they did, which is the sec piece i'd like to enter into the record. >> i'm going to admit the documents but i want you -- >> that's it. i'm good. >> i have a unanimous consent. >> mr. meadows. >> i preeappreciate the gentlewoman's nudging there. i think it's very clear and if your team goes back and look at it, i ask unanimous consent to put in the guidance that's from opm which would be sub part e that says special provisions for
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certain presidential appointees and employees paid from the appropriations of the executive office of the president. it's very clear there. the other issue is to suggest that a statute that was written and amended thehe last time befe twitter was ever, ever invented thatat it applies retro activel is not accurate. i would ask unanimous consent we put this into the record. >> without objection. >> unanimous consent to enter into the record two complaints sent to the office of special counsel by crew, both addressed to mr. kerner. the most recent one may 8th, 2019. it's amazing how he couldn't remember how they filed complaints but they were both sent to him and one of them was last month. >> without objection, so ordered.
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>> thank you. in your testimony you describe the purpose of the hatch act as being the separation of the non-partisan governance. there may be some watching this hearing at home and they are saying, so what. what's the harm. can you explain why violations of the hatch act like kellyanne conway's should matter to the public. >> yes, thank you. the hatch act is really important even today. i know mr. meadows talked about how when it was last amended therere was no twitter. we have talked about e-mail and other social kblemedia. the principles are the same. the importance of the hatch act is it's very important to have a depoliticized work force especially in these times. if you have a work force where
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everybody is campaigning on taxpayer money that is not a good use of the taxpayer money and happies have right to expect that federal workers while in a build, in a federal building and on duty are doing the taxpayers functions rather than elector larelectoral. >> the law only prohibits activity when o on employee is acting in an official capacity? >> that's correct. >> if the hatch act was not in place would it lead the taxpayers who contact the medicare hod line being faced with someone on the other he understand of end of t-- end of trying to convince someone to vote. >> we had a case like that. the irs employee showed his support for a presidential candidate. >> there's also the danger that allows federal employees to advocate would i understand mine the public's confidence that the government is doing its job. do you agree?
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>> since we're talking about an adviser to the president, i think it would be helpful to put this specifically in the context of the white house. most people realize that the president is associated with a particular political party, correct s correct? >> yes. >> i think most people understand the president's most senior advisers are also from the president's political party. most people want to believe, however, that once the president is in office he or she when act in the best interest of the country and not just a specific political party. in other words, once you enter the office you're supposed to, in a sense, elevate yourself when you can and when you're exercising your official duty to a place of being above partisanship. senior aides to the president, particularly those who speak on behalf of the white house are the face of the president and the administration. you've made that point here today. do you believe that when kellyanne conway uses her
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official platform as a spokesperson for the white house to criticize president trump's political opponents that it may rero erode public confidence in the presidency itself? >> it's a violation of the law. she just can't do it for that reason. i don't kn if it erodes confidence in the presidency. i think the presidency is viewed as more partisisan. i think there's a reason why the president and the vice president are exempt from the hatch act. when miss conway speaks on behalf of the president official authority, she's reqequired by w to stay away f the political partisan comments. i think that's healthy. >> one of the purposes of the hatch act is also to protect federal employees from being forced into engaging in partisan political work while they're on duty. i understand miss conway gave her own press interviews and wrote her own tweets.
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are you concerned that behavior like kellyanne conways could discourage public servants from coming into government service if they believe their job will be campaigning for the president? >> yes. i'm a big believer in the depoliticized work force. i believe people join out of a commitment to public service. >> thank you. i to emphasize that i see this through two lenses. one is that the hatch act is there to protect federal employees. i think it's also there no enforce the kind of separation from politics in these official offices that people hold. the country has a right to expect. it brings credit when you observe those lines to those offices and it potentially can dissecret th discredit them when you don't observe the boundary.
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the president must act to protect the integrity of the work force and police the boundary i've spoken of. he needs to fire kellyanne conway. i yield back my time. >> i'll have to admit when i saw the agenda for the program today, i didn't think that anything productive would come out of this hearing but ias wrong. there have been two productive things, in my opinion, that have come out of this hearing. there's universal unclarity about what the hatch act is and what it does and what congressional intent was with the hatch act and second, there was a pledge of bipartisanship between representative khanna, m meadows and raskin to come up
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with a solution to better define what the hatch act is, does as we move forward. i just wanted to make that public, mr. chairman. i appreciate you having this hearing. mr. kerner, you've said under oath that a federal employee can say factual things, is that correct? >> no, i did not. whether something is factual or not, it isn't a test. it's whether they use their official authority to talk about things related to the campaigns. could be factual, could be true but if it's related to influencing a partisan campaign under their official authority, they're not allowed to talk about that. >> what are the alleged violations that you allege kellyanne conway committed with the hatch act was that she re-tweeted on twitter a post
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about senator elizabeth warren claiming that she was native american to score a harvard gig paying 350,000 there are to teach one class. is that, sir, your definition of a violation o of -- is that factual or not? >> i don't know if it's factual. senator warren has denied it. i don't know if it's factual. >> mr. chairman, point of order. if a false statement has been made at the hearing about a fellow member of congress can it be correct it because i'll be happy to correct it. there's an article in the boston globe which refutes that proposition that somehow senator warren lied about it. >> i thought you said at the
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end. >> happy to do that. >> point of order had to say the rule. >> i believe the rule states we cannot disparage and defame other members of congress. >> i did not disparage another member of congress. i'm reading one of the violations that they claim. iss a very serious hearing when you're ruling that someone and each member on the democrat side just about has said that kellyanne conway should be fired. i'm reading one of the allegations that you claim she violated in the hatch t. i didn't say anything disparaging about senator warren. i asked if it was factual or not. i take offense to that. i'd like to strike that from the record what mr. raskin. >> without objection. >> mr. kerner, we go back to
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the -- this is your interpretation of the hatch act. when she was on the ingram angle, a show i've been on a few times and many on this committee have been on. she was asked about elizabeth warren's claims of her native american ethnicity. she answered the question, explain how that is a violation of the hatch act that would warrant her termination from a job that many of us think she does very well. >> sure. just to explain to when we talk termination, it sounds like we want to deprive the president from having an basicieffective spokesperson.
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we're talking about having a federal employee abidesing by rules. she can speak in her private capacity. there'other ways to make all the points on behalf of the president that we in no way want to silence. to your specific question when she talks about senator warren and the alleged claims about her heritage and how it might have effected it, when she talks about it, it's not the veracity, they not related to a policy. they are related to her as a candidate. >> my opinion, my interpretation of what you just said, if you misrepresent your race in order to take advantage of affirmative action laws, that's a serious issui don't think nique tial pa point in general . if she was asked the question, she answered the question to the best of her knowledge factually.
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in my opinion, what i read that has the potential to be factual, i think that we need to examine the hatch act moving forward. i'm glad we had some production here that we can in a bipartisan way figureut the correct intent of the hatch act as we move forward to where we don't create a scenario where someone whose doing her job and her reputation is tarnished because of a misunderstanding of the hatch basic. i yields back. >> thank you very much. >> miss alexandria ocasio-cortez. >> there's been a lot of comments made about the ambiguity of the hatch act which i think is overall quite clear in its intent in saying we cannot use our official government capacities for pat
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s partisan, plolitical purposes. that's a clear line. if there any question about that, we ask. i think the proof of the clarity of the hatch act comes in what just happened earlier thihis ye in the largest government shutdown in american history. we had 800,000 federal workers on air traffic controllers to far beyond. federal employees at the state department, here. 800,000 workers who are subject to that same hatch act and they knew what the rule was. they weren't getting paychecks. they used up their entire life savings. they were struggling to pay mortgages. they couldn't feed kidsnd they still didn't say anything. they still didn't engage in political organizing against the people who were committing this against them because they understood the law. beyond that, you said in your opening statement, correct, that even sarah huckabee sanders
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acknowledges the, in her work she acknowledges the bars in the hatch act, correct? >> yes, that's correct. >> we have many members of the president's own administration who honor the law and respect the law. the violations here, to the extent and the repetitiveness they are being committed is unique to miss conway, correct? >> yes. >> i would like to show you all a video tt highlights many of the violations that the office of special counsel detailed in its report. >> anything time zero equals zero. simple multiplicatiomultiplicat. 15 is run. if your message is zero, pst a big zero. there's no strategy i see. you have beto o'rourke and cory booker promising they would nominate a woman to be the vp. do they not think the women running are good enough to be president. stop the none sense. we're pro-women. we're for independent thinkers.
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elizabeth warren is running for appropriate. she tried the appropriate somebody else's ethnicity. they have a bunch of i don't see any presidential timber yet. just presidential woodchips.pla. they just have terrible ide s >> you can change the a to an o and get oh my. kirst kirst kirsten gillibrand, the first time she has eaten fried chicken. inter interint interint interinterbernie sanders ideas are terrible. biden's time benefit him because the democrats seem desperate to find an alternative to bernie sanders. >> i want to walk through some of the specific hatch act violations that osc found that kellyanne conway committed.
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op november 20th she gave an interview with fox and friends in which she called the doug jones a liberal. that is a violation? >> that was in the first report, correct. >> on december 6th, 2017, she appeared in her official capacity and discussed why voters should support republican senate candidate roy moore and not support democratic candidate doug jones. osc sent president trump a report detailing these violations but you did not recommends the specific form of discipline. you left that up to the president. >> correct. >> the president appears to have done nothing about this. miss conway continued to violate the law. osc found between october 31st and november 6th, miss conway posted 15 messages that violated the hatch act to her twitter account. are you aware of any other senior aid to a president who has systematically violated the hatch act to this extent by
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attackingg the potential opponents of the president? >> i'm not aware. >> think this right here gets at the core of what we're talking about today. is that this is not even partisan because members of trump's own administration do not violate the law, this law to the extent that she does. she is being subject to these reports because she is unique in her fgrt and violation and disrespect for the law. frankly, when she doesn't show up to her own congressional hearing today, she's not just disrespecting democrats, i don't mind. that's something she does on tv every day. she disrespects the entire body. she disrespects every republican member of this body and disrespects the power that each and every single one of us has. moreover, i think this taps into a deeper narrative and a deeper pattern of what is happening out of this administration where they believer that the rule of
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law only belongs and applies to some people and not others. right here and now we're about 20 years away from the central park five where the president put out a full page ad demanding the death penalty for five blacd brown boys, boys, they were not yet 18 years old demanding the death penalty for something they were accused of and innocent of. and here we have just documented evidence of multiple times a violation of the same law, and he won't even issue a slap on the wrist. this is a pattern about some people being subject to the rule of law and others not. and when that happens, there is no rule of law at all. at all. and that's why it's important that we make sure that erye is held accountable. because whether it's a billionaire. whether it's an administration official or whether it's a postal worker or a kid on the
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street, we all must be held accountable to the same extent by the rule of law. thank you very much. >> thank you very much. mr. cloud. >> thank you, mr. chair. you mentioned you refer to normal federal employee hours for a federal worker. 9:00 to 6:00, 8:00 to 5:00, give or take. >> i think i was asked about the hour. as i try to explain, they don't really impact on this violation. >> would you say that counselor as counselor to the president, kellyanne conway's duties, quote, continue away from the normal duty post and outside normal hours? >>. >> would you list any cost associated with the alleged political activity paid for out of the u.s. treasury for kellyanne conway? >> would i list them? >> yes. >> i'm not sure what list means, but is she paid by those? >> the alleged political
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activity, can you place it back to any funds paid out of the u.s. treasury? for each act? >> no. >> do you have a list of that? >> right. no. but that provision also goes to the -- >> is kellyanne conway paid for using appropriated funds by the executive branch of the office? >> i believe so, yes. >> five u.s. c section 7324 allows employees paid using appropriated funds from the executive office to the president whose duties continue outside the normal duty hours and while away from the normal duty posts to engage in political activities if the cost associated with the political activity are not paid for by the treasury. a post office employee is paid out of the executive -- >> they're not? >> we're not comparing apples to
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apples when we paint federal employees with a broad brush. >> but i think you're talking about the same provision that mr. meadows was talking about and that provision doesn't cover the official duty -- the official authority restriction -- >> i'm claiming my time. the purpose of the act according to the office of special counsel overview of the hatch act says it was to ensure federal programs are administered in a nonpartisan manner to ensure that federal employees are advanced based on merit and not on political affiliation. do you stand by that definition? >> true. >> on the purpose of this act? >> could you list the federal programs administered by kellyanne conway? >> well, i mean, she has a portfolio in the white house. i don't know -- >> does she administer any federal programs that you're aware of? >> like i said, she has a portfolio. i dodon't think she's administe anything. >> how many federal employees
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report to kellyanne conway? >> i don't know. >> you mentioned a number of political organizations that filed complaints against her. were any of these employees? employees that report to her? >> not that i'm aware thu. i yield my time to the ranking member. >> go ahead. >> well, in the opening paragraph of your letter to the president, june 13th, last sentence you said her actions erode the principal. her actions erode the principal foundation ofur democratic system. you really believe that? >> yes, i do. >> when she said senator biden, two old white career politicians how does that erode the principal foundation? >> it's not the content. what happens is she's using her official authority. >> that's not what -- you said think it erodes the democratic system? when she said 28 million americans are without health care nine years after obama care
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passed. you think thatrodes the principal system? >> i think her failure to announce she's essentially not -- doesn't care, frankly, i think does. because it shows that the rule of law only applies to the little people. >> when she said -- >> do not have the hatch -- >> when she said about senator warren, she had zero sympathy, she said she had zero sympathy for parents caught in the college admissions scam. and -- foundation of ourur democratic system? >> i'm not taking issue with any of her statements. she's spielentielted to make tht not when she's speaking under official authority. when she does that and violates -- >> when she's speaking in her official capacity and says 28 million people don't have health care, how does that violate the principle foundation of our democratic system? i think it's someone stating a fact about one of the biggest pieces of legislation we've had
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in years around this place thah did not work and reinforces the first amendment liberties we as every single american have. but no, you and in your letter say it undermines the principle foundation of our democratic system. stating the truth undermines -- actually, stating the truth is the foundation of being able to speak in a first amendment way is the foundation. and unfortunately we got way too many people who don't recognize that and are trying to l limit first amendment free speech rights. >> all right. let me say this. i'm listening to all of this. and i got to tell you, i think we have gotten to far down the line, that when -- i'm sitting her thinking about this. i practiced law for many a year. and the idea that we would sit here and argue about violation
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of a federal law that we've gotten that far down the road, that -- it c concerns me tremendously, and i think -- and i'm not going to put words in your mouth. i've heard every sill billion of what's been said here. i have not moved. itee to me that when you're talking about is the law itself. and probably the best thing that's been said is the -- was said by mr. comber. and two others. there's some clarity that needs to be made, it needs to be made. but it concerns me that we've
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gotten so far from the basic principles of obedience to the law, of the law. i mean, i feel -- >> will the chairman yield? >> no, i will not yield. i mean, we've gotten to this -- a point where it seems like it's normal. it's okay. well, it's not okay. we do not teach our children to lie. we do not teach them to disobey the law. i don't know what we're supposed to do. when we see somebody from your office that comes to us and says or puts out in the universe that somebody has basically thumbed their nose at the congress, it's not just democrats. it's all of us. and i think it does erode our
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democracy. i think it does take away from it. >> mr. chairman, whose time are you speaking on? >> mine. >> point of information? >> yeah, you're welcome. >> point of information. >> point of order. >> who am i talking to? yeah, mr. cloud. >> as kellyanne conway been convicted of a crime. this was a discussion as to whether she has committed a crime. >> that's exactly right. i'm t talking about generally. we are getting to a point where it seems that the whole idea of when we've been brought allegations -- in the past let me clarify something, you weren't on this committee, but i can tell you, buddy, let me tell you. >> i was not here in the past. i will admit that. >> can i tell you. this would be -- it would be holy hell in here. all right? i just wanted to just make that
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observation. that's all. we're better than this, as mr. meadows has stolen myhrase again, but -- >> it was a good one, mr. chairman. mr. lee. >> thank you,u, mr. chairman. no one reports to miss conway probably and she doesn't run any federal programs because she's campaigning on taxpayer dollars. are you aware she gets paid 179,700. >> i think that's the maximum. >> yes. >> under the hatch act a federal employee may not engage on political activity while on duty, or in any room or building occupied in the discharge of official duties by an individual employed or holding office in the government of the united states. does that basically mean the grounds of any federal building? government building? >> yes, but that's also the provision that doesn't apply to her. >> does it include grounds of the white house? >> yes.
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>> is -- why is it important that federal employees do not engage in political activity on the grounds of a federal building? >> we can't have people running around campaigning all day long while they're -- >> on taxpayer dollars? >> correct. >> osc found on multiple occasions kellyanne conway engaged in political activity during press interviews on white house grounds. is that correct? >> yes. using her official authority. yes. >> and i hate wanting to go through this, but we got to. there's a clip interview on april 24th, 2019, i like to show my colleagues. >> bernie sanders has a lot in common with donald trump which is he doesn't really care with his party thinks about his candidacy at this point in the primaries. he's connecting directly with the voters, raising small dollar amounts. the only difference between bernie sanders and donald trump is bernie sanders ideas are terrible for america and donald trump is a much better candidate. so i think biden will be seen as
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the al teshtive to bernie sanders. he's got a lot of people in his way. and look, old white career politicians like joe biden and bernie sanders is not what the democratic party had in mind for 20 2020. >> based on that video do you agree it appears she's on white house grounds? >> yes. >> is she campaigning? >> i believe this was one of the violations we found in our report. >> osc noted in the report that conway, quote, appeared in front of the white house. the news clip also identifies miss conway as, quote, a counselor to president trump. correct? >> yes. counselor to the president, correct. >> whe you see the texts and the news clip with the title counselor of the president of the united states, is that a factor that supports that she's speaking in her official capacity? >> yes. >> osc found that this interview violated the hatch act. correct? >> i believe so, yes. >> can you explain what it was
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about miss conway's comments during the interview that violated the hatch act? >> yes. so the description was about existing democratic presidential candidates. it wasn't talking about a policy. it wasn't talking about anything other than them personally, and she was on white house grounds. osc found she was using her official authority to talk about election-related i said dents which she's not supposed to be doing. >> and it's obvious she was willfully and openly disregarding the law on federal premises on public view. do you believe she has any intention of ever complying with the rule of law or following the directions of regarding the hatch act? >> i'm an optimist. >> mr. chairman, if i may, if there's a lot of disagreements about how the hatch act is implemented here, how it's applied to miss conway, then the members of this body can change it. they can propose laws to change it. he is applying the law as it exists to a person on taxpayer dollars campaigning for the
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president of the united states. and mr. chairman, i would urge the president to to allow miss conway to either resign or fire her and then hire her on the campaign side where she obviously belongs. not working on behalf of the american people. >> would you yield for -- >> no. no, mr. meadows. i yield the rest of my time to the chairman. >> it was a nice commenent. >> i understand. and i have to say something, mr. meadows. i am new here, and one of the things that is very obvious to me and i'm also an attorney, and can i tell you if i ever want to hire a defense team, i know exactly where to go. especially if i've allegedly committed a crime. it is so absurd, and the chairman is correct. you know, i sometimes -- i don't ask any of my clients whether they're a democrat or republican. i ask what were the actions? whether or notot to play. and sometimes i urge them to comply when they're in the vital of the law and i work it out.
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in this instance we're allowing the people to see it's okay to normalize a person paid to campaign on ouron and our time. she's supposed to go advise on policy. i am this -- in this chamber in this body, i'm not allowed to specifically say something about a colleague in this chamber. i can say certain acts or certain things and talk about certain policies. and the chairman has been so patient with me in teaching me that process, and i abide by the rules. it's so absurd that we sit here and watch over and over again somebody that we're paying on government dime to go on national tv to campaign and talk about other candidates. it's just wrong. >> mr. gibbs. >> thank you, mr. chairman. thank you for being here. i'm wondering on the -- so i understand this better. onon policy versus campaigning. so if a person in this case kellyanne conway is out doing an
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interview and a reporter asks her a specific question that's policy and she answers it, but the reporter asks a question asks something like bernie sanders, blah blah blah this, it's policy and she is answering the question, bernie sanders, and would tt be okay? is that -- >> i think generally, yes. obviously there's always a case by casase investigation. the professionals do these cases when they -- both in an advisory opinions as ll as when we get complaints. they'd have to look at all the circumstances. it's a fact intensive thing. >> so your entity, your in an advisory capacity. you offer advisory opinions. it's an opinion. correct? >> correct. >> ok so -- and when you have a senior policy advisero e president working in the white house, obviously i don't think -- did she ever go out and say vote for
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trump or don't vote against biden or sanders? >> i don't believe so. >> that would be a clear violation. >> that would be in violation. >> when you are tieing policy to it and she's a senior policy adviser, i think there's -- should be a little leeway there, and i'm a little concerned some of the clips played, some maybe were at the white house, it appears it was. some weren't and some were later in the evening. i don't know what the context was, if it was policy and she was answering. and also, is there any waiver provisions for a senior white house advisers for the hatch act? >> so -- waiving the hatch act entirely? i don't believe so. >> okay. >> there are waivers of other guidelines but they kplud the hatch act. now, the provision mr. meadows cited sets up a system where she's not bound by the on dut s prohibitions. they have to be permissible and
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using her official authority to do campaign work is not permissible. she can't do that. >> i'll yield the balance of my time to mr. meadows. >> i thank the gentleman. so mr. keer let me come back. because here's what i would like for you to get to this committee. in your response to the white house general counsel, you didn't put any notations as to the possibility of a waiver. and so i'd ask your team to go back and address the waiver. because it's an open question that quite frankly i think demands an answer crs which is not a partisan entity. it's actually indicating that the waiver does apply to miss coay, and so when we have that -- we'vee got two differen things. i would ask that you do that. >> we will do that. >> earlier you talked about how josh earnest and miss conway are different because you in may of 2016, i guess, gave a report and
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he never did it again. is that -- that was your testimony? >> right. . >> but that's not correct. i mean, obviously you did that, and so i ask unanimous consent that we put in. because on october of 2016, you know, at the white house briefing he says so you're telling me that candidates who snorted their way through two debates is accusing other accounts of taking drugs? now, i think it't's very clear the context of everything that you laid out that he once again was violating according to to you the hatch act, and so to suggest that he stopped it once you -- the osc outlined it is not accurate. >> so i -- >> so i would ask you to go back and review that. >> well, just to clarify, on may 4th, 2016 osc prior to my arrival sent a letter to mr. earnest where they said what i testified to earlier which was
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during our investigation we learned that on our about april 6th you were counselled and a review of all the press briefings did not reveal any new violation thus although we've concluded you violated the hatch act, we've decided not to pursue disciplinary and are closing the file with a warning. >> right. but your comment would suggest he didn't violate it. i'm saying in his press briefing in october following that time frame, he violated it again, and yet, he got a free pass. and so it's the two standards. that's what i'm asking you to do. >> okay. >> in the last questions i have, at what point did miss kellyanne conway's personal twitter become official? and at what point will kellyanne conway's personal twitter that you now deem official go back to being personal? i need to know the red line. >> gentleman's time expired. you may answer the question. members, we got a 1:30 vote. i don't want to come back after
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the vote. >> but we're having so much fun. >> wait a minute, man. i'm just trying to make you aware. we have a -- i'm making -- as a courtesy, makining the committe aware that we have a 1:30 vote, and i'm saying that we will finish the hearing. but i'm not angxious to come back, whenever that is, to keep this hearing going. i just ask you all to take that into consideration. you may answer the question. >> i will briefly. just on your point on josh earnest, apparently we closed the case with the warning letter. from what i understand, i wasn't there, i was told by the hatch act, they did not receive a subsequent complaint about the incident you talked about. most of the time we investigate cays we get complaints on. if there's no complaint, there's no investigation. as for your other question, we're willing to -- at some point when we do an investigation, we look at the twitter account and a that point in time, they try to determine whether it's an official account or not.
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>> i just need -- if we're going to follow the law, when does it stop and when does it start?t? >> will you provide him with that information, please? >> sure. >> okay. >> of course. >> okay. >> thank you, mr. chair. i've been silting here listening for a -- sitting here listening for a while. the first thing i'd like to say to my colleagues still heren the room is an observation about this committee. i've been on this committee now this is my third term here, and i would really hope my colleagues would remember the respect for the chair. and when the chair says rules, or puts down the gavel, to respect that as members of congress, being gentlemen and women of this body. because we are grown. and we need to keep our emotions
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and our actions in check while we are in this room. that's just a plea and an admonition of my colleagues. mr. kerner, i wanted to ask you a couple of things. you said that you were not in this office previously, and there's been some discussion about the obama administration. you were in counsel during there, but the osc did not recommend that president obama fire people but did remember that president trump fire kellyanne conway. osc did not give a specific recommendation for discipline in its first report to president trump about kellyanne conway is that correct? >> just appropriate discipline from the statute, yes. >> and initially conway was treated the same as other officials. the difference is conway refuses to change his behavior, and
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president trump refuses to discipline her? >> that's correct. >> and your motivation in having this is because you're doing your job. is that correct? >> yes. that's correct. >> the job the president appointed you to? >> correct. >> and the fact that this president, president trump appointed you to this position means that it's a little uncomfortable for you to be disciplining or recommending this of your own side. is that not correct? >> to tell you the truth, i don't feel like i really have a side at this point. i'm an independent agency head. i try to be as nonpartisasan as possible. >> i was counsel on the house ethics committee where we had to be nonpartisan during the time that we were there. we had members on both sides of the aisle. and you have to act in that manner after. i actually went and worked in the bush administration at the justice department, but the time that you're there, you act in a manner that's nonpartisan. so in doing that and because you are in that position now, do you believe that miss conway has, in
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fact, violated the law? >> absolutely. >> and if an individual allows her not to face those charges, are they in some respect aiding and abetting that individual in being -- continuing to be in vital of the law? >> as a former criminal prosecutor, i would stay away from aidinand abetting. i think that sounds more like a criminal case. >> but some of these are referred to for criminal prosecution, are they not? >> absolutely. >> and if it were referred to criminal prosecution becau she did not in fact change her behavior, had been put on notice she was violating the law, an individual who continues to support her in violating that would, in fact, be aiding and abetting in some respect? >> i think under the statute the presidident is entitled to impo the discipline. that's part of the statute. the president's choice in what discipline he impeoses is up to him. >> the president can impose a punishment, but if the president
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tells the person to continue to violate the law, that's not what the president has been allowed to do under the law. is it not? >> i don't know that that's happening here, but yes. >> so the president has not told her that this law does not apply to her and we are, in fact, violating her spree speech so she can continue doing and saying what she's done? >> i believe the white house counsel has taken that position. >> and they a appointed by whom? >> they work for the president. >> for the president of the united states. >> that's correct. >> so the president has allowed this individual, kellyanne conway, to continue to violate the law by doing this. because let's not get caught up in the discussion of mr. meadows and mr. raskin about coming together in a bipartisan manner to fix this because it's not clear. if she was not clear, you've given her an opportunity to come and sit with you and to discuss what the ambiguity is, have you >> absolutely>> and counsel, has she? >> she has not.
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>> in the letter you've given, you state in there the congress passed the hatch act so seniored a vien us would be involved in campaign activity and then later you say or they could use their positions to secure television interviews and rather than focus exclusively on the work of the administration, use that platform to gauge in partisan attacks against political opponents. when the communicaon they're using with the public is by whatever advice, twitter, facebook, they're communicating with the public and they're supposed to do it on policy and ththey're not. since i do not have the hatch act which allows me to say and do whatever i want, i want to say that what's going on is, in fact, a hot mess. >> indeed. gentle lady's time has expired. mr. higgens. >> thank you, mr. chairman. so i open america is paying attention. so miss kellyanne conway is a
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current targeted trump administration employee. will there be another? there will be another the next week and the following and the following. the future of this committee has been made clear. one attack after another against the president here we go again. now the oversight hearing. another attack on the president's administration. my colleagues say no one is above the law. the president refuses to discipline. the president refuses to hold miss conway accountable. my colleague says worse, it's the worst. i'll tell you what'ss worse. michael cohen lying six times to this committee after being warned with grim authority that if he lied once he'd be nailed to the cross. that was 119 days ago. 119 days of above the law. 119 days of worse. 119 days of refusal to hold accountable. miss conway had 16 hours to
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respond to the hurt feelings of mr. kerner. 119 days and no action from michael cohen versus 16 hours and a subpoenaor kellyanne conway. america recognizes persecution when it sees one. today's hearing was never a fact-finding mission nor an honest investigation into federal employee conduct. it's one of a series which will continue of hearings meant to discredit the president. like it or not, federal law limits the authority of the office of special counsel. in fact, osc cannot charge any senate confirmed employee or employees of the executive office, executive office of the president. yet, osc has moved straight past formal charges and recommended a sentence. one of my colleagues said you didn't recmend she was fired. on your first page of your letter, therefore, osc respectfully requested that miss conway be held to the same standards as all other federal
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employees. i'll get to that in a second. and as such, you find removal from federal service to be appropriate disciplinary action. soun le recommending a fire to me. the hatch act was not intended to limit free speech. it was intended to keep bureaucrats from a campaigning on the taxpayer's dime. that's what most americans don't know watching this. listen to me. they don't know that congress is not subject to this law. to ensure fair and consistent application of federal laws, i have a draft bill to include employees of congress under the requirements of the hatch act. mr. chairman, i ask unanimous consent this draft bill be entered into the record. >> withohout objection, it's ordered. >> let us no longer our staff to advocate on our behalf or not share on our contrast the damming vie of our opponents with our own.
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congressional employees some would y, oh, well, we're governed by house and senate ethics rules. ethics rules that we determine in every congress. every two years as a moving target, and who enforces the rules? we do. we're going to hold miss conway and any employee of the trump administration because he's president trump to a very high standard of accountability. i suggest it's time congress be held to the same standard. i yield the balance of my time respectfully to the ranking member. >> thank the gentlemen for his remarks. i would yield to the gentleman from north carolina. >> i thank the gentleman. mr.. kerner, let me come back, because one of the issues thatt we started on early on was that you were not psonally offended, i guess, is what you said.
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you -- when miss kellyanne conway did all of this, that i didn't make you mad. is that correct? >> i think i didn't unyour context of the yquestion. >> you've told staff here you were upset. you've told the white house counsel you were personally offended. is that true? >> yes. >> all right. thank you. i'm glad we cleared that up. >> how much does kellyanne conway owe the federal government? >> how much does she owe the federal government? >> you're saying she's in violation of the federal law. i mean, people had to pay back money. to make this all right with an apapology and paying back the federal government, how much does she have to pay back the federal government? >> the reason others paid money back was she used official funds for a campaign visit. >> kellyanne conway doesn't owe the federal government any money? >> i think our case with kellyanne conway is concluded. we sent a report to the president which is what the statute requires. the president exercised his discretion. we're done.
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>> does she owe money to the federal government? >> not that i know of. >> ok. thank you. >> thank you, mr. chairman. it's clear kellyanne conway, a seniored a vie or the does not share the outlook or take it seriously. it would appear she believes herself to be above the law. but she certainly is not above the law. and the american people agree. i ask unanimous consent to include written petition from citizens for responsibility and ethics in washington which includes 30,000 signatures from people across the country including dozens from my district, the massachusetts 7th asking for her termination. before i move ahead, i did just wawant to speak to some comment that were made by my colleagues
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across the aisle just to clarify to the earlier point. crew is a bipartisan organization. it includes two former members of congress on the board. so this isn't about partisanship. this is about ethics and the law, and you are correct. we will continue to be here and return here and have members of this cabinet and affiliated here as long as they are in violation of the law. because we are here to perform oversight and reform. before i begin my formal line of questioning, i wanted to show you a clip of miss conway's reaction to your independent report which found she violated the law dozens of times. >> the hatch act political activity by federal employees. you're covered by the hatch act and in fact the justice department office of special counsel found you twice violated the hatch act in 2018 while
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speaking about the senate election. >> and? and i didn't -- they misquoted my interview. on "fox and friends" say said so vote roy ore? i said no, i could never say that. pull the full quotes. it's not an exciting sound bite, but you have to get the facts. >> the office of special counsel says -- >> i don't really care -- listen. great. blah blah -- listen. blah blah blah. great. i'm sorry. are you talking about something from a year and a half ago? do you have a relevant question for today? i think you're worried. i think what worries you is the front runner joe biden has a record longer than i've been alive of views and issues that now seem pretty out of touch and outrageous to what the democratic primary base has become. if you're trying to silence me through the hatch act, it's not going to work. >> i'm not trying to silence you. the office of special counsel said you violated it. >> let me know when the jail
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sentence starts. >> mr. kerner, what is your reaction to that clip? >> well, mr. meadows has been asking me about this clip all day. so what i was trying to convey was obviously i felt this was a finger in the eye. but i took professional umbrage. as the head of an agency that enforces the hatch act, i was disappointed. that was my really one of my main emotions, because it seemed clear we were not going to get compliance from miss conway through this process. that was disappointing to me. one of my goals is to get people into compliance with the law. >> and because miss conway refused to testify here today and was a no-show, we cannot hear from her directly as to why she did what she did. mr. kerner, do you believe she is simply ignorant of the law and the rules about what she can and cannot do under the hatch act? >> no, i do not. >> thank you. do all white house officials receive training on the hatch act? >> yes, i believe they do. >> your report identified
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multiple instances where the office of white house counsel provided hatch act guidance to miss conway. during 2017 she received training or guidance on six separate occasions. mr. kerner, does that sound about right? >> yes. >> all right. so, for example, on january 24th th, 2017, immediately after the inauguration of the occupant of the white house, miss conway attended a senior staff ethics training that discussed the hatch act. on march 1st, 2017,, deputy house counsel met individually with miss conway to provide specialized hatch act training. does every federal employee get the benefit of one on one hatch act training? >> i don't believe so. >> in december of 2017 the white house counsel sent an email to l white house employees with guidance on the use of official resources and official media accounts. that guidance said and i quote, you may not use your official position to affect the results of an election, unquote. let me get this straight. miss conway even violated the
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guidanance the white house itse provided employees? >> that's correct. >> and yet miss conway despite receiving multiple forms of guidance and training both orally and written and in multiple settings including personal one on one training, she continued to violate the hatch act throughout 2018 and 2019. is that correct? >> that's correct. >> the gentle lady's time expired. >> thank you. >> thank you very much. >> with all due regard to my wonderful democrat friends, we're getting to the point where so many people are running for president, it's going to be almost impossible to criticize a democr democrat. be that as it may, we're in a very dangerous time here. things are shifting amatically. it seems like just yesterday to me, and i've been involved i in politics for over 20 years. just yesterday that we had the senate majority harry reid trying to put an end to birthright citizenship and now there's situations, governors
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pulling surveillance planes of the international guard off the border. almost impossible to get additional funding for the border patrol or things to protect us. very dangerous times. so obviously things are shifting and ultimately i think if we don't enforce ourborder, our country is done. and with that regard, i'm always looking out to hyper partisanship designed to go after people who are the last fifire wall on saving america. can i ask you who has been complaining about miss conway here? who is offended? who is causing you to have to look into this? >> well, so we get complaints from organizations. we also get complaints from citizens. and then, of course, in the public sphere, there's been a lot of complaints about the obvious violations.
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we can have a discussion about parts of the hatch act that may not need clarification. these are clear cut, especially on the media. >> how many complaints are you getting in the eight years of the obama administration? >> we have stats on this i can get. during the obama administration i guess we roughly got -- how many -- so four or five, nine, eleven -- right. so the law changed in 2012. our complaints went down because state and local officials were no longer covered. prior to that it was 500. then 270. then 106, and then it went up the latest couple years. >> okay. and during the trump administration, can i ask who was second or third in line in
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number of complaints received? >> other than miss conway? >> yes. >> we get complaints from citizens and organizations and also from congress. we get complaints from the house and the senate. i want to clarify that. >> you apparently were upset about this. i've noted in politics that a lot of times an articulate conservative woman brings out the worst in people. they become enraged at a successful conservative woman. and that's why i wondered were there any men out there who are subject to this vitriol like miss conway is or is she the one who sends people into orbit? >> i think we get complaints about several white house officials. six warning letters at one point. i think sarah huckabee sanders sbly number two.
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>> conseive woman. is that surprising that of all the people the president has appointed the two women -- i wasn't aware sarah sanders was the second on the list. it's the two articulate women that drive the st. >> just to point out, we found no vitals on sarah sanders that i'm aware of. >> i'm glad you didn't, but apparently people were complaining about her. >> but they're the most visible. she's the press secretary. kellyanne conway is on the media shows all the time. i don't know anyone equivalent to that that we'd see all the time. >> i'm just pointing out. apparently the two trump administration officials and assume usually they can agenda byhe left wing, the two trump people who have gotten the most complaints happen to be most of the senior women in his administration, sarah huckabee sanders and kellyanne conway who very articulate woman. i yield the rest of my time. >> nick mulvaney was also one of them to finish up.
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>>. >> the committee will stand in recess until after votes. ththe committee will be notifie as to when. thank you for your testimony.
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the hearing which got underway this morning at 10 eastern will continue. there's a vote for spending for the next fiscal year. we'll be back with


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