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tv   House Oversight Hearing on Office of Special Counsel And The Hatch Act  CSPAN  June 26, 2019 2:11pm-3:28pm EDT

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there. representative from north carolina, thank you very much for joining us again and your time and insights on things. >> thank you. well, the house overnight and reform committee hearing on the office of special counsel's findings that the white house counselor kellyanne conway violated the hatch act is in recess for votes on the house floor. this is live picture from capitol hill. we are expecting the hearing to resume at about 10:30 eastern so the last few members can ask their questions too henry curno. when the hearing resumes, we do plan to bring you live coverage from c-span 3. until then some of the questions from this morning beginning with the committee chair elijah cummings.
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>> we will come to order. we want to thank you and the hardworking career experts at the office of special counsel who've spent many months doing a thorough and careful investigation. i understand your recommendation to president trump that kellyanne conway be removed from office was not made with careful consideration. i want to play a clip from a phone interview president trump did last friday on "fox & friends" responding to ofc's report. play the clip, please. >> you're not going to fire her?
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>> no, i'm not going to fire her. she's a tremendous spokesperson. she's been loyal, she's just a great person. i would certainly not think, based on what and saw yesterday, how could you do that? they have tried to take away her speeeech and i think you're entitled to free speech in this country. >> they just say if you're working for the white house you shouldn't be involved in criticizing other candidates or other politician, and she has. will you encourage her not to do that going forward? >> well, 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, but he criticized me and we then criticized him or she criticized him. and it's not -- she's making a point. she's trying to make a point, and how could you do this? basically you'd have to take a person off -- a person wouldn't be able to express themselves and i just don't see it. now, i'm going to get a very strong preefibriefing on it, i'
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but it seems to me to be very unfair. it's called freedom of speech. >> what message does the president's refusal to ms. conway over the 2 million people in our federal work force? >> thank you, mr. chairman. from our perspective we follow the statute and under the law we issue the report for a recommendation to the president. it is the pragueerative of the president then to decide what discipline if any to impose. that's his choice. we respect his choice and the president obviously decided to do whatt he does, and that's consistent with the statute. >> i mean the hatch act was intended to provide the american people 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?
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>> yes. >> if a career civil servant violates the hatch act the special counsel can bring an action to discipline the employee. osc does not have the authority, however, to discipline political appointees, is that correct? >> yes, that's correct. >> for political appointees can write a report and make a recommendation of discipline, but ultimately it's up to the president. >> correct. >> on march 6, 2018, you sent president trump a report that found ms. conway violated the hatch act on two occasions and that 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 ms. conway after your first report? >> ms. conway mentioned in a couple of appearances that she
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may have been counseled, but we are not aware of any particular discipline, no. >> now, white house spokesperson leased 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 the election of any particular candidate. she simply expressed the president's obvious position that he have people in the house and senate who support his agenda, end quote. was that the kind of response that you would expect to see in the white house? >> well, we've had conversations with the white house and we obviously try to work with the white house in order to make
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sure the hatch act is complied with. and so our h is we will continue to be able to get the white house to agree to comply with the hatch act as part of prohibitions. >> on june 13, 2019 osc released another report that found ms. conway broke the law dozens of times. he recommended to the president that he fire and i'm sure it was not a decision you took lightly. why did you recommend that the president fire ms. conway? because that's a -- that's a pretty serious felony, wouldn't you agree? >> yes, sir, that's the harshest penalty obviously in a civil case like this, we did not take that likely. it was based on the recommendation of the career, it was consistent with the merit system protection or precedent, and it's based on the fact we've never had a repeat offender.
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wher there were so many violations and ultimately she made a commement where she suggested she didn't feel she was bound by the hatch act. so there's no way to stay in federal employment while she doesn't feel she's obligated to abide by this law. >> i'm wondering if you've got 2 million federal employees and i'm sure these cases do come up where they might have one violation. i mean, we talk about fairness. i mean, if a person has one or two violations, then we have somebody who's got 25 alleged violations, and basically nothing happens, what does that say to them? i mean, is that fair? >> well, mr. careman, i think from osc's perspective we try to apply the law as fairly as we can. to emphasize what i said in my opener we are going to treat the well-connected the same as a the
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little guy. we're going to have one standard. we're not going to have a two tier hatch act enfororcement system. obviously cases with ordinary federal workers go to the board, and the board sometimes also imposes punishmt different from what we recommend. sometimes opposing discipline is not something osc does but we're going to bring cases fairly and equally. >> if she was just a regular civil servant do you think she should have been disciplined? >> the professionals who work for me have been doing this for just about 40 years and have said if this were an mspb case removal would be the very likely outcome. >> very well. >> thank you, mr. chairman. i yield to the gentleman from 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, it's always interesting to hear from my friends on the other
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side about the blending of political and official when every day we see examples of elected officials using current positions to propel their presidential campaign messages. having looked through the materials and preparation for this hearing, i can't help but feel the office of special counsel's interpretation of the hatch act means president trump's top advisers must subscribe to the legal and political fiction you can decouple the president's presidential campaign from the elected position. and my interpretation at least appears to be in part bipartisan. chairman comings even cept a letter to osc in december of last year. and here's a direct statement. there's no limit that criticizing the policy of a sitting president or any other politician is a violation of the hatch act. apparentlyly that applies if you're an advisor to this president. but all that aside president trump's advisers are going to continue to act a as his surrogates.
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so going forward maybe this hearing can help us understand what a senior kouns tool the president is allowed to say on tv or social media without personally offending anyone else in the office. so if we're talking about a sitting senator and medicare for all? is it fair to say i hope bernie sanders medicare for all proposal is purely campaign rhetoric because if he were to introduce a senate bill people would have to give up the coverage they trust and taxpayers will be on the hook for trillions of dollars. is that an okay statement? >> i am not in a position to judge a statement like that. the way osc works is we get complaints about statements, there's an investigation open and started. >> so what if senator warner and plans to cancel student loan debt for 95% of boroughers. bribing people to vote for --
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could an advisor say senator gillibrand, harris, warren, sanders, booker and klobuchar should get off thehe presidenti campaign trail and back into the senate? instead the senate minority leader is asking for a full stop in the senate. what if an advisor makes an obvious connection between a policy proposal and a possible political motivation. is the advisor allowed to highlight the intention of the lawmaker? senators have introduced a new credit for renters. i'm sure introducing legislation that gives more free stuff to people has nothing to do with a presidential campaign. what about if an advisor weighs in on a current position on abortion? can an advisor say senator
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gillibrand compared pro-life use with -- 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 advisor comment on how the sitting senator is acting in a political and not governmental capacity? or what about this? senator gillibrand in a role as senator and not as a candidate for president school lunch programs demonstrating a misunderstanding of science. i'm sure it's a coincidence it happened right around the same time it happen as a campaign speech. but if she wants to check with the former first lady i'm sure she'll find out rural america doesn't like the senate or white house interfering with school lunch program can advisers ask that senator warren introduce the bill that would make same sex couples responsible for are rote
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roactive tax refund. this demonstrates she is acting in the best interests of her political base and not in the best interest of the average citizen. in closing, mr. chairman, i request unanimous consent to enter into the record the front page of the osc website which as of this morning features a prominent link which states kellyanne conway repeatedly violated the hatch act, recommends removal from federal office. the argument this osc is a political office holds no water. this has routinely targeted the administration and not even given the -- >> objection so ordered. >> and with that i yield back. >> thank you, mr. chairman. and welcome mr. kernow. when it comes to my friends and
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holing the trump administration accountable, my lord what happened to the passion of the obama years? it's actually a marvel to behold. but maybe this found an honest man in you, mr. kernow. are you a liberal democrat from new yorkrk? >> no, sir. >> what are you? do you mind my asking? >> sure, i consider myself a conservative republican. i vote frd ronald reagan. it was my first vote for president. well, it was cool to vote for ronald reagan. i came to d.c. in 2011 because i believe in g government. >> you worked with darrell issa. >> i did work with darrell issa, yes. >> oh, will the horrors ever stop here? so you're not bringing to your job some kind of political bias
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against this president, is that correct? >> none, whatsoever. no, i'm a 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 violate the law, not to ignore your duties, but you'd probably if you could, you'd bend over backwards to counsel someone who was in trouble with the law you're in charge of enforcing to kind of write himself, herself, give them a bit of a warning chance so it doesn't have to get to a level it now is. would that be a fair statement? >> well, i wouldn't say bend over backwards. i do believe it is my job in a nonpartisan way to assist the administration in complying with all the laws.
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osc enforces whistle-blower laws and retaliation. we do have a very robust effort to train meme on the hatch hakt, but it isn't a partisan reason. we have career professionals to do this who are not partisans whatsoever. >> right. so -- so did you verbally counsel ms. conway, hey you're crossing a line, don't do that. the white house counsel's office gave numerous trainings, in fact some of our career staff sent over, power points and other training materials on the hatch act and officially for using. >> now, your office has issued a report on this, is that correct? >> we've issued two reports on this. >> have you ever done that before? >> no, we've never issued two reports on the same person. >> never. >> never. >> how old is your office? >> so 1989 is when we became
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independent. >> so 30 years. >> 30 years. >> okay,nd have you received a response to those reports from the subject in question, ms. conway? >> ms. conway never responded, no. >> never responded. >> in the past the ranking member was comparing this case to -- did those people respond to chastisements from her office verbal or -- well, there hasn't been a written report like that. >> right. i wasn't there and obviously that would go to the -- >> we have your testimony earlier in fact one of those people not only responded she issued a maya culpa and issued a response with the unfavorable act in sharp contrast to the case in point. >> correct. >> could this problem be solved
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if ms. conway simply moved the campaign? >> absolutely. >> and was she counseled or advised to do that? >> we have definitely suggested solutions, not just to move into the campaign but also how to come into compliance with her twitter feed and how to stay within the rules of her media appearance. >> and this is matter of law? >> correct. >> and she's in violation of the law? >> that's correct. >> and you've definitively determined that, and has the white house counsel been so informed? >> yes. >> and what is the reaction of the white house counsel? >> they sent us an 11-page letter and 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
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to let the federal work force go osc is going to treat everybody equally, we're not going to have a two tier hatch a act enforcemt system and we're going to do everything in our power to treat everybody the same no matter how well-connected they mayay or ma not be. >> thank you very much and i yield back. >> i thank the chairman and t t witness for being here today before the committee. i would suggest to my colleague on the other side of t the aisl when he'seeking 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 a subpoena with respect to child separation policies. but to suggest we're somehow dishonest by saying we're seeking to find one honest man because we believe this is charade and a a waist of the ti of the american people i think
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that is correctional direction to go. with respect to the obama years i would just raise it would be awfully nice if my colleagues on the other side would recognize a president sent a request for $2.68 million for i.c.e. when the problem we had on our border is nothing like itit is today. and yet my colleagues on the other side of the aisle refuse to recognize that. it says congressmen issued the hatch act to protect federal employees from political incursion at the workplace based on merit and not political affiliation, is that right? >> that's correct. >> would you agree president trump chose ms. conway based on her partisan political affiliation? >> that he chose that? >> right. >> i think he chose her because she's effective in policies. >> whether candidates or in office, correct? >> yes. >> so you would agree the
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original tenant of the hatch act was not to keep advisers from advocating for their boss' policies or in defense of positions criticizing them. >> i think the hatch act only exempts two people, the president and vice president from its reach so ms. conway is bound by it. >> you're saying it would prevent white house advisers from advocating on behalf of their policies? >> she's not allowed to use 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 positions. >> yes. >> and is it not true there are two categories employees restricted, and less restricted? >> that's correct. >> so there is in fact two categories. so we do treat people differently depending on what they're job is and what they're doing. >> but the enforcement is not different. >> but we recognize there are differences? true or false, there are differences?
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>> the statute does recognize that. >> thank you. there's a significant gap in my opinion b between political activity. if osc claims certain forms of political speech are permissible under the hatch act, where do we draw the line. can ms. conway explain why open borders policy is bad policy? >> i can't get into a ecic -- >> you can't say whether or not she can advocate whether a pacific policy choice is bad policycy. >> i can say she's allowed to advocate policy choices. >> can she explain why a policy not encouraging people to claim asylum when it is overwhelmingly not found to be credible under our laws is bad policy? >> she can certainly talk about policy, that's correct. >> -- offered up or criticizing the people while those very same democrats who deny the crisis refused to address it and then
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act they were the heroes for throwing money at it with no plan to deal with it. can she explain why that is flawed legislation? >> i just can't really comment on a specific policy. >> can she plain why that legislation should be roundly rejected and defeated? can she criticize the democrats as a group who failed to take the crisis seriously and allowed the crisis to get so bad that people are now dying? >> i think it gets very close to who the democrats are and once again -- >> wait a minute, she can't criticize democrats as a class for failing to do this? >> she can talk about policy proposals. whether she starts to criticize people running for office -- >> so if you're a member of congress and we're perpetually running for office for two years, a member of the white house staff can't criticize a member of this body for roundly unserious policy suggestions and make that clear to the american people that should not be
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followed and that that is bad policy? >> no, there's a couple of other rules. first of all, even though you run every two years the president declare said he got elected and he's going to be run again. there's a date we take when you're like a declared candidate. that's number one. number two as i indicated absolutely anvider on common policies. however, when you ask me about democrats and people are potentially running for office, it gets a little bit closer which is why we have a very robust advisory function. the folks sitting behind me who are in the hatch act's permanent nonpartisan officers, they advice and get questions just like you said. >> but point to me in the statute where it would say the political advisor to the president can't comment about democrats bad policies or if the president's party was reversed couldn't comment on the republicans bad policies. >> gentleman's time has expired. you may answer the estion.
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>> thank you, congressman. the statute specifically says she's not allowed to use her official capacity in order to influence an election. so if she's talking about folk whoos who are running there are restrictions about them. that's why we have this robust advisory opinion. >> when all of congress is running. >> thank you very much, mr. chairman. mr. kernow, president trump appointed you to this position, but that's irrelevant because your a professional committed by the rule of law and governed by that 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
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terms of electoral activity, but when they come to work they're there to work. they're not there to campaign for or against anybody. is that a basic intuitive understanding of the statute? >> yes. >> okay, 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 capacity, yes. she's allowed to say whatever she wants on the weekend and evening, but as long as the american taxpayers are paying tha her salary congress has said and the supreme court has affirmed this she can't inject hersives in campaigns. >> that's right. >> you started an investigation for mrsrs. conway for making a statement strongl supporting a u.s. candidate and accused child molester roy moore in the alabama special election.
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you sent her interrogatories to get her side of the story and what did she in response to that? >> she did not respond. >> you sent a report explaining ms. 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, we did. >> and did she respond? >> she did not. >> did president trump spnld in any way to discipline this employee when tens of thousands of my employees have been told they can't wear a button to work because it says resist, which is word in the english language. did president trump respond to you? >> we did not get a response. >> okay, in december of last year you sent ms. conway a letter explaining she could not use the same twitter account for official government business and then use it to despairage democrats and republicans.
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here's how you separate the official business paid by your republican people and your official activity. >> i did not receive a response. >> for 18 months you've engaged in 10, 12 different ways to get a response. did she ever respond? >> she did not respond. i do want to clarify something, there was some back and forth in that regard but we never heard from her directly. >> ms. conway seemed to ridicule the hatch act. on one occasion she had the audacity to mockingly ask let me know when the jail sentence starts. what message does that send to my constituents governed by the hatch act and what message does it send to those postal workers hatch act?foriolating the unfortunate. >> does it send a message there's one standard who applies to people who are in president
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trump's favor and a different standard that applies to millions of federal employees subject to the requirement of the hatch act? >> i think it sent the wrong message. it sent the message the hatch act was not going to be -- >> now, look we heard some murmurings of the freedom of speech which is unusual. the 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 say, no, that's not the case. but the supreme court has upheld the hatch act. when you discipline employees do you allow constitution arguments to take place? can people make a free speech argument before? >> sure, when we take a case they can make whatever argument they'd like. if they'd like to a regular proceeding. >> and we just haven't heard
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anything about why the line should be drawn differently for her than it's been drawn for everybody else. i've got to say her contemptuous defiance of your board and you as the director of it is unacceptable and intolerable. i hope we're going to render this subpoena quickly. and i want to say the message to go out to all employees in the white house if you act in contemt co contempt of the american people and congress we will find you in contempt of the american people and congress. i yield back, mr. chairman. >> mr. miller? >> you're not saying that kellyanne conway couldn't say any of the things she said, right? she still has the first amendment. she can say whatever she wants. you agree she can say all of those things. there's a legal way she couould say all of those things. what you've taken offense with
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is the manner in which she's said it. you said she's violated the hatch act. what are the determinants you and your staff behind you use in deciding whether somebody's speech is an exercise in the first amendment right or a violation of the hatch act? what are some of the big factors that go into that? >> so the way i understand it, obviously i don't conduct the investigation done by the professional staff but from what i u understand is they look at e people speaking in an official authority. is she speaking on the white house lawn? is she in any other ways speaking on behalf of the president rather than kellyanne, i just want to talk about what i think. in a lot of these appearances she's speaking for the president. so it's in her official capacity. >> what about the time she says mr. raskin has said to you in a question she can say whatever she wants on the weekend and in the evening and you say correct?
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>> well, i thought there was more to that question. >> there was a little more to that question. >> i thought the implication was in her own -- >> do you ever take into account the time at which something is said? >> i'm sure our hatch act unit does look at -- >> what time does your hatch act unit show up to work? >> i'm sure they work regular work hours. >> for america that might be longer than america, but in d.c. i understand it to be about 9:00 to 5:00. >> i think they stagger their times when people are available, so from 6:00 or 7:00. >> when you worked in congress, what were the hours here? >> okay, very good. well, i went and looked at the first three videos. i worked with the first three videos of kellyanne conway talking in videos on tv. and i didn't get a chance to go through all of your examples,
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but in the first three you gave, two of them were not governmnme property, and in fact all three of them were outside of the window of 9:00 to 5:00. there was one interview at 8:03 a.m., one at 8:44 a.m., and one at 10:17 p.m. i would hope mr. raskin might agree that somebody acting at 10:17. >> would the gentleman yield? i think you make an astute point. the question is whether she operates in an official capacity representing the government or not. >> mr. kernow, what would you use to determine? >> as the congressman just said and also as my staff informs me i should be clear the issue isn't time. >> so she's on the clock all the time? so what do you use to determine whether it's her time or her first amendment or your time, the tax pay spayer?
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>> it all depends on whether she's speaking on her own behalf, i'm speaking for the president. >> i watched those interviews. she didn't introduce herself as such. the interviewer put that on the screen or introduced her as that. who gets to pick what goes on the chiron on the screen? can she even see what's on the screen? >> i think she knows when she's there representing -- >> but she can't see what's on the screen, with all due respect to my respect i've been introduced as a member of the freedom caucus. i am not in the freedom caucus. i shows up on the chiron. i don't get to pick that or choose that. it is not her choice to p pick that, so i would maintain the first three examples you gave us are extremely poor examples. they're outside the work window.
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she didn't get the chance to put what's on the chiron, and she didn't say what her title was. and i just think if you're trying to claim that all 24 hours of the day belong to the taxpayer, i think that's wrong. you're not affording h her anyplace to express her personal opinion, and i think it's wrong. it's what makes this a sad -- a sad pursuit because of the choices, the examples you've chosen. and with that, y i yield back m chairman snch. >> can i just respond to one thing? thank you. i understand the a argument. i'm just looking at the first example. she's standing at the white house. >> okay, what about second and third example? where is she? she's at fox studios, right? 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. it's not even about who operates the chiron.
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the issue is she talking about official administration matters, and if she's representing what the president inks, 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 legally? >> i'll hope he'll explain it a lileit later -- >> just looking for a legal way -- >> right now i his turn, , please, sir. >> thank you, mr. careman. thank you for being here today, and i want to reiterate again my understanding is you're a conservative republican? >> yes, sir. >> you voted for ronald reagan. >> sure did. >> is that a political statement? >> re-claim my time. i voted for ronald reagan as well, and while i disagreed with some of his policies i miss his integrity and character especially in these days. but as in your position you were appointed by president trump as we heard earlier, is that correct? >> right, yes. >> so i want to be very clear
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here we have a conservative republican who was appointed by a republican conservative who delivered this report with how many violations? >> so there are ten media appearances that we found there are violations along with a twitter account. >> so in total how many violations? >> 11. >> 11 violations. how many violations did you have under the o administration? >> so you mean for the entire administration? >> yes. at least to the senior aids. >> so on the cabinet members there were two letters we sent on secretary sobilious and secretary castro. >> so within the cabinet, how many total for those two? >> one each. >> so 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.
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is that correct? >> yeah, well 11 on this report and then two more on the first report. >> okay, and in an effort to get her to take action to rectify these mistakes, these violations or these purposeful violations, she has not responded, she 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? >> i think that's fair. >> so we talk about double standards and hypocrisy. i believe that's what the ranking member said earlier, and yet 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 isa said that demanding that these hatch violations of these obama
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individuals, they be held accountable, some often demanding for their resignation or firing, yet we see a completely different voice here today. and i applaud you for bringing to the office the integrity that it deserves, the nonpartisanship 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 that this white house has systemically and pervasively interfered with investigations undertaken by multiple agencies in government, including 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 here, that the request from the white house that you
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withdraw and retract the report. your response was, quote, wholly inappropriate. these requests represent a significant encroachment on independence, end quote. >> that is correct. >> can you elaborate on why you think it is so egregious that the white house has taken these actions? >> sure. osc, while we're anchored in the executive, of course, we're an independent agency. as an independent agency, it's very important to preserve our ability to do essentially 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 types of situations, you would see the conservative republican appointed by the republican president being attacked by the democratic side of the aisle. here we have just the opposite.
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you have the democratic side of the aisle thanking you for your independence while the republican side of the aisle is questioning your independent analysis and conclusions that you made. and again i wanted to thank you for your time today and i yield back, mr. chairman. >> thank you. >> thank you very much. ms. miller. >> thank you, chairman cummings and ranking member jordan. can an executive branch employee state the truth when asked on a tv interview? can someone working for the white house and the president 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 do that. they have to pivot away from that when they're employed in their official duties. >> is the same staff permitted to offer opinions? could valerie jarrett say
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something like george bush enjoys painting and running? >> i don't know enough of facts. is he a c candidate at that tim? i just don't know. >> he's president. how about an opinion on policy? for example, could valerie jarrett go on tv and say former president dick cheney is hawkish? >> i think comments on policy are allowed. when they talk about somebody who's running for office, a candidate and they're in their official duties, there are restrictions on that. >> mr. kerner, is joe biden creepy? because in your letter to president trump you stated that ms. conway is allowed to -- not allowed to state that. >> it's an opinion. i think the argument was made that she was just stating facts.
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whether former vice president biden is creepy or not is not a fact. it's an opinion by ms. conway. >> in march she stated there's a whole hot messs in the democratc party, beginning with right over the bridge here in virginia. i think this also a statement of opinion on policy. i have seen the statement backed up with fact and illustrated with policies like the green new deal which would try to enact efforts to stop air travel all together and inhibit cow emissions. as well as a single payer health care stem which would take away medicare from the elderly and make health costs skyrocket. my colleagues across the aisle want to get rid of the recently passed tax cut that boosts our question. mr. chairman, i am so disap pointed that we are wasting our time on this hearing today. we have a crisis right now right now on our southern border. we had 144,000 immigrants cross
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illegally into our country in may alone. 144,000. we have lethal drugs flowing across a porous border. i know that for fact in my state. they're killing our citizens. and you choose to focus on the false hatch act, that's pathetic. they have to hold these hearings with the singular goal to impeach and impugn our president. it is disappointing that my colleagues have still not accepted the results of the election that occurred nearly three years ago and at every turn they continue to divide our country and waste our time with these hearings instead of focusing on the real issues facing everyday americans. i yield back my time.
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>> ms. hill? >> thank you, mr. chairman. i ask unanimous consent to enter into the record a report from the congressional research service calledd hatch act restrictions on federal employees, moyle political acti in the digital age. >> without objection, so ordered. >> i'd like to point othat ther 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. there are a number of things stated, which is that employs may not use their official authority to influence or interfere with or affect the results of an election, engage in political activity, activity directed at the success or failure of a party, comments on
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a blog that advocated for or against a parsan party. may not use any e-mail account or social media to distribute, send or forward content that advocates for a political group. within the same report there is 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 ms. conway. so mr. kerner, i want to thank you and your staff for this investigation and report. the white house counsel wrote in his letter on june 11th, 2019 that the osc's report finding dozens of hatch act violations by kellyanne conway was the product of a fatally flawed process and it raises serious concerns regarding osc's current investigatory practices. do you believe it is a fatally
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flawed process? >> no, i do not. we're mandated by statute to investigate. career, nonpartisan civil servant dos do that. then they take a appropriate action or recommend appropriate action. >> so there was nothing unique about how you investigated allegations against kellyanne conway? >> no. other than we did that once. she was aware of the hatch act because the first report lays out six or seven times she was informed. >> the investigation of kellyanne conway's compliance with the hatch act was conducted by experienced investigators. >> i like to call them the world's great eest experts on hatch. they have about 40 years of
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combined experience and they apply the law to the facts, the facts to the law dispassionately and in a nonpartisan way. they're the consummate nonpartisan officials. >> did any of them raise a concern to you that they felt like the work that went into the report released on june 13th was the product of a fatally flawed process. you were a prosecutor foror 20 years. i assume you have a lot of experience in whether law enforcement investigations you relied on were thourough, is tht correct. >> yes. >> your report indicated that the osc first began reviewing ms. conway's twitter account in november of 2018 and that the agency spent months conducting that review. >> that is correct. >> do you believe that you rushed to judgment? >> we did not. >> osc also contacted the white house many times before completing its report. does the osc give career
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employees that many chances before issuing a finding of a violation? >> i think this process had probably more back and forth with the white house than a normal case would. >> if anything, ms. conway and the white house have beenen giv possibly more deference than most employees would have received. >> that's right. >> the white house was provided the opportunity to review the report before it was released. did the white house raise any concern that ms. conway never actually said or tweeted the things in the report? >> no. >> so the white house does not dispute thehe facts. the president just does not want to hold kellyanne conway accountable. my observation is that the reason for that is she has been doing exactly what he wants her to do. this administration believes that 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 hand. so my question is, what does it mean for us if they won't
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enforce the laws of the land on themselves? >> well, that's a good question for the congress. from osc's perspective we have to abide by the statute and conduct fair investigations that apply the facts to the law. that's what we did here. i think other steps are up to this committee and the congress. >> thahank 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. >> well, you mentioned to numerous people that she poked you in the eye. i mean, we've got -- >> sure. >> so you don't get mad when you get poked in the eye? >> i would describe my reaction as being disappointed. >> but you've talked to multiple people how you were mad you felt pressured to put out this report, isn't that true?
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>> that's not true, no. > you're under oath. >> sure. >> i want to caution you. you know the rules. so you didn't talk to anyone to say thahat you felt heat from t media and from some on the left, you didn't feel any heat, you didn't mention that to anybody? >> that's not what i said. what i said was the report was written prior to her making those statements. >> that's not the question. 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 means. >> write the report. 's fairly clear. you didn't feel any pressure? you didn't tell anyone that you felt pressure? you're under oath. i know you did. just answer it. >> i have a conversation in which i expressed that because she had made those statements, i felt we ought to have an answer to those statements.
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>> that's nothe context which you said that. >> then you have to give me the context. >> i am giving you the context. did you tell anyone you felt pressure to do something about ms. kellyanne conway? have you mentioned that to anyone? yes or no? >> i don't recall. >> you do not recall. >> i do not recall saying what you're saying. without the context, i can't answer that. >> what about in the response that you actually had to the office of general counsel where you said that she poked you in the eye? >> the office of general counsel, you mean the white house counsel? >> the white house. >> i did tell them that i felt that what she said was inappropriate, that it t was a poke in the eye, that is correct. there's no pressure. the report was written. >> that dog doesn't hunt because you've told multiple people. it wasn't just the e white hous counsel. under what authority do you have
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to write prohibitions against using twitter? does osc have the legal authority to write those prohibitions? >> i believe we do. >> under what statute? quote the statute. because it is uniquely reserved for opm. we've got office of legal counsel that has actually given an opinion. crs that's been quoted, it is not your authority, mr. kerner, wouldn't you agree with that? >> no. i disagree with that. >> quote the statute. >> so the hatch act statute and its regulation -- >> i know the hatch act statute. i actually read it. when it was amended what was the senator's name that did the amendment? >> i don't recall. >> you're the expert. what was the senator that actually was on the senate floor doing the amendment? you're the expert. >> it's my time, talib. >> i'm sorry, sir. we don't know.
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i don't know. >> well, i can tell you. it was senator john glenn because i've done the research. everybody's talking about the rule of law here and upholding the rule of law. it's time that you stay consistent with the law, because you do not have the ability to eveven set the regulations for twitter. >> can i answer that now? since i got this action, it's five usc 1212 f which provides the power for osc to provided a advisory opinions. >> advisory opinions are not rules and regulations. they're very different. advisory opinions when it comes to regulations -- i promise you i've done the work. i have the homework. >> i'm just tellinyo what my professional staff who's been doing this for 40 years has told me. >> do you have an advisory opinion for this particular twitter use? do you have an advisory opinion that's out there from your osc?
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>> i'm sorry. i couldn't hear the beginning. >> do you have an advisory opinion on twitter use from osc? >> we have a social media guidance we've done. but on the conway twitter use, it's not done under that. the conway twitter use was done under the statute. >> isn't it her personal twitter account? >> it is. it is her personal account. >> you're telling her she can't use her personal twitter account to tweet something out. is real donald trump his personal account? >> the president's exempt from the hatch act. >> is anybody else in. >> the vice president. >> is anybody else in? >> not that i know of. >> you need to go to opm to the guidance. it actually gives other exemptions in the very crs report that ms. hill identifiei.
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have you read that? >> yes and i do not believe it gives exemptions for the use of the federal authority section. >> the gentleman's time had expired. >> it gives exemptions for presidential appointees and cabinett members and it would apply here and it would with every outside counsel that i checked with. >> i do believe as i listen to my colleague that your integrity has been challenged. i believe in fairness and i mean 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 folks are anxious to find or allege that people perjure themselves.
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mr. meadows said it at least four or five times reminding you you are under oath. i'm just giving you an opportunity to clear yourself. 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 the context. when he says did you tell anyone, i don't know what i told someone in a hypothetical. >> i can give the context, mr. chairman, if you want the context. it's a truthful witness. >> mr. meadows, you're out of time. i'm trying to get -- >> 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. now, his integrity has been challenged. if he doesn't want to take
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advantage of it, because 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. >> i'm happy if i may just finish my point. as i indicated i asked mr. meadows for the context. prior to just now he didn't provide me the context. just on the release of the report, the report was written prior to the statements being done. when the statements by ms. conway on may 29th were made, it became clear that she was not remorseful, which is one of the criteria that's used by the mspb. and further more, that she was not interested in complying with the hatch act. i felt that she did poke us in the eye. i felt that was a direct attack on osc and we felt that we had
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the repo. since there was practically no way she was going to come into compliance, it was time to release the report. that was what happened there. it wasn't done because she hurt my feelings or anything like that. i was dispoiappointed that she d these things. i hoped to reach an agreement with her to get her to abide by the hatch act. i know the white house has counselled her numerous times on the natural achatch act. whatever feelings i had were unrelated to the report. they were just a recognition that she was not going to comply. >> when you say poke in the eye, is that figuratively or literally? >> it's a figure of speech. >> thank you, mr. chairman. unfortunately when some don't have facts on their side, they resort to bullying. our history in america is replete with people who have under the color of their
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authority who have bullied convictions out of folks who were innocent, who hav bullied and berated individuals accused wrongly of some conduct. and that results in admissions of guilty even when they are not guilty. so i apologize on behalf of the folks on the other side of the aisle who clearly don't have facts on their side and have had to result to bullying tactics to contribute to trying to undermine your own credibility. with that said, i'm one of the few members on this committee, if not the only one, that has balanced a partisan role at the same time i had an official one. you're right, you don't control whwhat you're called on the chchyron. i was usually called both, dnc chair and member of congress. when i was there in my official
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capacity even though the hatch act does not apply to members of congress, so i could be as political as i wanted to be in any interview. if the interviewer asked me a political question, i made sure that i clarified verbally that i was there in official capacity and it wasn't appropriate to answer that question. special counsel issued a report in 2016 regarding ms. conway that recommended to president trump that he take, quote, appropriate disciplinary action. president trump failed to discipline ms. conway. ms. conway's behavior did not change following that 2019 report is that correct? >> that is correct. >> her violations increased rather than decrease. let's watch the clips of interviews so we can see what we're dealing with here that ms. conway conducted one week in april 2019.
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>> just today we have the 19th democrat running for president seth mullen, the fourth person from the house of representatives. i would just remind everybody simple math, whether it's on whether it's 19, whether it's 50, anything times zero equals zero. you want to revisit this the way joe biden does because he doesn't want to be held into account. i found his announcement video to be certainly a missed opportunity but also just very dark and spooky. he doesn't have a vision for the future. it's like you and others looking at 2020 are worried that this guy can't be beaten fairly and squarely. why does joe biden come out and not say one thing about his senate race? >> that comment i is beneath yo >> why is joe biden bringing this? why he is using charlottesville to launch a candidacy? he's 0 for 2 running for
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president. vice president biden was here. he's going to be held to account. i know he said that i asked president obama not to endorse me. i'm too busy getting the enforcement of the firefighters but i don't want a popular president among the democrats, first african-american president to endorse me. do any of you belief that? you let him get away with his first lie. >> are these the kind of statements you would expect from a federal official who has reformed her actions after being found in violation of the hatch act? >> i believe these are some of the statements that we found to have violated the hatch act. >> so ms. conway violated the hatch act, not one, not two, nt three, but four times is that correct. >> i think we chronicled about ten appearances in our second report. >> are you aware of any official who osc found to have violated the hatch act four times in one week? >> i'm not aware of that. >> how does ms. conway's conduct undermine public confidence in the executive branch? >> i think it's very important
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to make sure that when we have a report like this and there's a hearing like this, that people in the federal workforce understand that they are going to be treated the same, that we're not going to have a two tier hatch act enforcement system. >> ms. conway said it is not even clear to us at the white house that the hatch act applies to assistants to the president. does the hatch act apply to assistants to the president? >> yes, it does. >> is it credibl to believe that ms. conway does not knonow what the hatch act allows? >> no. >> i call on president trump to hold ms. conway to the same standards as all other federal employees. president trump must fire kellyanne conway. thank yo i yield back. >> mr. green. thank you mr. chairman. i'd just like to point out since it was mentioned in the previous comments that 9/04 was on a saturday. the jake tapper show on a
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sa>> you mentioned the 9/04 so m just pointing out it was on a saturday. mr. chairman, i love the fact that the members of the other side say they want the rule of law abided by. i'm sure the several mururdered individuals killed by previously held immigrants by law enforcement for 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 yield my time to the ranking member. >> mr. kerner, who complained. kellyanne conway talking about senator biden and senator sanders, she said they were two old white career politicians. who filed the complaint? >> i don't have that information. >> you don't know who filed the complaint? >> no, i don't. >> how did you know ms. conway was in alleged violation of the hatch act? that's how you started investigations, someone complains? >> someone files a complaint. my unit know who is fis who fil
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>> can you turn around and ask them who complained? what organization? >> apparentl there were multiple complaints. also i think we don't disclose who files the complaints. >> they don't get to know who their accuser is. >> there is no accuser. >> isn't it true that an organization crew has done press releases saying they are ones who filed the complaint with the osc about ms. conway's alleged violation? >> i believe that's true. >> so it was crew who did complain. you knew that? it took me a minute just to get you to say that. >> like i said, we have to be careful. >> they publicized it. >> we still have obligations to protect complainants. we do this in the whistle blower area obviously. >> do you know who the former chairman of crew is? >> i know the current chairman.
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>> do you know the former chairman david brock? >> i'm aware of mr. brock. >> do you know the board members on crew? zephyr teach out, candidate for new york state attorney general, claire mccaskill, amy pope, all those people are part of crew, on their board. wayne jordan gave $3 million to democrat causes. he's on the board of crew, the organization that complained to you all to start the investigation into supposed violation of the hatch act by ms. conway. it sounds like a lot of democrats on this board. there is one republican. evan mcmullen, never trumper evan mcmullen. do you know who cofounded this organization? >> no. >> nora eison.
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>> he's an ethics guy. >> he's working for jerry nadler. he's the impeachment lawyer hired by mr. nadler in the democrat committee. that's the organization that filed the complaint. you know what else is interesting about this organization? crew, same organization, you brought this up early on, crew's 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. do you know if crew's filed any complaints since you did your june 13th letter to the white house? do you know if they filed any more complaints? >> i'm not sure. >> they did. june 20th. >> okay. >> you know who they filed that complaint against? >> no, i don't. >> ivanka trump. it seems like a pattern here.
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first they go aft tea party groups, complaints to the irs, got to go a after these folks. they're effective. then complaints to you about kellyanne conway. got to go after her, she's effective. now one week after your report they file a complaint against ivanka trump. when mr. meadows was talking about feeling pressure, are you feeling pressure from these organizations filing these complaints? >> no. none whatsoever. >> they are certainly having a pretty good track record, irs and two different times with you. >> they're entitled to file complaints. they don't do the investigation. once the complaint is initiated, the investigation -- >> no. we know who does the investigation. we know it's you. >> i don't do the investigations, sir. >> well, it's your group. >> it's the nonpartisan staff. >> you're not responsible for the investigation that took place? you're the guy in charge. >> you may answer the question.
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>> did they sign the letter or did you? >> i signed the letter and i'm absolutely 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 member just asked you. were there others other than crew who had complaints with regard to ms. conway? >> yes, i believe so. >> other organizations? come on, man. i'm listening. >> i believe so. >> okay. i don't want it left hanging that crew was the only folks that may have issued some type of complaint. >> there are other organizations, yes. >> very well. all right. thanks. by the way, you'll be able to see all of that house oversight hearing on alleged hatch act violations coming up tonight at 8:00 eastern over on c-span. here on c-span 3 we're live on capitol hill again to hear from the senate budget committee. testifying before the comommitt
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is u.s. comptroller general gene dodaro. a series of votes happening on the floor of the u.s. senate on humanitarian southern border assistan assistance. a measure passed in the house last night, a $4.5 billion measure failed in the senate. there's the chairman of the banking committee. our live coverage begins now here on c-span 3.
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