tv House Oversight Hearing on Office of Special Counsel And The Hatch Act -... CSPAN June 26, 2019 4:06pm-6:03pm EDT
election. watch that live wednesday, july 17, on c-span3, online at c-span.org, or listen on the free c-span radio app. >> in 1979, small network with an unusual name rolled out a big idea. let viewers make up their own minds. c-span opened the doors to washington policy, bringing you unfilthered content from congress and beyond. a lot has changed in 40 years. today that big idea is more relevant than ever. on television and online, c-span is your unfiltered view of government. so you can make up your own mind. brought to you as a public service by your cable or satellite provider. >> the house oversight and reform committee held a hearing today regarding the office of special counsel's recommendation that president trump fire white house counselor kellyanne conway for leged hatch act violations. that law prohibits executive
branch officials from engaging in political activity. mr. cummings: the committee will come to order. without objection, the chair is authorized to declare recess of the committee at any time. the full committee hearing 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 are holding a hearing on a very troubling -- on a very troubling report issued by the office of special counsel
on june 13, of this year. this report finds that kellyanne conway, counselor to president donald trump, violated the hatch act dozens of times. and it recommes that the president fire her immediately for her violations. there are rarely issues that come befe our c 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, nobody in this country is above the law. contrary to claims from misconway 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. o enforce federal law. which very clearly -- there's 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 pecial counsel henry kerner. mr. kerner 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 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 ms. conway violated the 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 ms. ed the president and conway violated the law. in 2018 special counsel sent president trump a report finding that ms. conway violated the hatch act twice. yet the president took no disciplinary action against her. instead, with the president's full support, ms. conway has engaged in an astounding show of defines 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. ms. conway is apparently comfortable escalating her violations. and her defines. 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 nonot a question of whether somebody is a terrific person. it's not a question of whether they are a tremendous spokesperson. it is not a question as to
whether they are loyal. it is a question of whether they owe bade the law -- owe bade the law -- obeyed the law. period. now things are getting worse. in response to the special counsel's report, the white house and ms. conway have gone on the offensive. by arguing that the hatch act esot even apply to her. tell that to all the other federal employees that have to adhere to this law. in a letter to special counsel on jewel 11, the white house counsel claimed there were no violations, quote, even assuming that the hatch act applies to the most senior advisors to the president in the white house, end of quote. similarly, ms. c conway stated this week, quote, it is not ite clear to us at the white counsel, that the hatch
act applies to assistance of the president, end of quote. let me make this abundantly clear. the hatch act is absolutely -- absolutely applies to ms. conway. period. it is written in black and white. re the committee on jurisdiction over this law. and neither congress nor the courts have ever suggested that a president's advisors are exempt. finally, i want to address the white house's baless, and they truly are baseless, arguments for refusing our request for ms. conway's testimony here today. they sent a letter to the committee on monday arguing that ms. conway is, quote, absolutely immune, end of quote, from testifying. they claim that this festival 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 advisors are absolutely immune. in fact, our committee has obtained public testimony from numerous white house officials while they served in the white house. these include multiple white house counsels, the deputy counsel to the president, and 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 mgs conway, the white house's argue mingtments 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 federal employee mocking the law itself and 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 the legislation that we on this ommittee pass. this is the opposite of accountability much it's contrary to our fundamental system of laws -- accountability. it's contrary to our fundamental system of laws in our country. again, nobody is above the law. not even ms. conway. for these reasons, we will hear from our ranking member.
we will hear special counsel kerner's opening statement and then we will pause this hearing so the committee members can vote on a subpoena to compel ms. conway's appearance at a hearing later today. with that, i will yield to the distinguished ranking member. >> mr. chairman, the report from the office of the speciaia counsel is outrageous. it's unprecedented. it's unfair. and it's just flat-out wrong. we should be honest. the reason we're here today is mr. kerner got his feeltings hurt. he told that to the white house counsel's office. he said, he took great offense to ms. conway's response. mr. jordan: and that's why, that's why he rushed the report and only gave ms. conway 16 hours to respond. mr. kerner felt slighted. ms. conway didn't pay enough attention to him in his -- and his office. and you know why she didn't? because the allegation's ridiculous. let's be clear about the hatch
act. federal employee can't come to work and hand out partisan literature, can't come to work and hand out yard signs. federal employee can't come to work and raise funds for a candidate or pressure subordrdinates to support a particular political party. but a senior advisor to the president of the united states can sure as heck go on cable news shows and answer questions. david plus did it, david axelrod did it. they all did it for president obama. but now that it's 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 the 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 left wing political organization that filed the complaint, same left
wing political organization that raises tons of money by attacking president trump and his administraration. they felt slighted. they felt pressured. so they were unfair. and the obama administration held -- were all found to violate the hatch act. o.s.c. didn't recommend they be fired. some of those people didn't even issue a public report. americans hate unfairness. and they know it when they see it. they also hate double stanandards. by the way, you know what else the federal employee can't do? you know what else they can't do? they can't target people for their political beliefs. remember this just a few years ago, when the i.r.s. systematically target people -- targeted people because they did different political persuasion? federal employees can't do what
lois learner and the i.r.s. did when they targeted key political party groups. when they applied one standard to their friends but a different standard if you were conservative. and here's the irony. office of special counsel seems to be doing the same thing to ms. conway. the democratic political group who filed the complaint and the o.s.c., they don't like the fact that ms. conway is conservative. it's not even really. that it's nonot even really tha i.r.s. didn't target tea party groups because they were conservative. they targeted them because they were effective. and that's s the same thing we see in play here. ms conway's 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. and the idea that democrats are going to now subpoena here i just ridiculous. -- her is just ridiculous. they're going to do because she does her job so well.
that's why we're here. i hope in the next few hours that we can get the truth out about the hatch act and really expose the motives that drive this whole darn thing in the fifirst place. with that, mr. chairman, i yield back. mr. cummings: mr. kerner, i now would lilike to welcome our witness, the honorable henry j. kerner, special counsel, office of special counsel. if you would please rise and raise your right hand, i will begin by swearing you in. do you swear or affirm that the testimony you are about to give is the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truthth, so help you god? mr. kerner: i do. mr. cummings: 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 and being in these settings, the microphones are very sensitive. so please speak directly into
them. without objection, your written statement will be made a part of the record. there's been a lot said by the ranking member and i would hope that you would address some of those issues in your opening statement. if not, we will get to them in questions. with that, you're now recognized for five minutes. mr. kerner: thank you, mr. chairman. i have a prepared statement but since the ranking member mentioned the i.r.s. targeting scandal, i thought i'd point out that when i was working on the senate side, we authored a 37-page report criticizing the i.r.s. for targeting conservative groups and tea party groups. i was the author of that report and we were very strong in making clear that that was unacceptable. and that the i.r.s. should not have targeted the conservative groups. mr. jordan: no kidding. mr. kerner: absolutely. mr. cummings: do not interfere with the witness. let him testify. mr. jordan: i was speaking directly -- mr. cummings: no, he's talking.
mr. jordan: got it. mr. kerner: sorry. i just wanted to make that clear. good morning, chairman cummings, ranking member jordan and members of the committee. thank you for the opportunity to appear before this committe to discuss the important work of o.s.c.'s hatch act unit. i'm proud to be here representing o.s.c. and i'm especially pleased to be back before this committee where i started my federal career. i came to work as what was then o.g.r. because i wanted to make a difference and i'm proud of the work we did to hold government officials accountable all the way up to the attorney general. while republican staff are here on two separate occasions under chairman issa and chaffetz, i learned two valuable lessons. one, the importance of accountability. espeally of high government officials. and two, treating everybody the same. holding the little guy to the exact same standard as those who are part of the pololitical well connected class. we cannot have two sets of rules. instead we need to have equal treatment und the law. and i've internalized those two lessons and i've taken them with me to my new job at the
office of special counsel. speaking of the office of special counsel, i'm proud of the longstanding work of o.s.c. 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 appointment, i accepted this job with the expectation and obligation that i would uphold the constitution and faithfully discharge my duties in a fair and impartial manner. i knew from my 18 years as a prosecutor in los angeles that doing so would involve making hard calls. that leaves me to our -- leads me to our topic of the day. o.s.c.'s investigations into kellyanne conway's violations of the hatch act. i want to make it clear at the outset that with respect to ms. conway's first amendment rights, we in no way wish to assist anyone in silencing her speech. the president has stated publiclyhat he considers her an effective proponent of his policies and we have no intent in depriving the president of that assistance. that said, over the past 1 1/2
years, o.s.c. has received merous separate hatch act complaints against ms. conway. as with all hatch act complaints that o.s.c. receiveses, career hatch act attorneys conduct a thorough and impartial investigation of lleged political activity. o.s.c. documented multiple hatch act violations by ms. conway. although ms. conway had the opportunity to respond to that report, she chose not to do so. the most recent report was the result of a months' long investigation that began with complaints by the twitter activity back in december of last year and came to include a multitude of violations during media appearances about which o.s.c. has receive complaints. let me also be clear. the statements made by ms. conway that violated the hatch ac were her political opinions. ms. conway was not talking only about facts during her media appearances in question. instead she pivoted, sometimes completely unprompted, to
attacking the democratic candidates personally, such as calling the entire field of democratic candidates woodchips and calling senator booker tinny anand sexist. those statements are not facts. th a campaign rhetoric and they are forbidden by the hatch act when she says them in her official capacity. during the recent investigation of ms. conway, o.s.c. had substantial communication with the white house counsel's office. o.s.c. repeatedly offered ms. conway the opportunity to come into compliance with the law. she refused to do so. in fact, the frequency of her hatch act violations only increased. this left us with no choice but to make the recommendation we made, which is that give the evidence of her clear, repeated andnowing 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 that we did not make this recommendation lightly.
but as professor jonathan turly, a frequent witness on capitol hill, and nationally recognized constitutional law scholar, wrote on his blog, ms. conway's behavior presented a, quote, direct and existential challenge to the office of special counsel. they have to act in the face of such flagrant and repeated violations, end quote. so why do we even have a hatch act? we have a hatch act, which was passed in 1939, because its central purpose remains unchanged. to separate the nonpartisan governance of the country from partisan political campaigning. by maintaining the hatch act protects two groups. federal workers who are protected from the possibilityr american people are also protected because they know their tax dollars are being spent on government and not on election campaigns they may or may not support. to achieve these worthy goals, the hatch act placed certain
limitations on the political activity of federal executive branch employees. political activity is defined in the hatch act regulations as any activity directed toward the success or failure of a political party, partisan political group or candidate for partisan political office. one of the act's core restrictions prevents government employees from using their official authority or influence to interfere with or affect the results of an election. the supreme court has twice affirmed the hatch act's constitutionality as a permissible regulation of speech. and the later of the two rulings, the supreme court said hatch act struck a delicate balance between fair and effective government and the first amendment rights of individual employees. as a former congressional staffer, i'm well aware of the 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 in reassuring the american people that their government is working on their behalf, regardless of how they voted or
which party or candidate they support. some have questions why the hatch act should apply to someone like ms. conway, who is a former campaign manager for president trump and presently serves as one of his senior counselors. but as the conduct of past administration officials in similar positions, people like david axelrod, covek, has shown, being be an advisor does not inherently have ms. conway to leverage her official authority to attack candidates or engage in political activity as defined under the act. another example is the now departed press secretary, sarah huckabee sanders, who pivoted away from questions that that were posed to her by the press corps about election issues. ms. conway's comments by contrast were indistinguishable from the partisan attacks that a campaign official would make. her repeated personal attacks on multiple democratic party candidates, which ms. conway by the way is permitted to make as a private citizen, are wholly
unrelated to the work of governing on behalf of the american people. some have tried to argue that o.s.c. is holding ms. conway to a higher standard. and treating her more harshly than high-level officials of the obama administration. the opposite is true. the career supervisor of o.s.c.'s hatch act unit not only are aware of but investigate violations by obama administrations -- administration officials and their recommendations are calibrated on the severity of the violations based on precedent. for example, then h.h.s. secretary sebelius was found to have committed two hatch act violations at a single event. in response acknowledged error and reimbursed the u.s. treasury for all expenses associated with that event. interesting at the time that o.s.c. issued its report on this, some republicans on the house side conservative groups called for her removal. in contrast to ms. sebelius, ms. conway has committed to found to have committed 10 separate violations, express nod remorse and continues to
express disdain for the law's longstanding restrictions. as stated in the report, ms. conway's conduct created an unprecedented challenge to o.s.c.'s ability to enforce the hatch act. her conduct sent a false message to other federal employees that they need not abide by the hatch act or that senior officials are above the law. i'm here to emphatically say that is not the case. in closing, just as i did when i worked for the esteemed committee, i'll continue to work hard to hold federal employees accountable when they fall short of the standards that congress has mandated. according lirks under my leadership, o.s.c. will continue its distinguished history of enforcing the hatch act and preserving the distinction between governing and campaigning. thank you and i look forward to answers your questions. mr. cummings: thank you. we look forward to engaging new questions when we reconvene after we dispose of some committee business. the hearing will now stand in recess. [captioning performed by the national captioning institute, which is responsible for its caption content and accuracy. visit ncicap.org] [captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2019]
mr. cummings: the committee will come to order. without objection, the chair is authorized to declare a recess of the committee at any time. the chair may postpone further proceedings today on the question of approving any measure or matter or adopting an amendment for which a recorded vote or the yeas and nays 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. the clerk: a resolution offered by chairman cummings authorizing issuance of subpoena related to the hatch act. mr. cummings: without objection, the report is considered read and open to
amendment at any time. the chair recognizes himself to offer an amendment in the nature of a substitute. copies of the amendment have already been distributed and are on the dais. the clerk will report. the clerk: amendment in the nature of a substitute to a resolution offered by mr. cummings, authorizing issuance of subpoena related to the hatch act. mr. cummings: without objection, the amendment is considered read and will serve as the base text for purpose of 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 have worked across the aisle to amend this very important law several times over the past decade. the office of special counsel has found that ms. conway violated the hatch act dozens of times.
let me repeat that, dozens of times. and recommends that the president fire her. but he refuses to do so. in fact, he refuses to take any disciplinary action against her. keep in mind, we have over two 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 is 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, ms. conway did not appear here today. the white house sent a letter on monday claiming she is, and i quote, absolutely immune, end of quote, from congressional testimony, even if she's
violating the law. there's a longstanding precedent for the white house aides to testify before this very committee. we've heard from multiple white house counsels to deputy counsel to the president and associate counsel to the president, deputy assistant to the president, and the 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 this resolution, the committee demands answers and requires ms. conway to provide those answers under oath. i urge my members of the committee to vote for this resolution and now i yield to the distinguished ranking member, mr. jordan. i yield to mr. meadows.
mr. meadows: thank you, mr. chairman. mr. chairman, this subpoena, one, is not necessary. and quite frankly, it's not following the law. i can tell you that what we have here is a political spectacle. 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 all about, it's about protecting federal employees. we're not doing any of that here today. in fact, we're setting a dangerous course where we're going to bring in every federal employee that has a hatch act violation when we are going to go and put a subpoena and put them on trial right here before congress. it is wrong, mr. chairman. and 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. because if we're going to have the same standard, let me just tell you, there is ethical complaints about every single member of congress that does some kind of tv hit here in the capitol where they start to talk about it, mr. swalwell, mr. schiff. if we're going to use the same standard, they are violating, indeed would be violating the very rules of this house. and i can tell you that as we start to look at this -- no, i will not yield. you'll have time in opposition, i'm sure, that the chairman will allow you to do that. here's what is troubling, mr. chairman. as we start to 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 so man that powers. let's make sure he had -- subpoena samantha powers. let's make sure she comes. in i have 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. so if we want to hold people accountable, let's do it with the same standard. because i don't think it's right to hold her to a different standard. mr. cummings: the gentleman yield? mr. meadows: i will to my friend. mr. cummings: let me be clear -- mr. meadows: not to suggest other person was not my friend. ms. wasserman schultz: yeah, thanks a whole heck of a lot, mr. meadows. [laughter] mr. cummings: let me be clear. i think we've gotten to a point sadly where disobeying the law is ok. mr. meadows: this is not -- reclaiming my time. mr. cummings: yes, it is. it is! mr. meadows: it is my time. reclaiming my time. i can promise you that paragraph e gives a waiver. so i want to hear from mr. kerner, who gets a waiver? because you know what, when you go out and you state the fact, that is not political campaigning. she's not asking for contributions, she's not asking for anything other than -- she's not even campaigning.
she has a microphone stuck in her face and she is responding. you've done the same thing, mr. chairman. and so i would just say, let's be careful about the standard we're about to hold. i will yield to the gentleman from ohio. mr. jordan: this is one more example of the democrats' obsession with going after this president. you have 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. mr. cummings: that is not true. mr. jordan: michael cohen. the first announced witness, their first big hearing, who do they bring in front of this committee? who do they bring in front of the congress? who do they bring? a guy who is a convicted liar, who sits in prison today. first big hearing. no, i'm not. it's my time. you're out of order. mr. cummings: all right. mr. jordan: mr. chairman, i got 2:58. mr. cummings: let's hold it real quick. mr. jordan: wait -- mr. cummings: freeze the time.
mr. jordan: i don't freeze my time. i'd have to yield my time to you and i'm not doing. that are you asking know yield? mr. cummings: i'm asking you to yield. don't want to take anything away from you. the reason you're hearing that is the first hearing was with regard to drugs. mr. jordan: not the first announced -- mr. cummings: insulin. don't be funny with the words. mr. jordan: i'm not. i said exactly what i meant. mr. cummings: don't put out there thanges are not accurate. it's not accurate. you act like the lady -- [talking simultaneously] mr. jordan: it's my time, mr. chairman. do you wish that you hadn't announced mr. cohen as your first announced witness? is that what you're saying? mr. cummings: oh, god. mr. jordan: all i'm saying is your first announced witness, your first big hear something a guy who sits in prison for lying to congress and when he came here, he lied again. and 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. in fact, i'll yield back time to mr. meadows. we got 2:20. mr. meadows: i thank the gentleman. mr. chairman, here is my concern. we are going down a downward spiral on something that does not have to happen. we've got mr. kerner here who is usurping the authority granted to o.p.m. we in a bipartisan way have been talking about o.p.m. and the importance of o.p.m. yet we're allowing this committee to usurp the authority of o.p.m.? he doesn't even have the authority to write the guidance. yet we're bringing them in for a subpoena. i've studied this. you go back to 1939. you go back to the 1990's when they amended this bill the last time. let me just tell you, it has nothing to do with what this hearing is about today. it has everything to do with
not coercing federal employees, not giving them special treatment because they're of one part -- they're of one party or another. this is a chilling effect on free speech. it's a direct attack on this president and kellyanne conway and we're better than this, mr. chairman. we're better than this. if you want to subpoena her, let's go ahead and add samantha powers to it. she did a peter strzok kind of back and forth, trashing this president, at the same time she was unmasking those individuals so that they could be surveiled. that is not protected. that should be addressed as well. with that, i'll yield back. mr. cummings: i yield to mr. throons strike the last word. mr. lance: thank you, mr. chairman. i think it's 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 that we're addressing. i'll start with right after the president was sworn into office in february, on february 13. former director of the office of government ethics, walter should be a, 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. mr. lynch: her product line. then later on, in march of 2018, ms. conway gave a couple of interviews in support of the senate candidate, roy moore, leading right up to the alabama , 2017, special election. that's actively promoting a specifically -- a specific candidate. as a federal employee. then leading up to the 2018
midterm elections, ms. conway tweeted out, request for people to vote for 15 candidates. 15 specific candidates, vote for these people. as an elected official, as part of the president's campaign. o.s.c. declared there were at least 15 violations during this time period. n december of 2018, ms. conway did not take o.s.c.'s advice and posted another series of tweets disparaging democratic presidential candidates in the spring of 2019. so, ms. conway has been continually defiant in face of o.s.c. repeated warnings. and we are trying to treat her the same as everyone else. if you look at what happened with sebelius, you look at what happened with mr. castro. both party of the -- part of the obama administration. you saw that they were -- they had a cease and desist from that activity and they had to
reimburse the government. we just pulled in two postal workers during the last election. one of them was supporting trump, one was supporting clinton. but you can't do that. you can't do that actively in the workplace. while you're on the payroll. so we penalized both of them. from different sides of the political spectrum. but this is about the rule of law. this is about the rule of law. does the hatch act mean anything? are we going to follow the rule of law? are we going to just discard it? that's it the core question here. -- that's the core question here. these are blatant and repeated examples. this is not a closed case. i know there is a prevailing attitude, and i can suggest where it comes from, where some people in the administration don't believe that the law applies to them. and we see that repeatedly. and so congress has a responsibility to conduct oversight.
we have a request outstanding. ms. conway knew very well about it. she decided not to come. it's another slap in the face to the rule of law and to this body. of which you are part. now, you can make excuses while you're not doing your job. but they're not good -- 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 say it's not a valid subpoena or it's not necessary. well, we asked her to come and she didn't come. we've had repeated attempts by various particulates of our government to get her -- parts of our government to get her to cease and desist from this activity which is a violation of the law. mr. meadows: we keep saying it's a violation of the law. let me just tell you, we're if
we're talking about tweets, i can -- if we're talking about tweets, i can promise you -- mr. lynch: this is just a partial list. i don't have enough time to read it all. mr. meadows: if we're talking about -- mr. lynch: i reclaim my time. this is not a closed came -- case. this is not a closed case at all. mr. meadows: it should be. mr. lynch: if we bring in and suspend, we spended two postal workers, postal workers in the workplace talking to their 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. -- come on. this is not close. either we change the law or abide by it and force people to comply with it. those are our choices. i yield back.
ms. pressley: i want to thank our chairman for his leadership and his consistently demonstrated professionalism and decorum in the face of what i consider to be unfounded and completely unfair accusations, questioning the character and the integrity and the intention of this committee. ms. plaskett: patience is a virtue and i guess i don't have it. but i'm grateful that you do. i thank you, mr. chair, for your leadership. i support this resolution. which will show the committee's support for a subpoena that will require kellyanne conway to testify before us. as to our colleagues across the aisle who feel that this is a violation of freedom of speech, instead of appearing before this committee, ms. conway appeared on quksfogs -- appeared on "fox and friends." so she is consistent with a contempt, a disdain, evading
and obstructing, stonewalling over and over again by this administration. ms. pressley: 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 mouth, but we sure as hell heard her loud and clear on "fox and friends." so this committee is not trying to silence ms. conway. we believe the american people should hear from her. we have offered her a platform to explain herself. and she did not show up. back in march, 2018, o.s.c. issued its first report detailing ms. conway's hatch act violations and during that investigation o.s.c. tried to engage ms. conway several times. and despite repeated attempts, ms. conway never responded to o.s.c. after concluding that investigation, but before issuing the report to the president, o.s.c. provided conway yet another opportunity to respond to the report, again she never engaged with o.s.c. and never provided a response to o.s.c.'s report. ms. conway ignores o.s.c.,
ignores the hatch act, and now is ignoring the committee. this is completely disrespectful to us as a co-equal branch of government, that she's not shown up here. the committee has no choice but to issue a subpoena. i support the leadership of this chair and this resolution. >> would my friend yield? over here. ms. pressley: i yield. >> thank you. [laughter] a me just say, this is not matter of quibbling. and unlike the 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 was a former staff member of this committee on the republican side. he's not a partisan, he's not some wild-eyed liberal. mr. connolly: he's doing thinks job.
and repeatedly, after being cited for willful violations of the law, a law that's not trivial, a law that's not upheld by numerous supreme court rulings, as a fair balance between the need to restrict overt political activity in the workplace and the 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 -- meadows, want us to do, every federal employee, two million, are going to say, you've just embraced a double standard. i can 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 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 o.s.c., and at the law itself, and now, as ms. pressley points out, the committee of jurisdiction. we cannot allow that to stand. failure to endorse this subpoena and to subsequently enforce it is enabling violations of the law on a selective basis and i took an oath, and i will not violate
that oath, i will support this subpoena. and i thank my friend for yielding. mr. cummings: there being no further debate, the question now occurs on the amendment in the nature of a substitute. those in favor say aye. those opposed, no. the ayes have it. the amendment in the nature of a substitute is agreed to. the question now occurs on agreeing to the resolution. those in favor say aye. those opposed, no. the ayes have it. the resolution is agreed. to mr. jordan: we'd ask for a record vote on that, mr. chairman. mr. cummings: roll call is ordered, for approving the resolution to subpoena ms. conway. the clerk will recall the -- ill call the roll. clerk [roll call] -- the clerk: [roll call]
the clerk: on this vote we have 25 yeses and 16 noes. mr. cummings: the resolution is approved. the motion to reconsider is laid upon the table. staff is authorized to make any technical and conforming changes. there being no further business o mark up, stands adjourned. . e hearing will now reconvene mr. kerner, where is he?
mr. cummings: this meeting will come to order. mr. kerner i want to thank you and the hardworking professionals who spent months doing an investigation. i understand your suggestion 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 id last friday on "fox and friends" responding to o.s.c.'s report. play the clip, please. >> you're not going to fire her? president trump: i'm not going to fire her. she's a terrific person. she's a tremendous spokesperson. she's been loyal. she's just a great person. i would certainly 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 unt canry. >> they say if you're working for the white house you shouldn't be involved in criticizing other candidates or other politicians and she has. will owe uncourage her not to do that going forward? >> it doesn't work that way. president trump: i think biden is one of the people she was accused of criticizing 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. 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 briefing on it, but it seems to me to be very unfair. it's called freedom of speech. mr. cummings: what message does the president's refusal to fire ms. conway send to the over two million people in our federal
work force? >> thank you, mr. chairman. from our perspective, we follow the statute. we try to apply the law -- the facts to the law. under the law we issued a report with a recommendation to the president. this is the prerogative 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 what he does. and that's consistent with the statute. mr. cummings: 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? mr. kerner: yes. mr. cummings: if a career civil servant violates the hatch act, he office of counsel can bring
n action to discipline the employee, but o.s.c. doesn't have authority to discipline political appointee is that correct in mr. kerner: yes. mr. cummings: o.s.c. can make a recommendation of discipline but it's ultimately up to the president. send the 2016, you president a report that ms. conway violated the hatch act on two occasions and she knew she was breaking the law. did he president send you a response? mr. kerner: i don't believe so. mr. cummings: are you way air -- aware of the president taking any actions to discipline her? mr. kerner: she mentioned in interview she is may have been counseled but we are not aware
f any actions. mr. cummings: in response to your report he said, and i quote, did not advocate for or against the election of any plar candidate. she simply expressed the president's obvious position that he had 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? mr. kerner: we have had conversations with the white house and we obviously 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 rt -- to agree to comply with the hatch act prohibitions.
mr. cummings: on june 13, 2019, o.s.c. released another report that found that ms. conway broke the law dozens of times. you recommended to the president that he fire her. and i'm sure that was not a decision you took lightly. why did you recommend that the president fire ms. conway? pretty stiff penalty. mr. kerner: that is the harshest penalty. we did not take that lightly. it's based on the folks who prepared the report, it's based on the fact that we have never had a repeat offender. we have never had anyone we had to write two reports to the president to. we never had a situation where there were so many violations and ultimately she made a comment that seemed to suggest she didn't feel she was bound by
the after act. so there's no way to stay in federal employment while she doesn't feel she's obligated to abide by this law. mr. cummings: i wonder if you've got again these two million federal employees and i'm sure these cases do come up, and where they may have one violation, you know, we talk about fairness, if a person has one or two violations, here we have somebody with 25. alleged violations. and basically nothing happens. what does that say to them? i mean is that fair? mr. kerner: i think from o.s.c.'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 the little guy. we're going to have one standard. we're not going to have a two-tyre hatch act enforcement -- a two-tier hatch act enforcement standard.
recommendations go to the board, the board sometimes imposes punishment other than what we recommend. punishment is not something o.s.c. does. we just bring the cases. mr. cummings: if she was a regular civil servant would she have been disciplined? mr. kerner: the professionals working for me who have worked here for 40 years, have said if there were a normal case removal outcome. he >> i yield to the gentleman. >> the hatch act doesn't apply to members of congress. it's interesting to hear about the blending of political and official when every day we see examples of elected officials using their current positions to
propel their campaign messages. i can't help but feel the office of special counsel's interpretation of the hatch act means president trump's top advisors must subscribe to the legal and political fiction that you can decouple an opponent's presidential campaign from their current elected position my concern with the o.s.c.'s interpretation of the hatch act at least appears to be bipartisan. chairman cummings sent a letter on december 7 of last year, here's a direct statement. o.s.c.'s guidance is wrong. there's no limit that criticizing a policy of the sitting president or any other politician is a vellings of the hatch act. apparently that applies unless you're an advisor to this president. all that aside, president trump's advisors will can't to 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 o.s.c.'s office.
so if we're talking about sitting senator and we're talking about medicare for all is it ok 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 would be on the hook for trillions of dollars. is that an ok statement? mr. kerner: i'm not in a position to judge a statement like that. the way our o.s.c. works is we get complaints about statements, there's an investigation opened and started and we don't just -- ,> what if senator warner wrote plans to cancel student len debt for 95% of were roers. driving people to vote for you to president is a bad way to legislate as a senator. what if an advisor was to ask about the status of the ndaa with several senate democrats campaigning for president instead of being president to
support our military. could they say, senators jill brant, klobuchar should get off the presidential campaign bill and back to the senate to complete the ndaa? instead the senate minority leader is asking for a full stop in the senate until the democratic primary is complete. what if an adviseor makeance obviously connection between a policy proposal and possible political motivation? is the advisor allowed to highlight the intention othey have lawmaker? i'm sure introducing legislation that gives more free stuff to more people has nothing to do with her presidential campaign. what about if an advisor ways in -- weighs in on current u.s. senator's campaign against bortion? what if a senator claims to support something while running for office but refuses to
introduce a bill. can the president's advisor comment on how the sitting senator is acting in a political not governmental capacity? what about this? senator jill brand in her role as senator, not as a candidate for president, introduced legislation to eliminate pesticides from school lunch programs. demonstrating a misunderstanding of science and production agriculture. i'm sure just a coincidence that it happened right around the same time it was mentioned in campaign speech. if she wants to check with the former first lady she'll find out that rural america doesn't like the senate or white house interfering with school lunch programs. can the president's advisors ask if elizabeth warren introduced a bill to make same-sex couples retroactive tax refound however she hasn't supported a retroactive filing for others? this nonstraits she's acting in the best interest of her political base not in the -- not in the best interest of the average citizen.
in close, i request unanimous consent to enter into the record the front page of the o.s.c. website which as of this morning features a prominent link stating o.s.c. finds lell -- kellyanne conway repeatedly violates the hatch act, recommends removal from office. the argument that o.s.c. is apolitical holds no water. they have repeatedly targeted this administration. mr. cummings: without objection, so order. > with that, i yield back. mr. cummings: mr. conaway. mr. mr. conaway: i field a lil -- a little bit like the image of die odge niece with his lantern trying to find one honest man in town when it comes to my republican friends and holding the trump administration accountable. i mean, my lord what happened to he passion of the obama years? t's actually a marvel to
behold. mr. connolly: maybe die odge niece found an honest man in you, mr. kerner remind me of your political affinity? are you a liberal democrat from, i don't know, new york? mr. kern: no, sir. mr. connolly: what are you? d you mind my asking? mr. kerner: i consider myself a conservative republican, i voted for ronald reagan, my first vote as president. when it was cool to vote for ronald reaganful i came to d.c. in 2011 when chairman is a took over. mr. connolly: you worked for daryl isasm do the horrors ever stop here. so you're not bringing to your job some kind of political bias against this president, is that correct? mr. kerner: none whatsoever. r. connolly: you're an obama appointee?
mr. kerner: no i'm a trump appointee. mr. connolly: gosh. so. presumably being who you are, you would be inclined not to violate the law, not to ignore your duties, but you would probably, if you could, yud bend over backwards to counsel someone who was in trouble with the law that you're charged with enforcing to kind of write himself, herself, give them a little bit of a warn, a chance so it doesn't have to get to a level that it now is. would that be a fair statement? mr. kerner: i wouldn't say bend over backwards. i believe it's anymy job in a nonpartisan way, to assist the dministration with all laws. o.s.c. generally works with whistleblower law, i want to protect whistleblowers. we have a robust effort to train
people on hatch act. we have career professionals to do this. we're not partisan whatsoever. mr. cloinl: did you verbally counsel ms. conway, you're crossing a line? mr. kerner: i have never spoken to ms. conway. the white house counsel's office, the white house counsel's office gave her training, we sent over power points and training materials. mr. connolly: your office issued a report on this? mr. kerner: we've issued two reports. mr. connolly: have you done that before with a white house official? . kerner: never issued two reports on an official. mr. connolly: and your office is how old? mr. kerner: since 1989. mr. connolly: so 30 years. have you received a response to
those reports from ms. conway? mr. kerner: ms. conway never responded. mr. connolly: the ranking member compared this to axelrod and others, did those people respond to chastisements by your office, verbal or -- there hasn't been a written report like that. mr. kerner: i don't know if they responded, i wasn't there. i'll leave that to -- mr. connolly: we have your testimony earlier that one of those people not only responded but issued a mea culpa and reimbursed the government for expenses associated with the unfavorable act. mr. kerner: that's correct, secretary sebelius reimbursed the treasury. mr. connolly: contrary to the case in point. could this be solved if ms. conway moved to the campaign? mr. concerner: absolutely.
have you ly: we suggested that? mr. kerner: yes. mr. connolly: she's in violation of the law and you definitively determined that. mr. kerner: yes. mr. connellry: and has white house counsel been so informed? mr. kerner: yes. mr. connolly: what was their response? mr. kerner: they sent us an 11-page letter disputing our findings. mr. connolly: one more, are you concerned about the impact of this law on the two-plus million federal employees who fall around the hatch act. mr. kerner: i think it's important to let workers know we're going to treat everybody equally, we're not going to have a two-tier hatch act system, and
e're going to do our best to treat everybody equally. mr. cummings: mr. roy. mr. roy: i thank the chairman, thank the witness for being here today and appearing before the committee. i suggest my colleague on the other side of the aisle he must not be say, when he said he's 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 and asking for a subpoena with respect to child separation policies. but to suggest that we're somehow dishonest by saying you're seeking to find one honest man because we believe that this is a charade and a 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 raise it would be awfully nice if my colleagues on the other side would recognize the president sent up a request enwe . million for i.c.
the problem at our border was nothing like what it is today yet my colleagues on the other side of the aisle refuse to recognize that. mr. kerner, on your office's website, it says congress authored the hatch act to ensure that federal employees are advanced based not on merit, based on merit, not based on political affiliation. is that right? mr. kerner: that's correct. mr. roy: would you say arguably president trump chose ms. conway because of partisan affiliation? because she's partisan. mr. kerner: he chose her that her an adva cat for policies. mr. roy: so it's not a surprise she advocating for his policies, not those of democrats. mr. kerner: yes. exempt --o it doesn't
mr. kerner: ms. conway is bound by it. mr. roy: you can't advocate on behalf of his policies. mr. kerner: she's allowed to advocate for his policies, she's not allowed to inject herself in campaign activities. mr. roy: can she defend the president's positions? mr. kerner: yes. mr. roy: is it not true that there are two categories of employees, restrict and less restricted. so we do treat people differently depending on what their job is and what they're doing? mr. kerner: but the enforcement is not different. mr. roy: but we recognize there are differences, true or false? law does the recognize that. mr. roy: if o.s.c. claims that
certain forms of political speech are her missable under the hatch act where to we draw the line. can ms. conway explain why open borders policy is a bad policy? mr. kerner: i can't get into a specific. mr.ry: you can't say whether she can advocate that a specific policy choice is a baddle to policy. 34 kerner: she can advocate policy choices. notroy: can you explain why allowing people -- mr. kerner: she can talk about polls is. mr. roy: can she say why emocrat legislation, ploitigging the tragedy of migrants dying, while the same democrats who keny the crisis refuse to address it and act like they're heroes for throwing money at it with no plan to deal with it, can she explain whether that's flawed. mr. kerner: i can't say.
to the can she speak policy? can she call for the legislation's defeat? can she criticize the democrats as a group who failed to take the crisis seriously and athroid crisis to get so bad people are now diing? mr. kerner: i think that's getting close to who the democrats are. mr.ry: she can't criticize democrats as a class. mr. kerner: when she starts to criticize people including those running if office. mr. roy: a member of 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 that should not be followed and it'sed bad policy. mr. kerner: there's a couple of other rules, even though you run every two years the president declares the day he got elected, we did not deem him a candidate until later.
even though you're running every two years, if you choose, there's a date we take for when quour actually a declared candidate. that's number one. number two, as i indicated, absolutely she can comment on policies. however when you ask about talking about democrats and people running potentially for office it gets closer which is why we have a very robust advisory function. the folks sitting behind me who are in the hatch act unit's permanent nonpartisan officers, they advoice and get questions like you said. mr. roy: point me@statute where it says political advisors to the .can't comment on bad policies. mr. cummings: the gentleman's time has expired. you may answer the question. mr. kerner: thank you, congressman. the statute specifically says she's not allowed to use furble short speaking for the president in her official capacity 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 are bust advisory opinion that allows people to know exactly what is ok. mr. roy: when all of congress is running. mr. cummings: mr. raskin. mr. raskin: president trump appointed you to this position but that's irrelevant of course because you're a professional, committed to rules of law an 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're there to work, not there to campaign for or against anybody. is that a basic intuitive understanding of the statute?
mr. kerner: yes. mr. raskin: what you found with kellyanne conway is she was actually intervening in the election by making comments about specific candidates, is that right? mr. kerner: in her official capacity. mr. raskin: she's allowed to say whatever she wants on the weekend and evening but as long as the american taxpayers pay her sally congress said and the supreme court affirmed that she can't go and inject herself into political campaigns is that right? mr. kerner: that's correct. mr. raskin: in january of 2018 you started an investigation of ms. conway for making partisan statements strongly supporting republican u.s. senator 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. what did she say in response. mr. kerner: we receive nod response.
mr. raskin: you sent president trump a report that ms. conway's intervening for roy moore violated the hatch act. and gave her a chance to act. did she? mr. kerner k no. mr. raskin: they didn't respond when when thousands of employees can't wear a button with the word resist. did president trump respond to you in mr. kerner: no. mr. rasskib: you sent ms. conway a letter saying she couldn't use the same twitter account for official government business and use to it disparage democrats and support republican candidates like her beloved roy moore. it gave her simple recommendations to come into compliance with the law and say here's how you separate the official business paid for by the american people and your partisan activity. how did she respond to that let her mr. kerner: we receive nod response. mr. raskin: for 18 months yu
engage had had in attempts to get a response. did she ever respond to you? mr. kerner: she did not. we did have conversations with the white house counsel's office on her behalf if you will. there was some back and forth in that regard but we never heard from her directly. mr. raskin: ms. conway seemed to ridicule the enforce ofment 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 who are governed by the hatch act and what message does it send to postal workers who was been disciplined for violating the hatch act. mr. kerner: i thought the comments were unfortunate. mr. raskin: does it send the message that there's one standard to people in president's trump's favor and a different standard for millions of federal employees. mr. kerner: i think it sends the wrong message. it sends the message that the
hatch act won't be equally apply. mr. raskin: we have heard murmurings about frespetch from the other side of the aisle, which is unusual, so to pounce on the moment to say that's greet, freedom of speech. the hatch act has been challenged in the supreme court by unions who say we should be able to express ourselves politically at work. generally our cloges say no, that's not the case. we want a straitjacket on your political speech. but the supreme court upheld the hatch act. when you discipline employee, do you allow constitutional arguments to take place? can people make a free throw speech argument before? mr. kerner: sure, if we take the case to the board they can make whatever argument they would like. mr. raskin: we haven't heard anything from ms. conway about why the line should be drawn differently for her than anyone el. her compts you defiance of your
brd and you as the director of it is unacceptable and intolerable. her contempts you defiance of the committee is unacceptable and i hope we'll rend they are subpoena quickly and i just want to say, the message should go out to all employees of the white house if you act in contempt of the american people and congress we'll find you in contempt of the american people and of congress. i yield back, mr. chairman. r. cummings: mr. miller. mr. massie. mr. massie: you're not saying that kellyanne conway couldn't say any of the thing she is said, right? she stale has the first amendment. she can say whatever she wants. mr. kerner: correct. mr. massie: there's a legal way she could say all those things. what you've taken obvious 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 used in deciding whether
somebody's speech is their first exercise of a first amendment right or violation of the hatch act. what are some of the factors that go into that? mr. kerner: the way i understand it, obviously i don't conduct the investigations, it's done by the professional staff but from what i understand they look at is the person speaking in their official authority, their official capacity. >> what factors into that? mr. kerner: is she introduced as the counselor to the president, is she on the white house lawn, anything other than, i'm kellyanne i just want to say what i think. she's speaking for the president, it's in her official capacity. mr. massey: she can say whatever she wants on the weekend and in the evening and you said correct. mr. kerner: i thought there was more to the question. i thought the implication was in her own. >> d uh ever take into the account the time at which
something is said. mr. kerner: i'm sure our hatch act union does. mr. massie: what time does the after act unit show up to work? r. kerner: regular work hours. >> many d.c. i understand that to be about 9:00 to 5:00. mr. kerner: say from 7:00 to 6:00 or 7:00. >> when you worked in congress what were the hours? >> 9:00 to 6:00 during session, 9:00 to 5:00 in recess. mr. massie: i went and looked at the first three videos. i watched the first three videos of kellyanne conway talking in interviews on tv and one thing i noticed, i didn't get a chance to go through all of your example bus in the first three you gave, two of them were not on government property and in fact, all three of them were out outside of the window of 9:00 to 5:00. there was one interview at 8:03
a.m. one at :44 a.m. and one at 10:17 p.m. i would hope mr. raskin might agree that somebody acting at 10:17 p.m. >> will the gentleman yield. the question is whether she's acting in an official capacity. mr. massie: so mr. kerner what would you use to determine if at 10:17 p.m. somebody is on their own time or they still belong to the taxpayer? mr. kerner: as the congressman just said and also as my staff informs me, i should be clearer, the issue isn't time. because kellyanne -- mr. massie: she's on the cloak all the tile. what co-you to determine if it's her time and her first amendment. mr. kerner: if she's speaking on her own behalf or in an official capacity. mr. massie: how do you know that. mr. kerner: i'm speeging for the
president. mr. massie: she didn't introduce herself that way. who gets to pick what is shown on the screen? mr. kerner: i think it's the producer. mr. massie: can she see what's on the screen? mr. kerner: i think she knows when she's representing -- mr. massie: with all due respect to my friends mark meadows and jim jordan, i've been introduced as a member of the freedom caucus, i'm not in the freedom caucus. it shows up on the chyron, i don't get to pick that. it's not her choice to pick that. i would men tain the first three examples you gave us are extremely poor examples. they were outside of the work window. she didn't get the chance to put what was on the chyron or make it her opinion. 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 her any place to express her personal opinion and i think it's wrong. 's what makes it a sad sur pute -- pursuit because of the choices, the examples you have chosen and with that, i yield back, mr. chairman. mr. kerner: can i respond to one thing. i understand the argument, i'm just looking at the first example, she is standing at the white house. she's -- mr. massie: what about the second and third? you're telling me when she's at fox studios at 10:17 p.m. you own her time? i disagree. mr. kerner: the issue is not about time. it's not even about who orpes the chyrons. is she talking about official administration matters. if she's representing what the president thinking, what the president says what the official position is, then she's bound by not involving.
mr. massie: could he explain a way she could do it legally. looking for a legal way. mr. cummings: right now it's mr. rouda's turn. mr. rouda: mr. kerner, thank you for being here today. i want to reiterate again, my understanding is you are a conservative republican. you vote for ronald reagan. is that a political statement? mr. rouda: reclipping my time. i vote for ronald reagan. while i disagreed with his policies i missed his integrity and character especially in these days. as -- in your position, you were appointed by president trump as we heard earlier, is that correct? mr. kerner: right, yes. mr. rouda: we have a conservative republican, appointed by a republican president who delivered this report with how many violations?
mr. kern inter-- mr. kerner: 10 media violations that were violations and the twitter account. 11. mr. rouda: how many violations did you have under the obama administration? mr. kerner: you mean for the entire administration? r. rouda: yes. senior aides. mr. kerner: two letters to secretary sebelius and secretary castro. there were other allegations. mr. rouda: for those two, just 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? mr. kerner: 11 on this report and two more on the first report. mr. rouda: and in an effort to get her to take action, rectify
these misstakes, 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? mr. kerner: i think that's fair. mr. rouda: we talk about double standards and hypocrisy, i believe that's what the ranking member said earlier. 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 passed chairman issa -- what past champlee issa said that demanding that these hatch violations of obama individuals that they be held accountable, some often demanding for their resignation or firing. yet we see a completely
different voice here today. i applaud you for bringing to the office the integrity it the serve the nonpartisanship it deserves, i know it's difficult to do that in these times. i thank you on behalf of the committee and america for doing the right thing. it's clear that this white house is systematically and pervasively interfered with and obstructed investigations undertaken by multiple independent agencies in government and -- including the offices of government ethics, special counsel mueller, inspectors general, the government accountability office, and now the office of special counsel. i think if i recall correctly, -- i think id that quote here that the request from the white house that you withdraw and retract your report was, i quote, wholly inappropriate. these requests represent a significant encroachment on o.s.c.'s independence, is that
crect? mr. kerner: yes. mr. rouda: could you elaborate on what you think it's so egregious that the white house has taken these actions? mr. kerner: o.s.c., while we're anchored in the executive, we're an independent agency. as an independent 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 underminings our ability to be an independent force for the american taxpayer. mr. rouda: usually in these types of situations you would ee the conservative republican apoibed by the republican president being attacked by the democratic side of the aisle. but here we have the opposite, the democratic side thanking you for your iven dependence and the republican side questioning your independent analysis and conclusions you have made. again, i want to thank you for
your time today and i yield back, mr. chairman. mr. cummings: mr. miller. -- mrs. miller. mrs. miller: thank you, chairman cummings and ranking member jordan. can an executive branch state the truth? can someone working for the president in the white house state the truth? mr. kerner: sure, of course they can state the truth, they just can't talk about -- they can't use the standard we talked about, use their official authority to influence an election or talk about partisan politics they can't do that, they have to pivot away from that when they're in their official duties. mrs. miller: is the same staff permitted to offer opinions? would valerie jarrett who was a senior advisor to president obama say something like, george bush enjoys painting and running? was he a candidate at the time?
mrs. miller: how about an opinion on policy. could valerie jarrett say former vice president dick cheney is hawkish and a hardliner on foreign policy? mr. kerner: comments on policy are allowed. when they talk about someone who is running for office, a candidate, and they're in their official duties there are resticks on that. mrs. miller: is joe biden creepy. in your letter to president trump you said ms. conway is not allowed to state that we have all seen pictures where joe biden has acted inappropriately. can you express that opinion about a former elected official. mr. kerner: it's an opinion. i think the argument was made she was stating facts and whether former vice president biden is creepy or not is not a fact. it's an opinion by ms. conway. mrs. miller: in march she sated there's a whole hot mess in the democratic party beginning right
over the bridge here in virginia. mr. kerner i think we can agree this is a statement of opinion. on policy. i've seen this statement backed up with fact and illustrated in policies like the green new keel which would try to enact efforts to stop air travel altogether and inhibit cow emissions as well as instituting a single payer health care system 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 cuts which help boost our economy. i don't know about you, mr. kerner, but this sounds like a hot mess to me. mr. chairman, i am so disappointed that we are 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're killing our citizens. my leagues across the aisle have chosen to focus on the false hatch act allegations. that's pathetic. it's not as though four 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 the great growth that's happening in our country, they have to hold hearings with a singular goal to impeach and impugn our president. it is disappointing that my colleagues across the aisle still have not accepted the results of the 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 everyday americans. yield back my time. mr. cummings: ms. hill. ms. hill: i ask unanimous consent to enter into the record a report from the congressional research service called "hatch
act restrictions on federal employees, political activities, and the digital age." mr. cummings: without objection, so order. ms. hill: i want to point out a couple of issues in that report in response to a few of my colleague's remarks. there's guidance issued by o.s.c. 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 of things stated which is that, let's see, we've got employees 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 political party, comments to a blog or social media site that advocates for or against a political party, candidate for partisan political office or partisan political group. may not use any email account or thatle media to send media
advocates for a partisan political office or group. and within the same report there's clarifications 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 11, 2019, that the o.s.c.'s report finding dozens of hatch act violations was, and i quote, the product of a fatally flawed process and that it, quote, raises serious concerns regarding o.s.c.'s current investigatory practices. can you respond to that? do you believe it was a fatally flawed process? mr. kerner: i do not. i think it went through the exact process we always use which means cases are started via complaint. where mandated by -- we are mandated by statute to investigate . the career nonpartisan civil
servants that d that, they conduct a thorough investigation, including atever information they need and take proach appropriate actions. ms. hill: there was nothing procedure?bout the mr. kerner: no, other than there as already a first report. ms. hill: so it was conducted by career staff in o.s.c.'s hatch act unit. how experienced are the independent professionals who conducted this investigation? mr. kerner: i like to call them the world's greatest experts on hatch. i don't want to age anyone but they have about 40 years of combined experience. and they apply the law to the facts of the law, the law to the facts, dispassion notly in a nonpartisan way. they're the consummate and ultimate professionals, i'm
proud to represent them here today. ms. hill: did any of them raise a concern that they felt the work that went into the report was the product of a fatally flawed process in mr. kerner: no. >> you were a prosecutor, i assume you have a lot of experience in evaluating whether police investigations you relied on were thorough, is that correct? mr. kerner: yes. >> the office of white house counsel accuses you of rushing to justice but you investigated for months. you began investigating her twitter account in 2018 and spent months conducting that review. do you believe you rushed to judgment? mr. kerner: we did not. ms. hill: they contacted the white house many times before completing report. does the o.s.c. give career employees that many chances? mr. kerner: i think this process had probably more back and forth with the white house than a normal case would.
ms. hill: if anything, ms. conway and the white house have been given possibly more deference than most employees would have received. mr. kerner: i think that's right. ms. hill: they were allowed to review the report before it was publicly released. did the white house raise any concern that ms. conway never said or tweeted the things included in the report? mr. kerner: no ms. hill: so the white house doesn't dispute the facts, the president doesn't want to hold kellyanne accountable. as in so many other instances, the administration believes it should not be held to the same laws 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? mr. kerner: that's a good question for the congress, from o.s.c.'s perspective we have to make sure we abide by the
statute and we conduct fair, nonpartisan investigations that apply the facts to the law and that's what we did here. i think other steps are up to the committee and the congress. ms. hill: thank you, mr. kerner, i yield back. mr. cummings: mr. meadow. mr. meadows: mr. kerner she made you mad, didn't she sm kellyanne conway made wru made? mr. kerner: i would not describe that, no. mr. meadows: you mentioned to numerous people she poked you in the eye. so you don't get mad when you get poked in the eye. mr. kerner: i would describe my reaction as being disappointed. mr. meadows: but you talked to multiple people saying you felt mad and felt pressured to put out this report. mr. kerner: that's not true. mr. meadows: you're under oath. i want to caution you. you know the rules you didn't talk to anyone to say you felt heat from the media and from
some on the left, you didn't feel any heat, you didn't mention that to anybody? mr. kerner: what i said was that the report was written prior to her making those statements. mr. meadows: i asked a different question. did you tell anybody you felt pressure from media and others on the left to actually address this problem? mr. kerner: yop what -- i don't know what address this problem means. mr. meadows: write the report. it'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. mr. kerner: i had a conversation in which i expressed that because she had made those statements i felt we ought to have an answer to that statement. mr. moe des: that's not the context in which you said that. i am giving you context. did you tell anyone you felt pressure to do something about
ms. kellyanne conway? have you mentioned that to anyone? yes or no? mr. kerner: i do not recall. mr. meadows: you do not recall. mr. kerner: i do not recall saying, out of context i can't answer that. mr. meadows: 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. mr. kerner: the office of general counsel -- i did tell them that i felt, what she said was inappropriate, it was a poke in the eye but there was no pressure in terms of -- the report was written. mr. meadows: that dog doesn't hunt. you told multiple people. it wasn't just the white house counsel. under what authority do you have to write prohibitions against using twitter? does o.s.c. have the legal authority to write those prohibitions? mr. kerner: i think -- mr. meadows: under what statute?
it is uniquely reserved for o.p.m. we've got office of legal counsel that's given opinion. c.r.s. that's been quoted. it is not your authority, mr. kerner, wouldn't you agree with that? mr. kerner: i disagree with that mr. meadow: quote the statute. mr. kerner sneck hatch act statute and its regulations. mr. meadows: when it was amended, what was the senator's name that did the amendment? mr. kerner: i don't remember. mr. meadows: what was the senator that actually was on the house floor, the senate floor doing the amendment? who was it? you're the expert. it's my time, tlaib. mr. kerner: we don't know, i don't know. mr. meadows: it was senator john glenn. i've done the research. everyone is talking about the rule of law, upholding the rule of law. it's time that you stay
consistent with the law because you do not have the ability to even set the regulations for twitter. mr. kerner: can i answer that now? 5 u.s.c. 1-12-12-f which provides the power for o.s.c. to provide advisory opinions. mr. meadows: advisory opinions are not rules and regulations. they're very different. that's reserved for o.p.m. advisory opinions when it comes to regulation, i promise you i've done the work. i have the homework. mr. kerner: i disabrie with you. i'm telling you what my professional staff who has been doing this for 40 years has told me. we are issuing guidance. mr. meadows: do you have an advise visery opinion for this more twitter use? do you have an advisory opinion out there from your o.s.c.? mr. kerner: i couldn't hear the beginning of that. mr. meadows: do you have an adrisery opinion on twitter use from o.s.c. mr. kerner: we have social media
guidance we've done. on the conway twitter use it's not actually done under that. the conway twitter use was done urn the statute and what the -- mr. meadows: her personal twitter account, kellyannepolls. mr. kerner: it is her personal account. mr. meadows: she can't use her personal twitter account. is realdonnelltrump his personal account. mr. kerner: the president is exempt from the hatch act. mr. meadows: is anybody else exempt? mr. kerner: the vice president. mr. meadows: the guidance in subpart e, i ask unanimous consent it be put in the record it gives other exemptions in the very c.r.s. report that this -- that ms. hill identify. have you read that? mr. kerner: i do not believe it gives exemptions for the use of the official authority section. mr. cummings: the gentleman is' time has expired. exemptions: it gives
for employees and cabinet members b it would apply here. mr. cummings: i do believe as i listen to my colleague, that your integrity is being challenged. and i believe in fairness. and i want you to, if you want to clear up anything i'm going to give you that opportunity. mr. kerner: met me -- let me inish. mr. cummings: in this committee, there are folks anxious to allege that people perjure themselves. in fairness to you, mr. meadows said it at least four or five times, we re-minding that you are under oath. 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. mr. kerner: i'm happy to
respond. diid -- i did not understand the context of the question and mr. meadows didn't provide me the context, i don't know when he says did you tell anyone, i don't know what i told someone in a hypothetical. the issue on the -- mr.ed me meadows -- mr. meadows: i can give context if you want the context. mr. cummings: you're out of time. i'm trying to allow. mr. meadows: he was given 10 minutes for an opening statement. mr. cummings: i am trying to be fair to this distinguished conservative republican -- [laughter] who has simply come to give his opinion. now is -- his integrity has been challenged. and i'm simply if he doesn't want to take advantage of it, i've seen what's happened in this committee over 23 years. all i'm saying if you want to clear up something, clear it up now if not, you don't have to but then i'll move on to the
next questioner. mr. kerner: i'm happy to, if i may just finish my point. i indicated i asked mr. meadows for the context prior to just now, he wouldn't provide it. obviously the report -- just on the release of the report, the report was written prior to statements being done. when the statements by ms. conway on may 29 were made it became clear that she was a, not remorseful, which is one of the criteria that's used by the mspb, and furthermore that she was not interested in complying with the hatch act. i felt as the agency had that she did poke us in the eye. we felt as jonathan truly said that that was a direct attack on o.s.c. and we felt that we had the report and since there was practically no way she was going to come into compliance. >> we break away here briefly for live coverage of the u.s. house.
the clerk: the honorable the speaker, house of representatives, ma'am, pursuant to the permission granted in clause 2-h of rule 2 of the rules of the u.s. house of representatives, the clerk received the following message from the secretary of the senate on june 26, 2019, at 4:54 p.m. that the senate passed with an amendment, h.r. 3401, signed sincerely, cheryl l. johnson. the speaker pro tempore: for what purpose does the gentleman from colorado rise? >> madam speaker, i ask unanimous consent that when the house adjourns today it adjourn to meet at 9:00 a.m. tomorrow. the speaker pro tempore: without objection, so ordered. for what purpose does the gentleman rise? >> madam speaker, i move that the house do now adjourn. the speaker pro tempore: the question is on the motion to adjourn. those in favor say aye. those opposed, no. the ayes have it. the motion is adotchted. >> a brief but significant moment in the u.s. house.
yesterday they passed a $4.5 billion border supplemental. the senate today took up that measure and could not pass it. the vote was 33-57. they needed 60. and the senate passed its own version. there on the house floor they introduced the senate version so the senate -- the house can now consider it in conference with the u.s. senate. on that measure, because both bodies are trying to pass it by the end of the week, erica warder of "the washington post" covering congress tweets that hakeem jeffries says house democrats might reconvene after tonight's congressional baseball game for a caucus meeting on that border bill. the baseball game getting under way at 6:45 over on c-span2. earlier the house passing another fiscal year 2020 spending bill, a $47 billion measure, on financial services and general government. follow live house coverage tomorrow when they take up the election security bill. they gavel in at 9:00 a.m. eastern.
ms. wasserman schultz: it's achievable if you're committed to actually abiding by the law or actually have some ethics. so special counsel kerner, i want to thank you for joining us today. the office of special counsel issued a report in march, 2018, regarding the 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 2018 report. is that correct? mr. kerner: that's correct. ms. wasserman schultz: her violations increased rather than decreased. so let's watch the clips of interviews so that we can see what we're dealing with here. that ms. conway conducted in one week in april, 2019, more than a year after o.s.c.'s report. just today we have the 19th person running for president. i woulmi