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tv   House Oversight Hearing on Office of Special Counsel And The Hatch Act -...  CSPAN  June 30, 2019 10:50am-2:22pm EDT

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house oversight and reform committee held a hearing regarding the office of special counsel's recommendation that president forp buyer kellyanne conway her alleged hatch act violations. the committee issued a subpoena after ms. conway refused to testify. the committee heard from henry kerner, the special office for the special counsel. >> the committee will come to order. the full committee hearing
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regarding violations of the hatch act under the trump administration are now recognized and for five minutes, i will give my opening stamen. today, we are holding a hearing on a troubling report issued by the office of the special year.l on june 13 of this this report finds that kellyanne conway, counselor to president donald trump, violated the hatch act dozens of times and it recommends that the president , for her immediately repeated violations. there are rarely issues that come before our committee that are so clear cut but this is one of them. this is about right and wrong. core principles of
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that nobody, not one person, nobody, in this country is above the law. contrary to claims from ms. conway and president trump, this is not a conspiracy to silence her or restrict her first amendment rights. enforcean effort to federal law. to enforce federal law. -- which very clearly prohibits employees from engaging in political activities on federal property or while using their official positions. this report was issued by special counsel henry kern. leads the office of
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the 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. all of the republicans and democrats in the senate approved his nomination by vote. mr. kerner worked on the republican staff of this very yearstee for several under both chairman darrell and jason. in this report, the special counsel describes, and i quote, persistent, notorious, and .eliberate hatch act violations ". this report explains how miss
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law dozensated the of times by using her official position to criticize democratic candidates and support republican candidates. i should not have to say this but, obviously, that is against the law. it is against federal law. unfortunately, this was not the first time the special counsel informed the president and ms. conway they had violated the law. in 20, the 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 possible support, ms. conway has engaged in an astounding show of
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defiance, by increasing the frequency of her illegal activity and disparaging the law itself. 2019, sheween ninth, answered -- may between night, between 19, she answered a quo e question by saying "blah, blah, "lah ." ms. conway is apparently comfortable escalating her violations and her defiance because she knows president trump will not take any disciplinary actions against her. the president stated during an interview with fox news "no, i'm not going to fire her. i think she's a terrific person.
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she's a tremendous spokeswoman. she has been loyal." end of quote. this is not a question of whether somebody is a terrific person. it is not a question of whether they are a tremendous spokesperson. it is not a question as to whether they are loyal. it is a question of whether they obeyed the law. period. now, things are getting worse. in response to this special counsel report, the white house and ms. conway have gone on the offensive. actrguing that the hatch does not even apply to her. tell that to all of the other federal employees that have to adhere to this law. in a letter to the special counsel, the white house counsel claimed there were no violations "even assuming that the hatch
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act applies to the most senior advisor to the president in the white house." miss conway stated this week "it is not even clear to us, at the white house, according to the white house counsel, that the hatch act applies to assistance of the -- .ssistants of the president let me make this abundantly .lear r the hatch act absolutely applies to ms. conway. period. we are the committee of jurisdiction over this law. we have never suggested the president possible advisers are exempt. i want to address the white house's baseless arguments for
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refusing our request for ms. conway's testimony here today. they sent a letter to the arguinge on monday, that ms. conway is "absolutely e" from testifying. they claim it has been consistently adhered to by administrations of both little parties. this isnd gentlemen, simply not true. congress has never accepted the claims that white house advisors are absolutely immune. in fact, our committee has obtained public testimony from numerous white house officials while they serve in the white house. these include multiple white house councils, the deputy counsel to the president and associate councils to the president. a deputy assistant to the president and the director of
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the white house office of security. ms. conway, the white house's arguments have even less merit. we are not asking about any conversations she had with the president. anyre not asking about 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. we have the white
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this is the opposite of accountability. our system of to laws in this country. above the law. not even ms. conway. for these reasons, we will hear from our ranking member. special counsel kerner's opening statement. we will pause so members can vote on a subpoena to compel her appearance later today. i will yield to the ranking member. >> the report is outrageous. it is outrageous and wrong. we should be honest. the reason we are here is mr. kerner got his feelings hurt, he told that to the white house counsel's office. said he took great offense to miss conway's response.
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that's why he rushed the report and only gave miss conway 16 hours to respond. mr. kerner felt slighted. miss conway didn't pay enough attention to him in his office. you know why she didn't? because the allegation is ridiculous. let's be clear about the hatch act. federal employee can't come to work, hand out partisan literature, come to work, hand out yard signs. federal employee can't come to work, raise funds for a candidate or pressure subordinates to support a particular political party, but a senior adviser to the president of the united states can sure as heck go on cable news shows and answer questions. david plouffe did it, david axelrod did it, john podesta, they all did it for president obama. but now that it is a strong willed republican helping president trump, oh, can't have that. can't have that.
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all of a sudden nope, got to stop that. mr. kerner and office of special counsel felt slighted. they also felt pressured, again, he said it. he told the white house counsel he felt pressured, pressured by the leftwing political organization that filed the complaint, same organization that raises tons of money by attacking president trump and his administration. they felt slighted. they felt pressured. so they were unfair. in the obama administration, hilda sol ease, josh earnest found to violate the hatch act. osc didn't recommend they be fired. some of the people, they didn't even issue a report. americans hate unfairness, know it when they see it. they also hate double standards.
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by the way, you know what else a federal employee can't do? you know what else they can't do? they can't target people for their political beliefs. remember this a few years ago, when the irs systematically targeted people because they had different political persuasion? federal employees can't do what lois learner and the irs did when they targeted tea party groups. they applied one standard to their ideological friends, a different standard if you were conservative. here's the irony. office of special counsel seems to be doing the same thing to miss conway. democrat political group that filed the complaint and the osc, they don't like the fact she's conservative. but it is not even really that. it is not even really that. the irs really didn't target tea party groups because they were conservative, you know why they targeted them?
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because they were effective. and that's the same thing you see in play here. miss conway is being targeted not just because she's a conservative, not just because she's in the trump administration, but she's being targeted because she's good at what she does. that's why this should not stand. the idea that the democrats are going to now subpoena her is just ridiculous. they're going to do it because she does her job so well. that's why we're here. i hope in the next few hours we can get the truth out about the hatch act and really expose the motives that drive the whole darn thing in the first place. with that, i yield back. >> mr. kerner, i would like to welcome henry j. kerner, office of special counsel. if you would rise and raise your right hand. i will begin by swearing you in. oath]g
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show that the witness answered in the affirmative. i want to thank you for being here. mr. kerner, i remind you since you're familiar with the hearing room, being in these settings, the the record. without objection, your written statement will be made part of the record. there has been a lot said of the ranking member. address --e he would you would address some of those issues. with that, you are recognized. five minutes. >> i have a prepared statement but since the iron -- the ranking member mentioned the irs targeting scandal, i thought i would point out when i was working on the senate side, we authored a 37 page report criticizing the irs for
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targeting conservative groups and tea party groups. i was the author of that report. we were very strong in making clear that that was unacceptable and that the irs should not have targeted the conservative groups. >> no kidding. >> do not interfere with the witness. let him testify. no, no, no, no, no. he's talking. >> sorry. i just want to make that clear. otherwise, good morning to chairman cummings and to ranking member jordan, members of the committee. thank you for the opportunity to appear before the committee to discuss the work of the hatch act unit. i am proud to be here representing osc and back where i started my federal career. i came to work at ogr because i wanted to make a difference. i am proud of work we did to hold government officials accountable all the way up to the attorney general. republican staffer here on two separate occasions under chairman issa and chaffetz, i learned two lessons. one, the importance of accountability, especially of
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high government officials. two, treating everybody the same. holding the little guy to the exact same standard as those who are part of the politically well connected class. we cannot have two set of rules. instead we need equal treatment under the law. i have taken those two lessons to my new job at the office of special counsel. speaking of office of special counsel, i'm proud of the long standing work of osc to hold government officials at all levels accountable for violations of the hatch act. when president trump appointed me to the position of special counsel, and i'm honored by that appointment, i accepted this job with the expectation or obligation that i would uphold the constitution, and discharge my duties in a fair, impartial manner. i knew from 18 years as prosecutor in los angeles, doing so would mean hard calls. osc investigation into kellyanne conway's violations of the hatch act.
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i want to make it clear at the outset that with respect to miss conway's first amendment rights, we in no way wish to assist anyone in silencing her speech. the president has stated publicly he considers her an effective propoennent of his policies. we have no intent depriving the president of that assistance. that said, over the past one and a half years, osc has received numerous separate hatch act complaints against miss conway. as with all hatch act complaints that osc receives, career hatch act unit attorneys conduct thorough, i am portion investigations of her alleged political activity. on march 6, 2018, osc issued a report to the president documenting multiple hatch act violations by miss conway. although miss conway had the opportunity to respond to the report, she chose not to do so. the recent report was result of a months long investigation that began with complaints about her twitter activity last year, came
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to include a multitude of violations of media appearances where we also received complaints. statements made that violated the sometimes completely unprompted. those statements are not facts, they're campaign rhetoric, and are forbidden by the hatch act when she says them in her official capacity. touring recent investigation of miss conway, osc had substantial communication with white house counsel office. osc repeatedly offered her the opportunity to come into compliance with the law.
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she refused to do so. the frequency of hatch act violations only increased. it left us with no choice but make the recommendation we made, which is given evidence of her clear, repeated and knowing violations of the hatch act, and her apparent unwillingness to come into compliance with the law, the only appropriate recommendation under these circumstances was removal from office. i want to emphasize one more time, we did not make the recommendation lightly, but as professor jonathan turly, nationally recognized constitutional law scholar wrote on his blog. miss conway's behavior presented a quote direct and existential challenge to the office of special counsel. they had to act in the face of flagrant, repeated violations, end quote. so why do we even have a hatch act? it was passed in 1939 because its central purpose remains unchanged, to separate nonpartisan governance from partisan political campaigning, by maintaining separation, hatch act protects two groups, federal
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workers who are protected from the possibly they could be ordered or pressured into taking part in partisan campaigns, and the american people. they're also protected, they know their tax dollars are spent on government, not on election campaigns they may or may not support. to achieve these worthy goals, hatch act places limitations on the political activity of federal executive branch employees. political activity is defined in hatch act regulations as any activity directed toward successor failure of a political party, partisan political group, or candidate for partisan political office. one of the act's core restrictions prevents government employees using influence to interfere with or effect results of an election. the supreme court twice affirmed it as perfect miscible speech. it struck a balance between fair and effective government and
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first amendment rights of individual employees. as former congressional staffer, i am well aware of restrictions placed on congressional staff and even members in regard to mixing political activity with one's official duties. just like the hatch act, those restrictions play a crucial role, reassuring the american people their government is working on their behalf, regardless how they voted or which party or candidate they support. some have questions, why it should apply to someone like miss conway, former campaign manager for president trump and presently serves as one of his senior counselors. as conduct in past administrations, david axelrod, karl rove, has shown being an adviser doesn't require her to leverage official authority to attack candidates of the opposing party or otherwise engage in political activity defined under the act. another example is the now
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departed press secretary, sarah huckabee sanders who pivoted away from questions that were posed to her by the press corp about election issues. miss conway's comments by contrast were indistinguishable from partisan attacks a campaign official would make. miss conway's repeated attacks of multiple democratic party candidates which mr. conway is permitted to make as a private citizen are wholly unrelated to work of governing on behalf of the american people. some tried to argue that osc holding miss conway to a higher standard, and treating her more harshly than high level officials of the obama administration. the opposite is true. the career supervisor of osc hatch act unit not only are aware of but investigated violations by obama administration officials and their recommendations are carefully calibrated on severity of the violation based on precedent. kath lean sebelius had two hatch act violations at a single
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event. in response, acknowledged error, reimbursed the treasury for expenses associated with that event. interesting at the time they issued the report, some republicans on house side conservative groups called for her removal. in contrast to her, miss conway has ten separate hatch act violations, expressed no remorse, continues to express disdain for the law's restrictions. as stated in the report, miss conway's comment created unprecedented challenge to osc ability to enforce hatch act. her conduct sends a false message to other employees they need not abide by hatch act or senior officials are above the law. i am here to emphatically say that's not the case. in closing just as i did when i worked for this esteemed committee, i will work hard to hold federal employees accountable. under my leadership, osc will continue continue distinguished history of enforcing the hatch
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act. >> thank you very much. we look forward to engaging you in questions when we reconvene after we dispose of some committee business. the hearing will stand in recess. the committee will come to order. without objection, the chair is authorized to declare recess of the committee at any time, pursuant to committee rule five, house rule 11. the chair may postpone further proceedings today on the question of approving any measure or manner or adopting an amendment for which a recorded vote for the yay and nay are
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ordered. now pursuant to notice, i call up a subpoena resolution to compel the appearance of kellyanne conway to testify before this committee. the clerk will report the resolution which was distributed in advance. >> a resolution offered by chairman elijah cummings, thordsing issuance of subpoena related to hatch act. 00:25:51 it is read and open anytime. the chair recognizes himself to offer amendment in the nature of substitute. copies of the amendment have already been distributed and are on the desk. the clerk will report. >> amendment in the nature of substitute to resolution offered by mr. elijah cummings, authorizing issuance of subpoena related to the hatch act. >> without objection, the amendment considered read, will serve as base for the amendment. i recognize myself for a brief opening statement. i've already addressed these issues by my opening statement so i will be extremely brief.
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our committee has jurisdiction over the hatch act. i personally worked across the aisle to amend this very important law several times over the past decade. the office of special counsel has found that miss conway violated the hatch act dozens of times. let me repeat that. dozens of times. and has recommended that the president fire her. but he refuses to do so. in fact, he refuses to take any disciplinary action against her. keep in mind, we have over 2 million federal employees who adhere to the hatch act every day. nobody is above the law. the committee sought her voluntary testimony today, we wanted to hear from her directly. she's a public official who we
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pay, by the way, who has been accused of wrongdoing. and she refused to explain herself to the office of special counsel. regrettably, miss conway did not appear here today. the white house sent a letter monday, claiming she's, and i quote, absolutely immune. congressional testimony, even if she's violating the law. there's a long-standing precedent for white house aides to testify before this very committee. we have heard from multiple white house counsels, deputy counsel to the president, deputy assistant to the president, and director of the white house office of security. the american people demand, they demand that our public officials follow the law and be held accountable for their actions. through the resolution, the committee demands answers, requires miss conway to provide
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the answers under oath. i urge my members of committee to vote for the resolution and now yield to the distinguished ranking member, mr. jordan. i yield to mr. meadow. >> mr. chairman, this subpoena, one, is not necessary. quite frankly it is not following the law. i can tell you that what we have here is a political spectacle. we're talking about keeping politics out of government. this subpoena is nothing more than a political spectacle. we are better than this, mr. chairman. we are better than this. i can tell you as we look at this particular hatch act violation, so-called hatch act violation, if you look at what the hatch act is about, it is about protecting federal employees. we're not doing any of that here today.
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we're setting a dangerous course where we're going to bring in every federal employee with a hatch act violation when we are going to go and put a subpoena, put them on trial here before congress. it is wrong, mr. chairman. i can tell you that if you look at what the hatch act is all about, it is not about kellyanne conway and her speech. if we're going to have the same standard, let me just tell you, there's ethical complaint about every single member of congress that does some kind of tv hit here in the capital where they start to talk about it. mr. swalwell, mr. schiff, if we're going to use the same standard, they're violating the very rules of the house. if we start to look at this -- >> will you yield? >> i will not. you have time and opposition,
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here's what is troubling. as we look at the subpoena, we have one standard for kellyanne conway and another standard for everybody else. so if you're going to subpoena people, let's subpoena samantha powers, let's make sure she comes in. you know what i have? i've got emails on her official account where she was going after donald trump while she was working for our government, and indeed at the same time was unmasking individuals. if we want to hold people accountable, let's do it with the same standard because i don't think it is right to hold her to a different standard. >> gentleman yield? >> i will to my friend. not to suggest the other person was not my friend. >> thanks a whole heck of a lot, mr. meadows. >> let me be clear. i think that we have gotten to a point sadly where disobeying the law is okay.
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>> it is my time, reclaiming my time. paragraph e gives a waiver, so i want to hear from mr. kerner, who gets a waiver. when you state a fact, that's not political campaigning, she is not asking for contributions. she is not even campaigning. she has a microphone stuck in her face, she's responding. you've done the same thing, mr. chairman, so i would just say let's be careful about the standard we're about to hold. i yield to the gentleman from ohio. >> this is one more example of the democrats' obsession going after this president. you got to go back. remember how this committee started this congress? who was the first announced witness of the entire 116th congress, who was it? michael cohen. >> that is not true. >> michael cohen. the first big hearing.
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who do they bring in front of the committee and congress? who do they bring in front? a guy that's a convicted liar that sits in prison today. first big hearing. no, i'm not, it is my time, you're out of order. >> hold it quick. freeze his time. i don't freeze my time, i have to yield time to you, i am not doing that. are you asking me to yield time? >> i am. i don't want to take anything away from you. the reason you're hearing that, the first hearing was with regard to drugs. >> not the first announced hearing. you have to listen to what i said. >> don't be funny with the words. >> i'm not. i said exactly what i meant. >> don't put out things there that are not accurate. that's not accurate. >> do you wish, it is my time, mr. chairman. you hadn't -- do you wish you
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hadn't announced mr. cohen as the first announced witness? is that what you're saying? i'm saying your first announced witness, first big hearing is a guy sits in prison for lying to congress. when he came here, he lied again. now today, now today the democrats instead of focusing on issues that matter to americans, they want to focus on kellyanne conway's tweets. that's the obsession you have with going after this president. mr. meadows is right. i'll yield back time to mr. meadows. we have two minutes and 20 seconds. >> i think the chairman -- gentlemen. here is my concern. we are going in a downward spiral in something that does not have to happen. ishave mr. kerner who usurping the authority. in a bipartisan way, we have been talking about the importance of opm.
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we are allowing this committee to usurp the authority. i have studied this. you go back to 1939. you go back to the 1990s when they amended this bill the last time. let me just tell you, it has nothing to do with what the hearing is about today. it has everything to do with not coercing federal employees, not giving them special treatment because they're of one party or another. this is a chilling effect on free speech. it is a direct attack on this president. it is a direct attack on kellyanne conway. and quite frankly, we're better than this, mr. chairman. if you want to subpoena her, let's add samantha powers, too. she did a peter struck, at the same time she was unmass king those individuals so they could be surveilled. -- unmasking those individuals
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so they could be surveilled. that is not protecting. that should be addressed as well. and with that, i'll yield back. >> i yield to mr. lens. thank you, mr. chairman. it is a good time for us to get back to the facts. let's get back to the facts of what we're talking about, the behavior we're addressing. all right. i'll start with right after the president was sworn into office in february, february 13. former director of the office of government ethics, walter shob sent a letter to the white house recommending the president take disciplinary action against kellyanne conway. at that time she was violating the federal ethics regulations because she had during interviews started promoting ivanka trump's business line, her product line.
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then later on in march of 2018 miss conway gave a couple of interviews in support of the senate candidate, roy moore, leading up to the alabama 2017 special election. so that's actively promoting a specific candidate as a federal employee. then leading up to the 2018 midterm elections, miss conway tweeted out request for people to vote for 15 candidates, 15 specific candidates, vote for these people, as an elected official, as part of the president's campaign. osc declared there were at least 15 violations during this time period. in december, 2018 miss conway did not take osc's advice, posted another series of tweets, disparaging democratic
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presidential candidates in spring of 2019. so miss conway has been continually defiant in the face of osc repeated warnings. and we are trying to treat her the same as everyone else. if you look at what happened with sebelius, with mr. castro, both part of the obama administration, you saw that they were -- they had to sees and decist and reimburse the government. we pulled in two postal workers in the last election, in ashtabula, ohio, one supporting trump, one clinton. you can't do that actively in the workplace while on the payroll. we penalized both of them from different sides of the political spectrum. but this is about the law, the rule of law. does the hatch act mean
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anything, are we going to follow the rule of law, are we going to discard it. that's the core question here. these are blatant and repeated examples. this is not a close case. so, you know, i know there's a prevailing attitude and i could suggest where it comes from where some people in the administration don't believe the law applies to them. we see that repeatedly. congress has responsibility to conduct oversight. we have a request outstanding. miss conway knew very well about it. she decided not to come. it is another slap in the face to the rule of law and to this body of which you are part. now, you can make excuses why you're not doing your job but they're not valid excuses. i'm talking to the whole committee. i'm talking to the whole committee. we have a responsibility to
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conduct oversight. you can make an excuse and say it is not a valid subpoena, it is not necessary. we asked her to come, she didn't come. we have repeated attempts by various parts of our government to get her to cease and desist from this activity which is a violation of law. >> if the gentleman would yield. we keep saying it is violation of the law. let me tell you, if we're talking tweets, that's not a violation. >> this is just a partial list. i don't have enough time to read it all. i reclaim my time. this is not a close case. this is not a close case at all. >> it should be. >> if we bring in and suspend, suspend two postal workers, postal workers in the workplace, talking to co-workers, pushing a political candidate, within that small work force here we have special counsel to the president on national tv pushing certain candidates or on social media
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giving out a list of candidates that she wants people to vote for in the middle of an election. come on! this is not close. either we change the law or we abide by it and force people to comply with it. those are our choices. i yield back. >> i want to thank the chairman for his leadership and for his consistently demonstrated professionalism and decorum in the face of what i consider to be unfounded and completely unfair accusations, questioning the character and integrity, intention of this committee. patience is a virtue. i guess i don't have it. but i am grateful that you do. i thank you, mr.
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chair, for your leadership. i support this resolution which will show the committee support for a subpoena that will require kellyanne conway to testify before us. as to our colleagues across the aisle who feel this is a violation of freedom of speech, instead of appearing before the committee, miss conway appeared on fox and friends. she appeared on fox and friends. so she is consistent with a contempt, disdain, evading, obstructing, stonewalling, over and over again by this administration. so how is it a violation of freedom of speech when she appeared on fox and friends and said, quote, they want to put a big roll of masking tape over my mouth, but we sure as hell heard her loud and clear on fox and friends. so this committee is not trying to silence miss conway. we believe the american people should hear from her. we offered her a platform to explain herself and she did not show up. back in march, 2018, osc issued the first report detailing miss conway's hatch act violations.
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during that investigation, osc tried to engage miss conway several times. despite repeated attempts, miss conway never responded to osc. after concluding the investigation, before issuing the report to the president, osc provided conway another opportunity to respond to the report. again, she never engaged with osc, never provided response to osc's report. miss conway ignores osc, the hatch act, now is ignoring the committee. this is completely disrespectful to us as a co-equal branch of government that she is not showing up here. the committee has no choice but to issue a subpoena. i support the leadership and the chair with this resolution. >> would my friend yield, over here. >> i yield. >> thank you. let me just say this is not a matter of quibbling, and unlike statement of the ranking member this is not some obsession about the president. this is the rule of law.
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we have in front of us a report from a trump appointed official who is a former staff member of this committee on the republican side. he is not a partisan. he is not some wild eyed liberal. he is doing his job. and repeatedly after being cited for willful violation of the law, a law that's not trivial, a law that's been upheld by numerous supreme court rulings as a fair balance between the need to restrict covert political work in the workplace and first amendment rights of federal employees on the other hand. if we take no action which apparently is what the ranking member and my friend mr. meadows want us to do, every federal employee, 2 million, are going to say you've just embraced a double standard.
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i could be hauled up for political activity but if you're the president's favorite, you can thumb your nose at the law. final point. we're here because of unique circumstances. we have never seen a report like this before. this is not the same. this is actually an extraordinary document calling to account a woman who refuses to be taken to account. she has her own rules. and she is being enabled to pursue those own rules by the president of the united states in violation of the law. let's be very clear about that. this is not the same. and she has willfully thumbed her nose at the process at osc
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and at the law itself, and as miss presley points out, the committee of jurisdiction. we cannot allow that to stand. failure to endorse this subpoena and subsequently enforce it is enabling violations of the law on a selective basis, and i took an oath. i will not violate that oath. i support the subpoena. i thank my friend for yielding. show less text 00:46:00 there being no further debate, question on the amendment and substitute. all those in favor say aye. all those opposed no. >> the ayes have it. the question now occurs on reading to the resolution. all those in favor say aye. those oppose no. >> no. >> ayes have it and resolution is agreed to. >> we want a recorded report on
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that. >> all right. >> roll call is ordered for approving the resolution to subpoena miss conway. the clerk will call the role. [calling role] [calling role]
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[calling role]
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[calling role]
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>> is there any member wishing to vote or wishing to change their vote? the clerk shall report the rote. -- vote. >> we have 25 yeses, and 16 nos. >> the resolution is approved. the motion to reconsider is laid upon the table. staff is authorized to make any technical and conforming changes. there being no further business to mark up, stands adjourned. the hearing will now reconvene. we'll get mr. turner up here. -- kerner. where is he?
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>> i want to thank all the
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members for being here. as soon as mr. kerner gets to table we'll start the questioning.
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>> meeting will come to order. mr. kerner, i want to thank you and the hard-working career experts at the office of special counsel who spent many months doing a thorough and careful investigation. i understand your recommendation to president trump that kellyanne conway be removed from office was not made without careful consideration. i want to play a clip from a phone interview president trump did last friday on "fox & friends" responding to osc's report.
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play the clip, please. >> you're not going to fire her? >> you know, i'm not going the to fire her. i think she's a terrific person. she's a tremendous spokesperson. she's been loyal. she's a great person. i would not think, based on what i saw yesterday, how could you do that. they have tried to take away her speech and i think you're entitled to free speech in this country. >> if you're working for the white house you shouldn't be involved in criticizing other candidates or other politicians, and she has. will you encourage her not to do that going forward? >> but it doesn't work that way because let's say that i think biden was one of the people that she was accused of criticizing, and he criticized me and we then criticized him or she criticized him. it's not -- she's making a point. she's trying to make a point and how could you do this? basically you have to take a person off, they wouldn't be
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pres. trump: a person would not be able to express themselves. just do not see it. i will get a very strong briefing on it. it seems to me to be very unfair. it is called freedom of speech. thehat message has president's refusal to fire miss conway said to the over 2 million -- send to the over 2 million people in our federal workforce? >> thank you, mr. chairman. from our perspective, we follow the statute. the law. follow under the law, we issued a report for the recommendation to the president. it is the prerogative of the president to decide what discipline, if any, to impose. that is his choice. we respect his choice and the president obviously decided to do what he does, and that is consistent with the statute. itthe hatchet ax was in --
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was intended to provide the american people confidence of the government is using tax dollars for the public good and at to influence or fund political campaign. is that a fair statement? >> yes. >> if a career civil servant violates that act, the central council can bring an action to discipline the employee. they do not have the authority to discipline political appointees. is that correct? >> yes. >> for political appointees, they can write a report and make a recommendation of discipline but it is ultimately up to the president. >> correct. >> on march 6, 2018, you sent president trump a report that found that miss conway violated the hatch act and she knew she was breaking the law. did the president ever send you a response to your report? >> i do not believe so.
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>> are you aware of whether president clinton trump took any action to discipline is conway -- miss conway after your first report? >> she mentioned on a couple of appearances she may have been canceled but we are not aware of any particular discipline, no. >> a what has spokesperson released a statement to the press in response to your first report and he said this. quote,ne conway, and i did not advocate for or against the election of any particular 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 the kind of response you would expect to see in the white house if the white house
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was taking a report seriously? -- your report seriously? >> we have had conversations with the white house and we obviously tried to work with the white house in order to make sure the hatch act is complied with so our hope is we will continue to be able to get the white house to agree to comply with the hatch act prohibitions. ofcn june 13, 2019, released another report that found that miss conway broke the law dozens of times. you recommended to the president that he fire her. and i am sure that was not a decision you took lightly. why did you recommend that the president fire miss conway? because that is a pretty steep penalty, would you agree? >> yes, sir. it is the harshest penalty and a civil case like this. we did not take it lightly. it was based on folks who
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prepared the report. it is consistent with precedent and based on the fact that we have never had a repeat offender, never had anyone we have had to write two reports to the president to. we never had a situation where there were so many violations, and that ultimately, she made a comment that seems to suggest she did not go she was bound by the hatch act so there was no in federal employment while she does not feel like she is obligated to abide by this law. >> i wonder if you have got, again, these 2 million federal employees, and i am sure these have do,, where they may one violation. i mean, you know, we talk about fairness. i mean, if a person has one or two violations, and then we have someone who has 25 alleged violations, and they simply nothing happens, what does that say to them? i mean, is that fair? >> mr. chairman, i think from
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ofc's perspective, we try to apply the law as fairly as we can. to emphasize what i said in my opener, we will treat the well-connected the same as the little guy. we will have one standard. we will not have a two-tier hatch act enforcement system. obviously, cases with ordinary federal workers go to the board. the board imposes punishments that may differ from what we recommend so sometimes, that is discipline issing not something osc does. we will bring cases fairly and equally. >> if she was a regular civil servant, do you think she would have been disciplined? >> the professionals who work for me for 40 years have said that if this were an mspb case, removal would be the likely outcome. >> very well. >> thank you, mr. chairman.
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i yield to the gentleman from north dakota, mr. armstrong. >> while the hatch act does not , ity to members of congress is always interesting to hear from my friends on the other side about the blending of political and official, when every day, we see examples of elected officials using their positions to propel presidential campaign messages. having looked through the materials, i cannot help but feel that the interpretation of the hatch act means president trump's top advisers must subscribe to the legal and political fiction that you can decouple an election campaign from the current position. it appears to be bipartisan. chairman cummings even sent a letter last year. here is a direct statement. osc's guidance is long.
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there is no limit that criticizing a policy of a sitting president or any other politician is a violation of the hatch act. unlesstly that applies you are an advisor to this president. president trump advisors will need to act as his surrogates. going forward, maybe this hearing can help us understand what a senior counselor to the president is about to say on tv or social media without personally offending mr. turner 's anybody else in the osc office. if we are talking about a sitting senator, medicare for all, i mean, is it ok to say i hope bernie sanders's medicare fraud scheme's law is purely campaign rhetoric because if he were to introduce a senate bill trillionvided a $32 pay, people would have to give up the coverage they cost and taxpayers would be on the hook for trillions of dollars. is that an ok statement? >> i am not in a position to judge a statement like that. the way we work is that we get complaints about statements, there is an investigation started. >> so what about -- what if
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senator warren -- i am sure her presidential candidacy is purely coincidental, plans to cancel student loan debt for 95% of borrowers. bribing people to vote for you is a bad way to the a senator. what about the status of the ndaa, with senate democrats -- an advisor say senator gillibrand, warren, sanders, booker, enclosure -- and klobuchar should complete the ndaa? the senate minority leader is asking for a. until the primary is complete. what if an advisor makes an obvious statement, obvious connection between a policy proposal and possible political motivation? is the advisor allowed to highlight the intention of the lawmaker? i am sure introducing legislation that gives more free stuff to more people has nothing to do with the presidential
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campaign. what about if an advisor weighs in on a current campaign position on abortion? cannot advisor say -- can an advisor say that? even further, what if a senator claims to support something while running for office but refuses to actually introduce a bill? in the president's advisor comment on how the sitting senator is acting in a political, not governmental, capacity? gillibrand has introduced legislation to eliminate pesticides from school foods, school lunch programs, demonstrating or misunderstanding of science and production agriculture. it is a coincidence it happened around the same time it was mentioned in campsite -- in a campaign speech. i am sure she will find out that rural america does not the
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-- does not like the senate or white house interfering. could they introduce a bill that would make same-sex couples eligible for retroactive tax refunds? she has not supported a retroactive credit for other filers who would have a lower rate due to the recent tax cuts? this demonstrates she is acting in the best interests of her political base and not 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 stating osc finds kellyanne conway repeatedly violated the hatch act, recommends removal. the argument that this osc is a political holds no water. they haven't usually targeted this administration and not given evenhanded consideration. >> so ordered. >> i yelled back. >> thank you, mr. chairman. and welcome, mr. koerner. like thelittle bit image of diameter -- diogenes
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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 the passion of the obama years? marvel toally a behold. diogenes found an honest man in you, mr. garner. political me of your affinity. are you a liberal democrat from, i don't know, new york? >> no, knows her. >> what are -- no, sir. >> what are you? >> a conservative republican. i voted for ronald reagan with my first vote for president. >> my lord. >> i came to d.c. when chairman i slip took over -- chairman darrell issa took over. >> do the horrors ever stop?
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[laughter] >> so you are not bringing to your job some kind of political bias against this president, is that correct? >> none whatsoever. >> and you are an obama appointee? >> no, i am a trump appointee. >> president trump appointed you? my lord. gosh. so presumably, being who you are, you would be inclined not to violate the law, not to ignore your duties, but you probably would if you could. you would bend over backwards to cancel someone who was in trouble with the law you are in charge with enforcing to kind of write himself/herself -- right
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himself/herself, give them a warning come much and, so it does not have to get to the level it now is. would that be a fair statement? >> i would not been over backwards. i do believe it is my job in a nonpartisan way to assist the administration and comply with all the laws. generally enforces whistleblower laws and retaliation. one of the things i am concerned about is to make sure whistleblowers are protected. we have a very robust effort to train people on the hatch act, but it is not for a partisan reason. we have career nationals who do this were not partisans whatsoever. >> so did you verbally councilman conway? hey -- counsel miss conway? >> i have never spoken to miss conway but the white house counsel's office gave her numerous trainings. of our staff sent over power plants other training materials on the hatch act and specifically on using her official authority to influence an election, specifically on this violation. >> your office issued a report on this, is that correct? >> we issued to reports on this. >> have you ever done that
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before? >> no, never on the same person. never. >> how old is your office? >> 1989 is when we became independent. >> since 1989. 30 years. >> ok. and have you received a response to those reports from the subject in question, miss conway? >> miss conway never responded, no. >> never responded. in the past, the ranking member was comparing this case to axelrod and castro. did those people respond to chastisements by your office, verbal or -- there has not been originally poor like that. >> right. -- written report like that. >> right. >> we have your testimony earlier that one of his people not only responded, she issued a and reimbursed the government for expenses associated with the unfavorable
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act. >> that is correct. the secretary reimbursed the treasury. >> in sharp contrast to the case in point. >> correct. >> could this problem be solved if miss conway simply moved the campaign? >> absolutely. >> when she counseled or advised to do that? >> we have definitely suggested a solution, not just removing the campaign, but how to come into compliance with her twitter feed and how to stay within the rules on her media appearances. >> and this is a matter of law? >> correct. >> and she is in violation of the law? >> that is correct. >> and you have definitively determined that. >> that is correct. >> has the white house counsel been informed? >> yes. >> what is the reaction? >> they sent us an 11 page letter that disputed our findings. >> i see. final thing if i may. are you concerned about the
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impact of this defiance of the law on the two plus million federal employees that fall within the penumbra of the hatch act? >> i think it is very important to let the federal workforce know that os the is going to treat every -- osc is going to treat everyone equally. we will do everything in our power to treat everybody the same no matter how well-connected they may or may not be. >> thank you very your honesty, mr. kerner, and i yield back. >> mr. roy. thankahnk the witness -- the witness for appearing before the committee. i would suggest to my calling on the other side of the aisle, he must not be saying that everyone on this side of the aisle is somehow dishonest. i know that cannot be the case, particularly when some of us have broken ranks,
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offering subpoenas for child separation policies, but to suggest we are somehow dishonest by saying yours eking to find one honest man because we believe that this is a charade -- you are seeking one honest man because we believe that this is a charade -- it wouldust raise that be awfully nice if my colleagues on the other side would recognize the president sent up when the for ice problem we had on the border was nothing like it is today. and yet, my colleagues on the other side of the aisle refuse to recognize that. on your office's official website, it said the enacted the hatch act to protect federal employees and insurer federal employees are advanced based not on political associate on -- affiliation. would you agree president trump chose miss conway based on her partisan political affiliation? >> that he chose her because of that? >> because she is a partisan, because she worked for him.
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>> he chose her because he feels she is an effective advocate for his policies. >> against the policies of democrats, whether candidates were in office? >> correct. -- or in office? >> correct. -- >> i would not agree with that. it exams to people. the president, and the vice president, from its reach. miss conway is bound by it. >> it would prevent the advisors from advocating on behalf of their boss's policies? she is not allowed to use her official authority to inject herself in campaign activity. >> in defense of the president's positions, can she defend the president's positions? >> yes. >> is it not true that there are two categories, restricted unless restricted -- and less restricted?
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we treat people differently depending on what their job is and what they are doing? >> the enforcement is not there. >> but we recognize there are differences, true or false? >> the statute does recognize that. >> correct, thank you. there is a significant gap between osc's on directives regarding political activity and how it is handing -- handling the content. if they claim certain forms of political speech are permissible, where do we draw the line? can miss conway explain why open borders policy is a bad policy? >> as i indicated earlier, i cannot get into the specific -- >> you cannot say whether or not she can advocate specific policy choices -- whether it is bad policy? can she explain why a policy not encouraging people to claim asylum when it is overwhelmingly not bound to be a credible claim by 88% is bad policy? >> she can talk about policies, that is correct. >> -- fails to take meaningful
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steps while criticizing the people charged with guarding our border, exploiting the tragedy ef migrants dying while th democrats refused to address it and then act like they are the heroes by throwing money at it? can she explain why that is flawed legislation? >> i cannot really comment on that specific statement. >> but she can speak to the policy. >> absolutely. >> can she explain why that legislation should be defeated? can she call for its defeat? >> i believe she can comment on legislation. criticized the democrats, who failed to take the crisis seriously and people are now dying? >> that gets very close to who the democrats are, and once again -- >> she cannot criticize democrats as a class for failing to do this? >> she can talk about policy proposals. when she starts to criticize people -- >> if you are a member of congress, we cannot criticize a
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member -- cannot 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 that is bad policy? >> no. even though your mon every two theou run every two years, president said he would be running again. we did not deem him a candidate until later. even though you're running every two years if you choose, there is a date we take for when you are a declared candidate. that is number one. number two, absolutely. you can comment on policies. talk aboutk -- democrats and people are running potentially 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 unit's permanent nonpartisan officers, they advise and they get questions just like you said. the statuteme in
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where it would say the political adviser to the president cannot comment about democrats that policies or if the president -- that policies -- bad policies. >> the gentleman's time has expired. you may answer the question. congressman. the statute says she is not allowed to use for official authority in order to influence an election. so she is talking about folks who are running, there are restrictions on what she can say about them and that is why we have this very robust opinion that allows people to know exactly -- >> when all of congress is running? >> thank you. >> thank you very much, mr. chairman. tosident trump appointed you this position, but that is irrelevant of course because you are a professional and you are governed by the hatch act itself. i want to ask you about the hatch act because i have got are00 constituents who
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federal employees. they had 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 work, they areto there to work. they are not there to campaign for or against anybody. is that a basic intuitive understanding of the statute? >> yes. >> ok, so what you found with sheyanne conway was that was actually intervening in the election by making comments about specific candidates. is that right? >> in her official capacity, yes. >> she is allowed to say whatever she wants on the weekend and evening but as long as american taxpayers are paying her salary, congress has said and the supreme court affirmed that she cannot go and inject herself into cap -- into political campaigns. >> correct. >> you started an investigation making. conway for
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partisan statements strongly supporting republican u.s. senate candidates and accused roy moore in the alabama special election. you center interrogatories to get her side of the -- sent her interrogatories to get her side. what did she say in response to that? >> we received no response. >> she never responded? you sent mr. trump a report showing that her media advocacy for roy moore violated the hatch act. did you get her an opportunity to respond before you release the? -- released it? did she respond? >> she did not. >> they cannot even wear a button to work that says "resist ." >> we did not get a response from president trump. >> 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 disparage
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democratic republicans and support republican candidates like her beloved roy moore in alabama. that letter gave ms. conway a simple recommendation to come into compliance with the law. to say here is how you separate what is your official business you are paid for by the american people and your partisan political activity. how did she respond to that level? -- letter? >> we received no response. >> for 18 months, you have engaged in 12 different attempts to get a response. this year once get a response from you? -- did she ever once give a response to you? >> there was some back and forth but we never heard from her directly. >> ms. conway seemed to ridicule the enforcement of the hatch act , as the chairman stated. on one occasion, she had the audacity to mockingly asked "let me know when the jail sentence starts." what message does that send to my constituents, who are act, andby the hatch
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what message does it send to those postal workers who have been disciplined for violating the hatch act? >> i thought those comments were very unfortunate. message thatnd a there is one standard that applies to people who are in president trump's favor and a different standard that applies to millions of federal employees who are subject to the requirements of the hatch act? >> i think it sends the wrong message, that the hatch act was not going to be fairly applied. >> we heard some murmurings about freedom of speech from the other side of the aisle, which is unusual. i want to pounce on the moment to say that it's great that people are talking about freedom of speech. the hatch act has been twice challenged by unions, saying we should be able to express ourselves politically at work. generally, our colleagues say that is not the case. we want a straitjacket on your political speech at work. the supreme court has upheld the hatch act. when you discipline employees, do you allow constitutional articles to take place?
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can people make a free-speech argument? >> when we take a case to them, they can make whatever argument they would like. it is a regular proceeding. >> we have not heard anything from ms. conway about why the line should be drawn differently for her than it has been drawn for everybody else? i have got to say, her contemptuous defiance of your board, and you as the director of it, is unacceptable and intolerable. her contemptuous defiance of this committee is unacceptable, and i hope we will render this subpoena quickly. i just want to say, the message to go out to all the employees in the white house, if you aren't in contempt of the american people in congress, we will find you in contempt of the american people and congress. >> this miller -- miss miller. >> thank you, mr. chairman. , you are not saying kellyanne conway could not say any of the things she
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said? she still has the first amendment to say whatever she wants. you agree she can say all of those things. there is a legal way she can say all of those things. mr. kerner: correct. >> what you have taken offense with is the manner in which she said them. she had violated the hatch act. determinants that you and your staff behind you use in deciding whether somebody's speech is the first exercise of the first amendment right or in violation of the hatch act. what are some of the factors that go into that? mr. kerner: the way i understand it, i obviously do not conduct the investigations. it is done by the professional staff. is the person speaking in their official authority, their official prosody? -- capacity? is she speaking on the white house lawn? is she in any other way speaking on behalf of the president, rather than i am kellyanne and i want to talk to you about what i think? in a lot of these appearances,
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she is introduced as counsel to the president, speaking for the president, in official capacity. >> what about the time she said mr. raskin said to you in a question -- she can say whatever she wants on the weekend, in the evening, and use the correct. >> i thought there was more to that question? i thought the implication was in her own -- >> do you ever take into account the time at which something is >> our unit does. wax? what time does your unit show up? >> in d.c., i understand it to to 5:00.o not -- when you worked in congress, what were the hours? >> 9:00 until 6:00. >> very good. i looked at the first three videos.
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kellyanne conway talking in interviews on tv. i didn't get a chance to go through all of them. in the first 3, 2 of them were not in government property. all three of them were outside of the window of nine to five. .ne was at 8:00 one at 10:17 p.m.. i would hope you might agree somebody acting at that time -- >> the question is whether she is operating in an official capacity representing the government or not. glaxo what would you determine someone is in her own time? >> i should be clearer. the issue is not time.
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>> she is on the clock all the time. what do you use to determine whether it is her time? yours? >> depends whether she is speaking in her own behalf. i'm speaking for the president. those interviews, she did not introduce herself as such. on theerviewer put that screen. who gets to pick? does kellyanne conway get to pick it? >> it is generally the producers. >> can cheat see what is on the screen? >> i think she knows. >> with all due respect to my friend, i have been introduced as a member of the freedom caucus. i am not in the freedom caucus. it is not her choice.
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the first three examples are poor examples. they were outside of the work endo. she didn't get the chance to put what was on or may get her opinion. if you are trying to claim all 24 hours of the day belonged to the taxpayer, that's wrong. you're not affording her any place to express her personal opinion. this is what makes this a sad pursuit. because of the choices, the examples you've chosen wasn't -- and with that i yield back, mr. chairman. >> can i just respond to one thing. i understand the argument. i was looking at the first example. she's standing at the white house. >> what about the second and third example? you said, fox studios. you're telling me when she's at fox studios at 10:17 p.m.
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you own her time? i disagree. >> the issue is not about time. the issue is she talking about official administration matters. and if she's representing what the president thinks, what the president says what the official position is then she's bound by not -- ask -- >> mr. chairman, could he explain a way she could do it legally? >> mr. ruda. >> thank you, mr. chairman. mr kerner, thank you for being here today. i want to reiterate again my understanding is you're a conserve republican. you voted for ronald reagan? >> is that a political statement. reclaim my time. i voted for ronald reagan as well. while i disagreed with some of his policies, i miss his integrity and character
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especially in these days. in your position you were appointed by president trump as we heard earlier, is that clear? quiet -- >> i want to be very clear. we have a conservative republican who was appointed by a republican president, who delivered this report with how many violations? >> there were 10 media appearances that were violations along with the twitter account. >> in total how many? >> 11. >> how many violations did you have under the obama administration? >> so, you mean for the entire administration? >> yes. >> if i may -- >> at least with senior aides. >> on cabinet members there were two letters we sent on secretary sebelius and secretary castro. obviously there were some other allegations. >> within the cabinet. how many in total for those two?
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one each. over eight years two violations, yet we have one person here in the first two years of this administration slightly over two years who has 11 violations. is that correct? >> yeah. well 11 on this report and two more on the first report. >> in an effort to get her to take action to rectify these mistakes, these violations, 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? >> that's fair. >> so we talk about doubling standards and hypocrisy. that's what the ranking member said earlier. i have here multiple quotes from the previous chair of this committee when the current minority was in the majority.
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and it's very clear when you look at what past chairman issa said that demanding that these hatch violations of obama individuals that they be held accountable. some often demanding for their resignation or firing. yet we see a completely different voice here today. i applaud you for bringing to the office the integrity that it deserves, the nonpartisanship that it deserves. i know it's very difficult to do that in these times and i thank you on behalf of the committee and america for doing the right thing. it's clear this white house is systematically and pervasively interfered and obstructed investigations taken by multiple -- undertaken by multiple independent agencies in government including the offices ofof government ethics, special counsel robert mueller, inspectors general, the government accountability office and now the office of special counsel. i think if i recall correctly, you had stated that, i think i
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quote i have here a request from the white house you withdraw and retract the report. your response was holy inappropriate. these request represent a serious encroachment on osc's independence. is that correct? >> that is correct. wax -- >> do you stand by that quote today? can you elaborate why you think it's so egregious the white house has taken these actions? >> osc while we're anchored in the executive we're an independent agency. as an independent prosecutorial investigative agency it's important to preserve our ability to do oversight over the executive branch. if the white house can ask for our files and do oversight over us, while we're doing oversight over them, it really undermines our ability to be an independent force for the american taxpayer.
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>> usually in these type of situations you would see the conservative republican appointed by the republican president being attacked by the democratic side of the aisle but here we have just the opposite. you have the democratic side of the aisle thanking you for your independence while the republican side of the aisle is questioning your independent analysis and conclusions that made. again, i want to thank you for your time today and i yield back, mr. chairman. >.ms. miller >> thank you. can an executive branch employee state the truth when asked on a tv interview? can someone working for the president in the white house state the truth? >> sure. of course they can state the truth. they just can't use the standard we talked about, use their official authority to influence an election or to talk about partisan politics. they just can't do that. they have to pivot away from that when they are employed, when they are in their official
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duties. >> is the same staff permitted to offer opinions, could valerie jarrett who was a senior adviser to president obama similar to ms. conway say something likegeorge bush enjoys painting and running? >> i don't know enough of the facts? is he candidate at that time? >> how about an opinion on policy? for example, could valerie jarrett go on tv and say former vice president dick cheney is hawkish and a hard-liner on show policy? >> i think comments on policy are allowed. when they talk about someone who is running for office, a candidate, and they are in their official duties there are restrictions on that. mr. kerner is mr. biden creepy because in your letter to president trump you stated miss conway is not allowed to state that. however, i think we have all seen pictures where joe biden has acted inappropriately. can she express an opinion about
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a former elected official. it's an opinion. >> it's an opinion. the argument was she was stating facts and whether a information -- whether vice president biden is creepy or not is not a fact it's a an opinion by miss conway. >> in march she stated there's a whole hot mess in the democratic party beginning with right over the bridge here in virginia. mr. kerner i think we can agree that this is also a statement of opinion on policy. i've seen the statement backed up with fact and illustrated in policies like the green new deal which would try to enact efforts to stop air travel all together emissions asow well as enacting a system which would take medicare away from the elderly and make health care costs skyrocket. my colleagues want to get rid of the tax cut which helped boost our economy. i don't know about you but this sounds like a hot mess to me.
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mr. chairman, i am so disappointed we're wasting our time on this hearing today. we have a crisis right now, right here on our southern border. we had 144,000 immigrants cross illegally into our country in may alone. 144,000. we have lethal drugs flowing across a porous border. i know that for a fact in my state. they are killing our citizens. my colleagues across the aisle have chosen to focus on the false hatch act allegations. that's pathetic. it's not as though 4 million jobs created since 2016 record low unemployment for african-americans and hispanic-americans and major tax reform is enough. no. in order to hide and distract from all of the great growth that's happening in our country they have to hold these hearings with a singular goal to impeach and impugn our president. it is disappointing my colleagues across the aisle still have not accepted the results of thee election that occurred nearly three years ago
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and now at every turn they continue to divide our country and waste our time with these hearings instead of focusing on the real issues facing every day americans. i yield back my time. >> thank you, mr. chairman. i ask unanimous consent to entear report called hatch act restrictioions on federal employees political activities in the digital age. i would like to point out a couple of issues within that report that are addressed in response to my colleagues, a few of my colleagues remarks. the first of which is that there is guidance issued by osc that's described in this that was issued in 2015 which is clearly before the trump administration around the use of social media and there are a number things stated which is that -- let's see. we got employees may not use their official authority influence or interfere affect
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the results an election, engaging political activity. the activity directed at the success or failure of a political party. comment to a blog or social media site that advocates for or against a political party or par the at the san political group. may not use any email account or social media to distribute, send or forward contend that advocates for or against a party or candidate. and within the same report there's clarification for the exceptions to whom the hatch act applies and it is around whether somebody is paid for by the treasury or confirmed by the senate, neither of which applies to miss conway. so mr. kerner i want to thank you and your staff for this investigation and report. and the white house counsel wrote in his letter on june 11th, 2019 that the osc's report finding dozens of hatchct violations by kellyanne conway was the product of a fatally flawed process and that it
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raises serious concerns regarding osc' currerent investigatory practices. can you respond? i believe it was a fatally flawed process. it went through the process we always use. cases are started via complaint. we're mandated by statute to investigate. the career nonpartisan civil servants do that. they conducted a thorough investigation including whatever information they need and then take appropriate action or recommend appropriate action. >> there was nothing unique or different about the process you used to investigate allegations against kellyanne conway. >> no. other than the fact we did that once. we already had the factt she was aware of the hatch act. the first report lays out six or seven different times she was informed.
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quicker in terms of that. >> the actual investigaon ever kellyanne conway's compliance with the hatch acwas conducted by career staff and osc's hatch act unit. how experienced are the nt professionals? >> i want to call them the world' greatest experts. i don't want to age anyone but they have about 41 years of combined experience. they apply the law to the facts of the law and the law to facts dispassionately and in nonpartisan way. they are the ultimate professionals and i'm very proud to present them here today. >> did any of them raise a concern to you that they felt the work that went intnto the report released on june 13th was the result of a fatally flawed process. you were prosecutor for 20 years. i assume you have a lot of experience whether investigation were thorough, is that correct ? >> yes. >> the white house accused you of rushing to judgment. but according to the osc's report the agency gathered evidence over many months. your report indicates osc first began reviewing miss conway's twitter account in move to of 2018 and agency spent months conducting that review.
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>> 01:42:36 that's correct. >> do you believe that you rushed to judgment? >> did not. >> osc contacted the white house many time before completing its report. does the osc give career employees that many chances before issuing a finding of violation? >> i think this process had probably more back and forth with the white house than normal case would. >> if anything, miss conway and the white house have been given possiblyy more deference than most employees would receive. >> that's right. >> the white house was provide an opportunity to review the report before it was publicly released. did the white house raise any concern that miss conway said or tweeted the things that osc included in its report? >> no. >> the white house does not dispute the facts. the president does not want to hold kellyanne conway accountable. my observation is the reason for that is that she has been doing exactly what he wants her to do. as in so many other instances this administration believes it should not be held to the same
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laws that every other american should abide by. the executive branch is constitutionally established to carry out and enforce the laws of the land. so my question is, what does it mean for us if they won't enforce the laws of the land on themselves? >> well, that's a good question for the congress. from osc's pspective we have to make sure we abide by the statute and we conduct a fair nonpartisan investigation that apply facts to the law. that's what we did here. and i think other steps are up to this committee and congress. >> thank you. i yield back. mr. meadows. mr. kerner, she made you mad, didn't she? kellyanne conway made you mad? >> i would not describe that, no. >> you mentioned to numerous people that she poked you in the eye. i mean we got -- >> sure. >> so you don't get mad when you
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get poked in the eye? >> i would describe my reaction as b being disappointed. >> i know you're describing it that way. you talked to multiple people how you were mad and felt pressured to put out this report. is that true? >> that's not true. >> you're under oath, mr. kerner. i want to caution you. you know the rules. so you didn't talk to anyone to say that you felt heat from the media and from some on the left, you didn't feel any heat? you didn't mention that to anybody? >> that's not what i said. what i said is that the report was written prior to her making those statemements. >> i asked a different question. did you tell anybody that you felt pressure from media and others on the left to actually address this problem? >> i don't know what address this problem is? >> write the report. it's fairly clear. you didn't feel any pressure? you didt tell anyone that you
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felt pressure? you're under oath. i know you did. just answer it. >> i had a conversation in which i expressed that because she had made statements i felt we ought to have an answer to those statements. >> that's not the context of what you said, mr. kerner. >> i am. did you tell anyone you felt prpressure to do something about miss kellyanne conway? have you mentioned that to anyone? yes or no? >> i do not recall. >> you do not recall. >> i do not recall. in context i can't answer that. >> what about in the response that you actually had to the i ce i felt what she said was a poke in the eye. there was no pressure. the report was written. i did tell them.
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the report was written. >> that dog doesn't hunt. it wasn't just the white house counsel. under what authority to you have to write prohibitions against using twitter. does osc have the legal authorities to write those prohibitions prohibitions? >> i believe we do. >> under what statute. quote it. it's uniquely reserved for opm. we have office of legal counsel that's given an opinion. crs that's been quoted. it is not your authority. >> no, i disagree with that. the hatch act statute and the regulation. >> i know the hatch act. whaten it was amended was the senator's name that did the amendment? >> i don't recall. >> what was senator that was on the house floor or the senate
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noorfloor doing the amendment? who was it? you're the expert. it's my time to lead. -- >> i'm sorry sir, i don't know. quiet -- >> it was senator john glen. i've done the research. everybody the talk about the rule of law and upholding the rule of law. it's time you stay consistent with the law. you do not have the ability to set the regulations for twitter. >> can i answer that? ff whiche usc 112 provides the power for osc to provide advisory opinions. >> advisory opinions are not rules and regulations. that's different. that's reserved for opm. when it comes to regulation -- i promise you i've done the work. >> i disagree with you. i'm telling you what my staff who has been doing this for 40
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years has been telling me. we are issuing guidance. >> do you have an advisory opinion for this twitter use that's out there? >> i'm sorry. >> do you have an advisory opinion on twitter use from osc? >> we have a social media guidance. on the conway use, it's not done under that. it was done under the statute. >> isn't it her personal twitter account? which she had before she was a federal employee. >> congressman, 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 is exempt. >> is anything else exempt? >> the vice president. >> is anybody else exempt. >> not that i know of.
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>> you have to read the guidance. it actually gives other exemptions in the very csr report that miss hill identified. have you read that? >> yes. i do not believe it gives exemptions for use of authority section that we have mentioned here. >> it gives exemptions for presidential appointees and cabinet members and it would apply here according to every outside counsel that we checked with. i do believe, as i've listened to my colleague that your integrity has been challenged. i believe in fairness. if you want to clear up anything, i'm going to give you that opportunity. let me finish. one of the things i noticed is in this committee there is a anxious to define
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people to perjure themselves. he reminded you four or five times 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. >> i'm happy to respond. i did not understand the context of the question and mr. meadows didn't provide me the context so i don't know. i don't know what i told someone in a hypothetical. quiet i can give the context if you want the context. mr. meadows, you're out of time. >> 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
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to give his opinion. his integrity has been challenged. i'm simply -- if he doesn't want to take advantage of. i've seen what's happened in this committee over 23 years. all i'm saying is if you want to clear up something, clear it up now. if not, you don't have to. then i'm going to move onto my next questioner. >> i'm happy to clear if i may finish my point. as i indicated, i asked mr. meadows for the context prior to now. he wouldn't provide me the context. obviously the report, just in the release of the report. the report was written prior to statements being done. when the statements by ms. conway on may 29th were made, it became clear she was not remorseful, which is one of the criteria that's used by the mspb and she was not interested in complying with the hatch act. i felt as an agency that she did
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poke us in eye. we felt that was a direct attack on osc and that we felt that we have the report and since almost practically no way she was going to come into compliance it was , time to release the report. it wasn't done because she hurt my feelings or anything like that. i was disappointed that she said these things because i had hoped we could reach an agreement with her to get her to abide by the hatch act. i know the white house have counselled her numerable times on that. i want to be clear whatever feelings i had were unrelated to the release of the report. they were just recognition that she was just not going to comply. >> when you say poke in the eye, figuratively or literally? it's a figure of speech. >> thank you, mr. chairman.
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unfortunately when some don't have facts on their side, they resortrt to bullying. our history in america is replete with people who have under the color of their authority who have bullied convictions out of folk who is were innocent. who have bullied and berated individuals, accused wrongly of some conduct and that results in admissions of guilt even when they are not guilty. i apologize on behalf of the folks on the other side who clearly don't have facts on their side and 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 that committee, if not the only one that's balanced a partisan role. not a political role but a partisan role at the same time i had an official one. you're right.
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you don't control what you are called. i was usually called both. dnc chair and member of congress. i can assure you that when i was there in my official capacity , even though the hatch act does not apply to members of congress so i can be as political as i be in any of i always , made sure especially if the interviewer asked me a political question, i made sure i clarified verbally i was there in my official capacity and it wasn't appropriate to answer the question. it's achievable if you're committed to actually abiding by the law or have some ethics. i want to thank you for joining us today. the office of special counsel issued a report that recommended he takedent trump that appropriate disciplinary action. president trump failed to discipline miss conway. her behavior did not change following that 2018 report, is that correct? >> that's correct. >> her hatch act violations increased rather than decreased.
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let's watch the clips of interviews so we can see what we're dealing with here that miss conway conducted during one week in april 2019, more than a year after osc's report. >> >> today we have the 19th democrat running for president, who? beth mullen. i would remind everybody, simple math, whether it's one, whether it's 50.whether anything times zero equals zero. multiplication. you want to revisit this the way revisit this.s to he doesn't want to be held accountable. his announcement video missed opportunity but also dark and spooky. theoesn't have a vision for future. you and others are worried this guy can't be beaten fairly and squarely. why did joe biden not say one thing about his senate race.
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>> that comment is beneath you. why would he use charlottesville as someone who was vice president for eight years. he's going to be held to account and i know he said that i asked obama not to endorse me, i'm too busy getting endorsed by the firefighters. but i got one, a popular democrats.mong the do any of you believe that? you let him get away with his first lie. that?d you do mr. kerner, are these the kind statements you would expect from a federal official who has her actions after being in violation of the hatch act? mr. kerner: these were some of the statements that violated the hatch act. rep. wasserman schultz: so she violated the hatch act not one, not two, but four times, is that correct? mr. kerner: there were 10 occurrences.
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rep. wasserman schultz: are you other senior official found to have violated the hatch act four times in one week? of kerner: i'm not aware that. rep. wasserman schultz: how does ms. conway's conduct undermine the executive branch? mr. kerner: i think it's very important to make sure that when have a report like this and there's a hearing like this that people in the federal work force they'll be treated the same, we're not going to have a two-tier hatch act enforcement system. rep. wasserman schultz: when ms. conway was asked about the committee's invitation to said, "it is, she not clear that the hatch act applies to assistants to the president." tos the hatch act apply assistants of the president in the. mr. kerner: yes, it does. rep. wasserman schultz: ms. to say "it isn't clear what the hatch act allows." believe thate to ms. conway does not know what the hatch act allows? mr. kerner: no. rep. wasserman schultz: i call on president trump to hold ms. conway to the same standards as other federal employees. president trump must fight kellyanne conway.
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thank you. i'd like to point out since it was mentioned in previous that 9-04 was on a saturday and the jake tapper on a sunday. rep. wasserman schultz: i work on saturdays. so i'mmentioned the 904 pointing out it was a saturday. i love the fact that the members they wanter side say the rule of law abided by. i'm sure that several murdered killed by previously held illegal immigrants by law sanctuaryt from cities, cities designed by the left for the exact purpose of the law, i think they owe them an apology. i yield my time to the ranking member. >> mr. kerner, who complained? talkinge conway said, about senator biden, senator twoers, saying they were old white career politicians. who filed the complaint? thaterner: i don't have information. >> you don't know who filed the complaint?
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mr. kerner: no, i don't. know if ms. conway was maybe in violation of the hatch act? this stuffyou figure out, you start the investigation, someone complaints. mr. kerner: someone filed the complaint. >> would you ask them who complained? mr. kerner: sure. >> what organization? mr. kerner: apparently there were multiple complaints. also, i think we generally don't who files complaints. we don't give the name. >> they don't get to know who is?r accuser mr. kerner: there is no accuser, they file a complaint. >> isn't it true that an organization crew has done press onesse saying they are the who filed the complaint with the conway'sout ms. alleged violation? mr. kerner: i believe that's true. >> so it was crew who did complain, you knew that. it took me a minute to get you to say that? be kerner: we have to careful -- >> they publicized it.
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mr. kerner: if they publicize, publicize but we have obligations to protect complainants. this in the whistleblower era. >> do you know who the former crew is.of currenter: i know the chairman. >> you know mr. brock. you know the board members on crew? mr. kerner: no, i don't. >> we checked. zephyr, impeach trump now former democrat, pope, former assistant to president obama, all those people on the board. gave $3 million to democrat causes, on the board of crew. the organization that complained you all to start the investigation into supposed violation of the hatch act by conway. sounds like a lot of democrats on this board. there is one republican, found this out, too. one republican, evan mcmullen.
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you know who co-founded this organization? mr. kerner: no, i don't. don't? mr. kerner: no. norm icon. do you know what he's doing now? an ethics guy.s >> working for jerry nadler. the impeachment lawyer hired by mr. nadler on the democratic committee. thats the organization filed the complaint. you know what else is interesting about this sameization, crew, organization -- you brought this up early on after my opening statement, mr. kerner. same organization sent a bunch of letters to the i.r.s. said -- go after those tea party groups. sounds like a little pattern here. know if crew's filed any complaints since you did your the whiteletter to house to ms. conway. do you know of any organizations
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filing any more complaints? mr. kerner: i'm not sure. >> they did, june 20. you know who they filed that complaint against? mr. kerner: no, i don't. you don't? mr. kerner: no, i don't. trump.ka seems like a pattern here. first they go after tea party groups, complaints to the i.r.s. got to go after these folks, they're effective. then complaints to you about kellyanne conway. her, she'sfter effective. after your one week they file a complaint against ivanka trump. is talkingadows about feeling pressure, are you feeling pressure from crew and theseorganizations filing complaints? mr. kerner: no, i don't. >> no pressure from them? mr. kerner: none whatsoever. a pretty goodave track record. i.r.s., two different times with you. to kerner: they're entitled file complaints. they don't do the investigations. complaint is initiated, the investigations -- >> we know who does the
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it's you.ion, we know mr. kerner: i don't do the investigation, sir. >> it's your group. mr. kerner: it's the nonpartisan. >> you're the guy in charge. you may answer the question. >> did they sign the letter or did you? letter.ned the i'm absolutely responsible but i investigation.he rep. cummings: 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 to ms. conway? were there other people? mr. kerner: yes,ibles. rep. cummings: other organizations? come on, man, i'm listening. mr. kerner: ibles. rep. cummings: ok. i don't want it left hanging the only folks that made have issued some type complaint. mr. kerner: there are other organizations, yes. well.ummings: very ms. kelly?
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>> thank you, mr. chair. i've said to you on more than one occasion that you have the of job and you are certainly showing it now. i have been on this committee years andle over six six years of it, i was in the minority. minority and the last administration was accused they could have been accused of and you would have thought it was the devil himself leading the country. it's so interesting to me now to hear comments of what the ofer side is accusing us when it was embarrassing and so did toectful what they the former president. o.s.c.'s social media guidance states and i quote, employees may not use a designateda account for official purposes to post or thee messages directed at success or failure of a political party, candidate in a or partisane political group. the conflicts of conflating
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activityand political are enumrable. by reference, let's look at conway'skellyanne appearances on television in which she violated the hatch on, per f.e.c. filings february 10, 2019, the trump re-election campaign received 1,425 donations totaling $71,000. on the 11th, the day of her received 1,558 $112,477.89,aling a 9% increase in donations and 57% increase in value. received 2,059 $152,000, ataling 44% increase in donations and 126% increase in value from the 10th. her march 13 and 18 appearances yielded similar results. the day after an appearance on 159% increase in
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daily donations from the day before an interview. clearly, conflicts in television the tip of the iceberg. social media creates more opportunities for conflicts of interest. in november, your office issued warning letters to six white employees who used twitter accounts for political activity specifically to promote trump's re-election complain. at least six white house employees did not follow o.s.c. social media guidance, correct? mr. kerner: yes. one of the employees who received a warning letter was pressah, former deputy contact at the white house. mr. shah tweeted a message 2018, that included a link to a republican national committee web page on the presidentments of donald trump's first 500 days in office. should a federal employee ever be tweeting political research from a party website on his or
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her official social media account? mr. kerner: i believe the guidance that hatch act has should not.t they >> o.s.c. did not find that kellyanne conway was using an account as we've talked about earlier but her own personal twitter account. explain how a message personal official's social media account can be a hatch act violation? thoughner: yes, even it's a personal account, if it has so many official statements on there, it is essentially an official account and if at official media interviews, she gives that account for that into it can turn an account that's violating the hatch act. >> o.s.c. social media guidance includes the following example. you are a federal employee and only a personal twitter account. while you have posts about vacations and events with friends, most of your posts are retweets of your agency's
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photographs of you at official events. account to use this make posts directed at the success or failure of a party, candidate in a partisan race or partisan political group. exactly what ms. conway was doing, correct? mr. kerner: yes. >> now that kellyanne conway got violating o.s.c.'s guidance, the white house is arguing that o.s.c. does not the authority to apply its guidance to federal employees. do you agree with this new argument from the white house, that o.s.c. should not provide or use guidance in interpreting the hatch act? mr. kerner: no, i don't. thehis committee is authorizing committee for o.s.c. and i believe o.s.c. does have to issue guidance and the authority to apply that guidance to determinations of whether the hatch act has been violated. the white house's novel argument a distraction which they are very good at from the fact that the president refuses to
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adviser accountable for her actions that clearly violate the law. should firet kellyanne conway and i yield back. rep. cummings: ms. foxx? mr. chairman. the o.s.c. in 2013, initiated investigation of then labor hilda sohe's for hatch act violations. talk about political activity, you want to talk about soliciting money. nothing says pushing for a particular partisan candidate or the hatch act like asking subordinates to help for president obama, which is exactly why the hatch enacted in thely 1930's to keep f.d.r. from doing the same thing. a voicemail left on a labor phone,ent employee's
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secretary solis stated, quote, hi, this is hilda solis, i'm off the recordu here, wanted to ask you if you help us get folks organized to come to a forraiser we're doing organizing for america for obama campaign, end quote. mr. kerner, this seems like a violation.tch act is that correct? mr. kerner: you know, i don't know all the facts, obviously. but it sounds like a hatch act you've read.m what >> i think this aligns exactly intent forss' enacting the law, quote, to protect federal employees from the work coercion in place and to ensure that federal based on are advanced merit and not based on political affiliation. mr. kerner, did the o.s.c. ever file a report against secretary
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solis? mr. kerner: i believe we have an open investigation but i do not believe we filed a report, no. >> mr. kerner, does o.s.c. actinue its hatch investigations after the employee resigns from federal office as a result of the investigation? mr. kerner: i think it just depends. in most cases, o.s.c. does not investigation. in some cases it does. >> and if it did open a case solis, wouldtary it have found that she violated act?atch mr. kerner: it's a hypothetical. time i wasn't even there so it's hard for me to evaluate. youspect based on the facts recounted that there may have been a hatch act violation given solis leftary federal employment. i know there was no report sent president. >> but if you had found she did theate the hatch act, would
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o.s.c. have recommended that president obama remove her from office? mr. kerner: you know, i think what happened in that case, my tells me they actually referred her to the justice criminalt for a referral which is very unusual because obviously most cases are civil but i think this case sheuse of the fact articulated and some other facts, i believe she was aferred to d.o.j. for criminal investigation, f.b.i. investigation. >> and nothing was done by the department? mr. kerner: nothing that i'm aware of, correct. >> ok. 2016, o.s.c. sent a letter to white house counsel's office regarding president obama's press detective, josh ernest, in this letter, o.s.c. out a series of hatch act violations perpetrated by ernest. of's go through some ernest's statements because i think the ernest case is similar conway's yet the treatment of these two individuals by o.s.c. is vastly
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different. statement, at the podium in the white house press briefing room december 8, he made the following comentle. let me say the trump campaign dustonths has had a beneficiary quality to it, from to vacuous sloven earring the outright lies to the fake hair. about the rest of the republican party and whether or not they're going to be dragged into the dust bin of and right nowim the current trajectory is not very good. act violation? mr. kerner: i believe o.s.c., once again, before my time, but case. investigated this and did find a hatch act violation. i think that's correct. did the o.s.c. write a askingto the white house president obama to fire him? mr. kerner: no, it didn't. but there were repeated josh ernest, by
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very similar to those things accused conway is being of, and never did you write and say, firea josh ernest. is that correct? mr. kerner: that's correct. can i indicate why that case might be a little different. rep. cummings: you may answer question. time is out but you may answer the question. mr. kerner: i completely agree you, congresswoman. the case was not referred to the president for disciplinary action. i think the facts were slightly different. in that case, after the violation came to o.s.c.'s mr. ernest was surprised of the violations, he was nonseled and there were further violations. in our case with ms. conway, we have two reports. report was sent to the president on the first two violations and there was no course correction and that's why resulted in aort recommendation. >> oh, i think it has to do with who's notident and president. i think that's really the base of it. thank you, mr. chairman.
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back.d >> thank you, mr. chairman. mr. kerner, you were appointed by president trump, correct? mr. kerner: yes, sir. >> so it's a little ironic that he's accusing you of being biased. i mean, he is the one who picked organization.is mr. kerner: i don't recall the president accusing us of being biased. i think he accused us of not conway to exercise her first amendment rights. >> has anyone in the white house conducting an improper investigations? mr. kerner: the white house counsel's letter said they investigationur was fair and thorough. >> i want to be clear that you thisappointed by administration. mr. kerner: that's correct. going afterike people personally so let me ask you this. it's true that a lot of people the past have had hatch act violations. thesek the severity of
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are many more. let's say kellyanne conway were you today and say, i understand what the rules are. willing to abide by these be more willing to actually follow the law. do you think that could be a way can resolve this issue? mr. kerner: i think that would wouldexcellent outcome, make me very happy. >> so i suggest that one way move forward and start doing the country's business, is to have that reasonable compromise where we're not attacking someone and we're upholding the rule of law. that ms.pe would be conway may just come to you and actt abiding by the hatch and we can move forward as a country to focus on other pressing issues. yield?leman
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>> mr. kerner, you and i have way on a a bipartisan number of issues. here's one of the things i think today highlights. we have two different sides saying two different things in terms of their interpretation. i think we would all agree that the statute, it is very ambiguous and clarity for i'mfederal work force, willing to work with you in a bipartisan way to clarify the useh act so that we do not taxpayer dollars for campaign related activities but also work way that hopefully will stop this from being an ambiguous point going forward the -- thank the gentleman's spirit. will the gentleman yield? >> yes. >> i also appreciate where he's going with this. think that -- i think had given ms. conway multiple opportunities to come in precisely to have a and correction about
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which is clearly repetitively and egregiously in law.tion of the there is nothing ambiguous about what she did. if there is something ambiguous it, my constituents, our constituents need to know because our constituents understand there's a ban in engaging in partisan activity and speech when acting in an capacity and i think ms. conway is capable of understanding that and of conforming her behavior to the rule of law but if the suggestion is by our colleagues aisle that the hatch act is unconstitutional, then we really should talk about that, especially with all of the labor unions which have been arguing for a liberalization of the hatch act for a long time, they don't just want a special rule for all the presidents men and women, they rule that applies to everybody in the federal work force. theirwant people using official email for partisan campaign purposes? i think that is a line that's drawn which makes a lot of sense that we'd make people use
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and notrsonal emails mix it with their official emails and that they not use the official platform and pulpit they're given as a federal candidateso attack that they don't like or to promote candidates that they do like. so -- yield back. >> and i welcome the effort to with you and mr. meadows on clarifying further the hatch act to re-emphasize, mr. kerner, that you remain open having a conversation with ms. conway and welcome perhaps mistakeswledgment of and willingness to abide by the act. mr. kerner: absolutely. you.ank >> thank you, mr. chairman. mr. kerner, april 30, 2013, you met with high ranking officials you servedr.s. while as senator john mccain homeland
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subcommittee staff director. in this meeting you recommended harassing non-profit groups they're unable to condition operating. lerner, nicole flax and other officials, quote, maybe solution is to audit so many times, so many that it is ruinous.ly end of quote. lerner responded that it is her oversee it all, end quote. mr. kerner, how can we take anything you say as objective when you yourself have a history ethics?ionable mr. kerner: in is a debunked story. up threebeen brought times already. one in 2016 and then ironically released the first conway report and the second conway report. i urged theat i.r.s. to target the tea party is completely false. this meaning when you talked about so many was not referring to any conservative or tea party
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groups. i have the transcript. the words conservative or in a six to eight-hour meeting never came up. lois lerner was the head of the exempt organizations committee. was talking to us about sham groups which the tea party i believe was not and i was asking question, notice the quote you attribute to me is not a quote but a paraphrase from a long the paraphrase was what tools do you have about sham organizations. ranking member earlier, here's a copy that i'm alding in front of me of dissent that we issued on this subcommittee of investigations that excoriated the i.r.s. for targeting conservative groups. i would never target groups.tive i'm here because of the tea party victory. and then ion in 10 got the job on this committee in became chairman issa chairman so the notions that i would ever target the tea party is just false. are alwaysations trotted out when it's time to punish me and as head of the
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whistleblower retaliation agency, i know what retaliation looks like and that's what it looks like and it's just a smear. >> gotcha. somewhat those contradict your boss at the time arizona, asfrom well. and senator mccain was fiery in the tea party, very, very contradictory to it. from what he understood, a mccain-feingold jurisdiction. so just making sure i have that straight, that fact straight. mr. kerner: can i respond real quick? >> sure. mr. kerner: senator mccain was furious when the scandal hit so our meeting was april 30. later, lois lerner admitted she targeted the tea party three years earlier, by the way. the report comes out shortly. senator mccain was furious. to -- wected me to go had a very cordial relationship with the democrats because
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and senator levin were close and the senate has a different vice president than sometimes the house does, however, he instructed me to go show that's unacceptable. if you think about it, senator mccain was really into campaign finance. that was one of his issues. this scandal destroyed the bipartisan efforts he was campaign finance. in fact, he said, that's it, we're done. up.ust wanted to clear it a lot of questions out there in arizona. mr. kerner: i appreciate it. standingite house is behind conway. white house counsel wrote a counsel to special yourself claiming the report was based on numerous grave legal errors, end of quote. first, even assuming the hatch to the most senior advisers to the president and o.s.c. violated to providebligation ms. conway a reasonable opportunity to respond, violated abusedcess rights and
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discretion by issuing a report tainted. second, o.s.c.'s overbroad and unsupported interpretation of violatingact risks ms. conway's first amendment rights and free speech of all government employees. o.s.c. has no legal authority to promulgate guidance on social media use that it treats effectively as binding rules in order to enforce overbroad interpretation of the act illustrated by my colleague mr. meadows. letter,ontrary to your ms. conway's twitter account and social media appearances do not bylate the standard used o.s.c. itself. worst of all, o.s.c. call to the president to remove ms. conway platformfederal immediately is outrageous and unprecedented. mr. kerner, what is your the reasonable arguments made by white house counsel? mr. kerner: we put out a response. the white house unfortunately cited the wrong statute, among
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made various errors. i would say this, the procedure that we followed was absolutely appropriate. we do inactly what these cases. we got a complaint, we investigated. these violation. you will note in everything you just read, it barely touched on spoke 10 timeshe to the media and while using her official authority expressed were simply opinions on the partisan electoral process. she can't do that. in anyone tosted help her comply and get her into compliance. congressman canha, i would like to see nothing better than that. she's not been willing to do that but we stand ready to >> thank you. i hope i can clear a few of these things up with the pieces i'm about to enter into the record. the first is a copy of the text of five u.s. code section 1212 , which establishes the powers and function of the office of the special counsel. mr. meadows, when you mentioned
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that the office of the special counsel can't prescribe regulations or advisory opinions on social media, that was concerning to me so i looked into it. the special counsel, it says specifically that the special counsel may prescribe such regulations as may be necessary to perform the functions of the special counsel first, and then second, it says that the special counsel may not issue any advisory opinion concerning any law, rule or regulation. i said, oh, my gosh, you might be right. but the next sentence says, other than with regard to chapter 15 or subchapter three of chapter 73. i look up those and they say
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specifically around political activity. so, the special counsel may indeed issue advisory opinions around political activity. and they did. which is the second piece i'd like to enter into the record. which is the hatch act frequently asks questions on federal employees and use of social media and email published by the u.s. office of special counsel on december 18 of 2015. mr. cummings: i'm going to admit the documents but i want you to insert in your -- ms. hill: that's it. i'm good. >> i have a unanimous consent request. mr. meadows: i appreciate the gentlewoman's nudging there. let me clarify. i think it's very clear and i think if your team goes back and looks at, it i ask unanimous consent to put in the guidance that's actually from o.p.m. which would be subpart e, which says, special provisions for certain presidential appointees and employees paid from the appropriations of the executive office of the president. it is very clear there. the other is, is to suggest that a statute, that it was actually written and amended the last time, before twitter was ever, ever invented, that it somehow applies retroactively, is just not accurate. i would ask unanimous consent that we put this into the record. mr. cummings: without objection. mr. jordan: unanimous consent to
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enter into the record two complaints sent to the office of special counsel by crew, both addressed to mr. kerner. the most recent one, may 8, 2019. it's amazing how he couldn't remember that crew filed complaints, but they were both sent to him and one of them was just last month. mr. cummings: without objection, so ordered. mr. sarbanes. mr. sarbanes: thank you, mr. chairman. thank you, mr. kerner, for being here. in your testimony, you described the purpose of the hatch act as being a separation of the nonpartisan governance of the country from partisan political campaigning, which i think is the best frame to put this in. there may be some who are watching this hearing at home and they're saying, you know so, what? what's the harm? can you explain why violations of the hatch act like ms. conway's should matter to the public? mr. kerner: yes. thank you. it's very important -- the hatch
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act is really important even today. i know mr. meadows talked about how when it was last amended , there was no twitter. well, obviously, we've also talked about email and other forms of social media. social media and communication. the principles are the same. and the importance of the hatch act is that you have -- it is very important to have a depoliticized work force. especially in these times. if you have a work force where everybody's campaigning on taxpayer money, that is not a good use of the taxpayer money. and taxpayers have a right to expect that federal workers, while they're in a building, in a federal building, and on duty, are doing the taxpayers' functions rather than electoral functions. >> the law only prohibits political activity when they're in an official capacity or in the federal workplace, correct?
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mr. sarbanes: if the hatch act was not in place, could it lead to taxpayers who call the i.r.s. or senior citizens who contact the medicare hotline being faced with someone on the other end of the phone who is trying to convince them to vote for a particular candidate, that could happen? couldn't it? mr. kerner: yes. we had a case like that where someone did call the i.r.s. and the i.r.s. employee showed his support for a presidential candidate. mr. sarbanes: there's also the danger that allowing federal employees to advocate for political campaigns while on duty would undermine the public's confidence that the government is actually doing its job. do you agree? mr. kerner: yes. mr. sarbanes: since we're talking about an advisor to the him president, i think it would be helpful to put this specifically in the context of the white house. most people realize that the president is associated with a particular political party. correct? mr. kerner: yes. mr. sarbanes: i think most people also understand that the president's most senior advisors are also from the president's political party, typically. most people want to believe, however, that once the president is in office, he or she will endeavor to act in the best interests of the country and not just a specific political party.
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in other words, once you enter the office, you're supposed to, in a sense, elevate yourself when you can and certainly when you're exercising your official duties to a place of being above partisanship. senior aides to the president, particularly those who speak on behalf of the white house, are the face of the president and the administration. you've made that point here today. do you believe that when kellyanne conway uses her official platform as a spokesperson for the white house to criticize president trump's political opponents, that it may erode public confidence in the presidency itself? mr. kerner: i believe that when
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-- well, first of all, it's a violation of the law. she just can't do it for that reason. i don't know if it erodes confidence in the presidency. i think the presidency's viewed as more partisan. i think there's a reason why the president and the vice president are exempt from the hatch act. but i do think that when ms. conway speaks on behalf of the president or official authority, she's required by law to stay away from the political partisan comments and i think that's healthy. mr. sarbanes: one of the purposes of the hatch act is to protect federal employees to be forced to engage in partisan political work while they're on duty. i understand that ms. conway gave her own press interviews and i assume wrote her own tweets. are you concerned that behavior like ms. conway's could discourage public servants from coming into government service if they believe their job will be campaigning for the president? mr. kerner: yes. i have a -- i am a big believer in the depoliticized federal work force. i think when people join the federal work force they do so out of a commitment to public service and that should be for all americans, regardless of political affiliation. mr. sarbanes: thank you. as i'm closing, i want to emphasize again that i see this
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take through two lenses. one is absolutely that the hatch act is there to protect federal employees. but i think it's also there to enforce the kind of separation from politics and these official offices that people hold, that the country has a right to expect. and it brings credit when you observe those lines to those offices, and it potentially can discredit them when you don't observe the boundary. and the president, i think, must act to protect the integrity of the federal work force, to police that boundary that i've just spoken of. and for that reason he needs to fire kellyanne conway. i yield back the balance of my time. mr. kilmer: mr. chairman, i'll have to admit, when i saw the agenda for the program today, i didn't think that anything productive would come out of this hearing. but i was wrong. there have been two productive
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things in my opinion that have come out of this hearing thus far. first is there's universal unclarity about what the hatch act is and what it does and what congressional intent was. with the hatch act. and second, there was a pledge of bipartisanship between representatives to come up with a solution to better define what the hatch act is, does, as we move forward. so i just wanted to make that public, mr. chairman. so i appreciate you having this hearing. mr. kerner, you've said under oath that a federal employee can say factual things, is that correct? mr. kerner: no, i did not. whether something's factual or not is not the test. the test is whether they use their official authority to talk about things related to the campaigns.
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it could be absolutely factual. could even be true. but if it's related to influencing a partisan campaign, under the official authority, they're not allowed to talk about that. mr. comer: one of the alleged violations that you allege kellyanne conway committed with the hatch act was that she retweeted on twitter a post about senator elizabeth warren, claiming that she was native american to score a harvard gig, paying $350,000 to teach one class. does that serve your definition of a violation of the -- first of all, is that factual or not? mr. kerner: i don't know if it's factual. senator warren has denied it. i don't know if it's factual.
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mr. raskin: mr. chairman, point of order. if a false statement has been made at the hearing about a fellow member of congress, can it be corrected? because i'd be happy to correct it. mr. cummings: yes. mr. raskin: there is an article in the boston globe which refutes precisely that proposition that somehow senator warren lied about her record. [talking simultaneously] mr. cummings: i thought you said the end. mr. raskin: happy to do that. mr. meadows: a point of order has to stay the rule. mr. raskin: i believe the rule -- i believe that the rule states we cannot disparage and defame other members of congress. mr. comer: i did not disparage another member of congress. i'm reading one of the violations that they claim -- this is a very serious hearing when you're ruling that someone and each member on the democrat side just about has said that kellyanne conway should be fired. i'm reading one of the
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allegations that you claim she violated in the hatch act. i didn't say anything disparaging about senator warren. i asked if that was factual or not. i take offense to that and, mr. chairman, i'd like to strike that from the record. what mr. raskin -- mr. cummings: without objection. mr. comer: thank you. mr. kerner, so, the -- we go back -- this is your interpretation of the hatch act. when she was on the ingram show which i've been on a few times and many on this committee have been on, again, she was asked about elizabeth warren's claims of her native american ethnicity. and she answered the question, i don't -- explain to me how that
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is a violation of the hatch act, that would warrant her termination from a job that many of us think she does very well. mr. kerner: sure. just to explain, too. when we talk termination, it sounds like we or somebody wants to deprive the president from having an effective spokesperson. that's really not what we're talking about. we're talking about having a federal employee abide by laws that apply to federal employees. so obviously there are solutions federal employee abide by laws short of her disappearing. she can go to campaign, she can speak in a private capacity. there are other ways for ms. conway to make all the points on behalf of the president that we in no way want to silence. i want to make that clear. as to your specific question, when she talks about senator warren and her, the alleged claims about her heritage and how it might have affected it, it is not the veracity that matters. it's that they're not related to a policy. they're related to her as a candidate. and why that would --
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mr. comer: my opinion, my interpretation of what you just said, if you misrepresent your race in order to take advantage of affirmative action laws, that's a serious issue. i don't think that's a unique partisan issue to point -- in general, it's a -- if she was asked the question, she answered the question to the best of her knowledge factually and in my opinion, what i read, that has the potential to be factual, but i think that we need to examine the hatch act moving forward. i'm glad that we've had some production here to where we can in a bipartisan way, figure out the correct intent of the hatch act as we move forward, to where we don't create a scenario where someone who's doing her job and, you know, her reputation is
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tarnished because of a misunderstanding of the hatch act. mr. chairman, i yield back. mr. cummings: thank you very much. ms. ocasio-cortez: thank you, mr. chair. there's been a lot of comments made about the ambiguity of the hatch act. which i think is overall quite clear in its intent in saying we cannot use our official government capacities for partisan political purposes. that's a pretty clear line. and if there's any question about that, we ask. in fact, i think that this proof of the clarity of the hatch act comes in what just happened earlier this year in the largest government shutdown in american history. because we had 800,000 federal workers, from air traffic controllers to far beyond, federal employees at the state department, here, 800,000 workers who are all subject to that same hatch act and they
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knew what the rule was. they weren't getting paychecks, they used up their entire life savings, they were struggling to pay their mortgages, they couldn't feed their kids. and they still didn't say anything. they still didn't engage in political organizing against the people who were committing this against them because they understood the law. beyond that, you said in your opening statement, correct, that even sarah huckabee sanders acknowledges in her work she acknowledges the bars in the hatch act. correct? mr. kerner: yes. that's correct. ms. ocasio-cortez: so we have many members of the president's own administration who honor the law and respect the law. the violations here to the extent and the repetitiveness to which they are being committed is unique to ms. conway, correct? mr. kerner: yes. ms. ocasio-cortez: and with that i would like to show you all a video that highlights many of the violations that the office of special counsel detailed in
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its report. >> anything time zero equals zero. simple multiplication. 50 democrats can run, 19 are now running. if your message is zero, it's a big zero. there's no strategy i see. you've got o'rourke and booker promising they would nominate a woman to be the vice president. do they not think women running are good enough to be president? stop the nonsense everybody about -- we are all women, we are pro-women. we are for independent thinkers. elizabeth warren is running for president. she tried to appropriate somebody else's ethnicity she lied about that. they've got a bunch of, i'd like to say, i don't see any presidential timber yet, just presidential woodchips. the women are complaining too. i see women on tv complaining about the female candidates aren't covered the same. that's just hogwash. they just have terrible ideas. you can change the a to an o and get omy instead of amy there. i don't think it was an impressive rollout. gillibrand, it was the first time she's ever eaten fried chicken and she waited for the
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cameras to roll. this is silly stuff. the only difference between bernie sanders and donald trump is bernie sanders' ideas are terrible for america and donald trump is a much better candidate. i think biden's timing benefits him because the democrats seem really desperate to find an alternative to bernie sanders. ms. ocasio-cortez: i want to walk through some of the specific hatch act violations that o.s.c. found that kellyanne conway committed. on november 20, she gave an interview with fox and friends if which she called the democratic senate candidate a "doctrineaire liberal." this was a hatch act violation, correct? mr. kerner: that was in our first report, correct. ms. ocasio-cortez: on december 6, 2017, she appeared in her official capacity on cnn and discussed why voters should support republican senate candidate roy moore and why they should not support democratic candidate doug jones. o.s.c. then sent president obama -- president trump a report
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detailing these violations but you did not recommend a specific form of discipline. you left that up to the president. the president appears to have done nothing about this. and ms. conway continued to violate the law. o.s.c. found that between october 31 and november 6, ms. conway posted at least 15 messages that violated the hatch act to her twitter account. are you aware of any other senior aide to a president who has systemically violated the hatch act to this extent? by attacking the potential opponents of the president? mr. kerner: i am not aware. ms. ocasio-cortez: and i think this right here gets at the core of what we're talking about today. this is not even partisan. because members of trump's own administration do not violate the law, this law, to the extent that she does. she is being subject to these reports because she is unique in her flagrant violation and disrespect for the law.
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and frankly, when she doesn't show up to her own congressional hearing today, she's not just disrespecting democrats. i don't mind. that's something she does on tv every day. she disrespects the entire body. she disrespects every republican member of this body. and disrespects the power that each and every single one of us has. moreover, i think that this taps into a deeper narrative, a deeper pattern of what is happening out of this administration. where they believe that the rule of law only belongs and applies to some people and not others. right here and now, we're about 20 years away from the central park five. where the president put out a full page ad demanding the death penalty for five black and brown boys. boys. they were not yet 18 years old.
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demanding the death penalty for something they were accused of and innocent of. and here we have just documented evidence of multiple times, a violation of the same law. and he won't even issue a slap on the wrist. this is a pattern about some people being subject to the rule of law and others not. and when that happens, there is no rule of law at all. at all. and that's why it's important that we make sure that everyone is held accountable. because whether it's a billionaire, whether it's an administration official, or whether it's a postal worker, or a kid on the street, we all must be held accountable to the same extent by the rule of law. thank you very much. mr. cummings: thank you very much. mr. cloud. mr. cloud. mr. cloud: thank you, mr. chair. you mentioned that you refer to normal federal employee hours for a federal worker, 9:00 to 6:00, 8:00 to 5:00, give or take? mr. kerner: i think congressman massie asked me about those hours. as i tried to explain, they don't really impact on this violation.
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mr. cloud: would you say counselor, as counselor to the president, ms. conway's duties, quote, continue outside the normal duty hours and away from the normal duty post? mr. kerner: yes. mr. cloud: would you list any cost associated with the alleged political activity by ms. conway that were paid for out of the u.s. treasury? mr. kerner: would i list them? mr. cloud: yes. mr. kerner: i'm not sure what list means. is she paid by those? is that what you mean? mr. cloud: are there any -- the alleged political activity, can you trace it back to any funds paid out of the u.s. treasury? for each act? mr. kerner: no. mr. cloud: do you have a list of that? mr. kerner: no. that provision only goes to the on duty rule. mr. cloud: is she paid for using appropriated funds from the executive office of the president? mr. kerner: i believe so, yes. mr. cloud: ok. five u.s.c., section 7324 allows employees who are paid using
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appropriated funds from the executive office of the president whose duties continue outside the normal duty hours and while away from the normal duty post to engage in political activities prohibited under the hatch act, quote, if the cost associated with that political activity are not paid for by money derived from the treasury. are post office employees paid out of the executive office of the president? mr. kerner: i don't believe so. mr. cloud: they're not. we're not really comparing apples to apples here when we paint federal employees with a broad brush. mr. kerner: your doctor you're -- but i think you are talking about the same provision mr. meadows was talking about and that doesn't cover the official authority -- mr. cloud: reclaiming my time. the purpose of the act, according to the office of special counsel, overview of the hatch act on the website, says that the purpose of this act was to ensure that federal programs are administered in a nonpartisan manner, to protect federal employees from political coercion in the workplace, and to ensure that federal employees
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are advanced based on measure the and not political affiliation. do you stand by that definition on the purpose of this act? mr. kerner: sure. mr. cloud: ok. could you list the federal programs administered by kellyanne conway? mr. kerner: she has a portfolio in the white house. mr. cloud: does she administer any federal programs that you're aware of? mr. kerner: she has a port yoel -- portfolio. mr. kerner: how many federal employees report to kellyanne conway? mr. kerner: i don't know. mr. cloud: you mentioned a number of political organizations that filed complaints. against her. were any of these employees? that report to her? mr. cloud: not that i'm aware of, no. mr. cloud: ok, thank you. i yield my time to the ranking member. mr. jordan: mr. kerner, in the opening paragraph of your letter to the president, june 13, last sentence you said, her actions erode the principle rule of law. they erode the principle foundation of our democratic system. you really believe that?
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mr. kerner: yes, i do. mr. jordan: when she said, who old white career politicians, how does that erode the principle foundation of our democratic system? mr. kerner: it's not the content of what she says. what happens is she's using her official authority -- mr. jordan: that's -- you think that erodes the democratic system? mr. kerner: i think her failure to follow the hatch act erodes our system, yes. mr. jordan: when she said 28 million americans are without health care after obamacare passed, you think that erodes the principle foundation of our democratic system? mr. kerner: i think her failure to follow the hatch act and then to announce that she's essentially -- doesn't care, frankly, i think does. it shows that the rule of law only applies to the little people. the people who are well-connected do not have to comply -- [talking simultaneously] mr. jordan: when she said about senator warren she had zero sympathy, she's quoting senator warren. senator warren had zero sympathy for parents caught in the college scam. ms. conway took no sympathy with senator warren.
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mr. kerner: she's entitled to make those but not when speaking under official authority. had she does that and knowingly violates the rule of law, i think it does -- mr. jordan: she's speaking in her official capacity and said 28 million americans don't have health care. how does that violate the principle foundation of our democratic system? i think it helps it. it's someone stating a fact about one of the biggest pieces of legislation we've had in years around this place, that did not work, and reinforces the first amendment liberties we as every single american have. but, no, you in your letter say it undermines the principle foundation of our democratic system. stating the truth undermines -- actually stating the truth is the foundation of being able to speak in a first amendment way, is the foundation. unfortunately we got way too many people who don't recognize that, who are trying to limit first amendment spree speech rights. mr. cummings: all right. let me say this. i'm listening to all of this.
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i got to tell you, i think we have gotten so far down the line, mr. kerner, that when there is -- i mean, i'm just sitting here think being this. i practiced law many years. the idea that we sit here and argue about violation of federal law, that we've gotten that far down the road, it concerns me. tremendously. i have sat here and not moved. and it seems to me that what you are talking about is the law
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itself. in the best thing that has been mr.,.as said by -- mr. comer. clarity needs to be made. it concerns me that we have gotten so far from the basic principles of obedience to the law, of the law. i will not yield. a point where to it seems like this is normal, it is ok. but it is not ok. change -- we do not teach our children to lie, to
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disobey the law. i do not know what we are supposed to do. when we see somebody from your and putsat comes to us out in the universe that somebody has basically thumbed their nose at congress. it is not just democrats, it is all of us. and i think it does erode our democracy. i think it does take away from it. >> whose time are you speaking on? >> mine. you're welcome. >> has missed conway then convicted of a crime? this is a discussion as to whether or not she has committed one. as to cummings: -- mr. cummings:
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i am talking about generally we are getting to a point where it when that the whole idea we have been brought allegations in the past, let me clarify something. you are not on this committee. it would bell you, holy helen here. in here. we are better than this. ms. conwayeports to probably, and she does not want any federal programs, because she is campaigning on taxpayer dollars. are you aware she gets paid over $179,000?
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a federal employee may not engage in political activity while on duty or in any room or building occupied in the discharge of official duties by an individual employee or holding office in the government of the u.s. does that mean the grounds of any federal government building? >> yes but that is also the provision that does not apply to her. >> does it the grounds of the white house? >> yes. >> why is it important that federal employees do not engage in political activity while on the grounds of a federal building? a if we are going to have depoliticized workforce, we cannot have people running around campaigning all day long on taxpayer dollars. occasions, conway engaged in political activity on white house grounds. >> yes, using official authorities. >> there is a clip, and
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interview that i would like to show my colleagues. lot onie sanders has a donald trump, he does not care what his party thinks about his candidacy. he is raising small dollar amounts. the only difference between aump and sanders is trump is better candidate and sanders is terrible for america. joe biden will be seen as the alternative to bernie sanders. white, male career exactly whats not the democratic party had in mind for 2020. youased on that video, do agree it appears she is on white house grounds? >> yes. >> is she campaigning? >> this was in our report.
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mr. kerner, the news clip identified her as a counselor to president trump. >> correct. >> when you see the text in the factor thats that a supports that ms. conway is speaking in official capacity? >> yes. >> osc found the interview violated the hatch act, correct? >> yes. >> can you explain what it was about her comments that violated it? about description was existing presidential candidates. it was not talking about policy or anything other than them personally and she was on white house grounds. she was using official authority to talked about election related influence, which is not supposed to be doing. >> and it is obvious she was willfully disregarding the law
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on public premises in public view. do you believe she has any intention of ever following the hatch act? >> i remain optimistic that she will. there is arman, if lot of disagreement about how the hatch act is implemented and --lied to his conway, them kellyanne conway, the members of the body can propose laws to change it. he is applying the law as it exists to a person on taxpayer dollars campaigning for the president. the president to allow her to resign or fire her and then higher on the campaign side, where she obviously belongs. i yelled the rest of my time. i yield to the rest of my time to the chairman. i have to say something, mr. meadows. i am new here, one of the things
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that is obvious to me, i am an attorney and if i ever want to hire a defense team, i know exactly where to go, especially if i have allegedly committed a crime. it is so absurd. the chairman is correct. clients ask any of my if they are democrat or republican. i asked what the actions were. and sometimes i urge them to comply when they are in violation of the law. and i work it out. but in this instance, we are allowing the american people to see it is ok to normalize the fact that a person being paid close to $200,000 to campaign on our money and time. i am not allowed here to specifically say something about a colleague in this chamber. i could talk about certain policies. and i abide by the rules. but it is absurd that we sit
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here and watch over and over someone we are paying on government dime to go on national tv and campaign and talk about other candidates. it is just wrong. thank you. i want to understand this better. policy versus campaigning. conway is out doing an interview and the reporter asks her a specific question about policy and she answers it, but if the reporter asked something and about bernie sanders, she is answering the question, would that be ok? >> generally, yes. obviously, it is a case-by-case investigation. professionals do these cases in
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an advisory opinion as well as when we get complaints. they have to look at all of the circumstances. so you are in an advisory capacity. so it is an opinion. ok. have a senior policy advisor to the president working , dowhite house, obviously you state go out and vote for trump or against sanders? >> that would be a violation. >> but when you are tying in policy to it, i think there should be some leeway. i am a little concerned to some of the clips that have been played, some may be were at the white house, others were, others were late at night. i do not know the context. are there any waiver provisions
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for a senior white house advisors for the hatch act? >> waving the hatch act entirely, i do not believe so. other guidelines specifically exclude the hatch act. bound by the on-duty inhibitions, she can engage various political activities on-duty but they still have to be permissible and using our official authority for campaign work is not permissible. she cannot do that. meadows: let me come back. here is what i would like for you to get this committee. in your response to the white house general counsel, you did not put any notations as to the possibility of a waiver. i would ask your team to go back and address, because it is an
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open question and quite frankly it demands an answer. entity, ispartisan actually indicating the waiver applies to ms. conway. thingsave two different and i would ask that you do that. how ms. we talked about because inifferent, may of 2016 you gave a report -- he gave a report and never did it again. >> right. >> but obviously you did that. so i asked consent that we put 2016,cause in october of at the white house briefing, he says, you are telling me candidates who snorted their way through to debates accusing other candidates of doing drugs. i think it is clear in the context of everything you laid out that mr. josh earnest once
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again was violating, according to you, the hatch act. itto suggest that he stopped once the osc outlined it is not accurate. so i'd ask you to go back and redo that. clarify, prior to my royal, a letter was sent -- prior to my arrival, we learned that the council and revealed all the press briefings between the 26th and 29th did not renew -- reveal any new violations. so we have decided not to pursue disciplinary action. >> right, but your comment would suggest he did not violated. it.iolate but then he violated it again and got a free pass.
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so there are two standards. point did kellyanne conway's personal twiddle -- personal twitter become official? and at what point will her personal twitter that you now name official go back to being official? >> your time has expired. but you may answer the question. >> i am trying to make you aware. as a courtesy. making the committee aware we have a 1:30 vote and i am saying we will finish the hearing. but i am not anxious to come back whenever that is to keep this hearing going. question.y answer the on josh earnest, apparently
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we close the case with the warning letter. i was not there. do not receive a subsequent complaint. most of the time we investigate cases we get complaints on. , weor your other question are certainly, at some point when we do an investigation, we look at the twitter account and at that point we try to determine what is the official account or not. one does not it stop and where does it start? >> will you provide him with that information? >> yes. >> you are recognized. >> i have been sitting and listening for a while. the first thing i would like to say for my colleagues that are still here in the room is an observation about this committee.
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i have been on this committee, it's my third term. i would really help my colleagues would remember the respect for the share, and when puts downsays rule or the gavel, to respect that as members of congress, being gentlemen and women of this body. because we are grown. and we need to keep our emotions and our actions in check while we are in this room. that is just a plea of my colleagues. i wanted to ask you a couple of things. you said you were not in this office previously and there is been some discussion about the obama administration. osc did not recommend that
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secretary castro, but recommended that president trump fire kellyanne o.s.c. did not give a specific discipline on for about kellyanne conway, is that correct? mr. kerner: yes. was treated conway as other officials the difference is that conway behavior, change her is that correct? mr. kerner: yes. >> you're motivation in having this is you're doing your job, the president appointed you to. mr. kerner: yes. that it is a little uncomfortable for you to this of e or recommend your own side, is that not correct? truth, i you the don't feel like i have a side.
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agency.ndependent >> that's interesting because i as counsel on the house ethics committee where we had to be nonpartisan during the time we there. we had members on both sides of the aisle. afterwards i went to work for the bush administration but at you act you're there nonpartisan. because you are in that position do you believe that ms. conway has, in fact, law?ated the >> absolutely. >> and as an individual not charges, o face those are they in some respect aiding abetting that individual continuing to be in violation of the law. a former criminal prosecutor, i would stay away abetting.g and that sounds like a criminal case. >> some of this could be referred to criminal
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prosecution. been put on notice that she was in fact violating the law, an individual who continues to support her in violating that ould, in fact, be aiding and abetting in some respect? mr. kerner: i think the to impose s entitled the discipline, that's part of the statute. imposes is upe he to him. >> a president can impose a punishment. if a president tells the person to continue to violate the law, hat is not what the president has been allowed to do under the law, is it not? mr. kerner: i don't know if that is happening here. not told sident has her that this law does not apply her r and we're violating free speech and she can continue done? and say what she has mr. kerner: i believe the white house counsel has taken that position. white house is appointed by whom? >> the president.
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has allowed ent this individual, kellyanne conway to continue to violate the law. let's not get caught up in the let's come out together in a bipartisan to fix this. if she was not clear, you have her an opportunity to sit with you and to discuss what ambiguity is, have you not? >> absolutely. >> she has not sought that from you, has she? >> she has no. given, he letter she has you state in there congress and d the hatch act recognized that senior advisors to the president were involved campaign activity. nd then you say they could secure their position to have television interviews and use platform to engage in partisan attacks. so when the communication they using for the public be it elevision, twitter account,
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they are communicating with the public and supposed to do it on not.y and they are since i do not have the hatch ct which allows me to say and do whatever i want, i want to is inat's what's going on fact a hot mess. > the gentlelady's time has expired. mr. huggins. is payingthat america attention, kellyanne conway is of the trump get administration. there will be another. the future of this committee has been made clear, one attack after another against the president. again. go another oversight hearing, nother attack on the president's administration. my colleagues say no one is above the law. to president refuses discipline. the president refuses to hold
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accountable. my colleagues say it is worse. you what's worse, michael cohen lying six time to authority after being warned with grim authority if he lied once, he would be nailed to cross. that was 119 days ago. the law, 119 ove days of orse, 119 refusal to hold accountable. conway had 16 hours to respond to the hurt feelings of -- kerner.er persecution nizes when it sees one. today's hearing was never a fact-finding mission nor an honest investigation into federal employee conduct. one of a series which we'll continue of hearings eant to discredit the president. like it or not, federal law
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of special uthority counsel. .s.c. cannot charge any senate-confirmed employ or employees of the executive office of the president. yet, o.s.c. has moved straight past formal charges and sentence.ed a you f my colleagues said didn't recommend she was fired on the first page of your etter, therefore o.s.c. respectfully requests that ms. conway be held to the same standards of all other federal employees. i'll get to that in a second. nd as such, you find removal from federal service to be appropriate disciplinary action. me.sounds like firing to the hatch act was not intended to limit free speech. intended to keep on aucrats from campaigning the taxpayers dime. here's what they don't know. isy don't know that congress not subject to this law, to
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nsure fair and consistent amming indication -- application of federal laws, i have a draft employees of e congress. mr. chairman, i ask unanimous onsent that this draft bill be entered into the record. >> without objection, so ordered. us not allow them to share with constituents our on politics or policy or contrast the damming views of opponents with our own. congressional employees, sem some will e're -- say, we're governed by the house ethic ate ethic rules, rules that we determine in congress every two years. enforces those rules? we do. we're going to hold ms. conway employee of the trump administration because he's resident trump to a very high standard of accountability. i suggest it is time congress be
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same standard. i yield the balance of my time, to the ranking member. >> thank you, gentleman, for his remarks. i would kl yield to the -- i would yield to the gentleman from north carolina. >> let me come back. because one of the issues we early on was that you ere not personally offended i guess is what you said. when ms. kellyanne conway did that it didn't make you mad, is that correct? didn't understand your context of the question. upset.ld staff you were you told the white house counsel is were personally offended, that true? mr. kerner: yes. up.'m glad we cleared that how much does kellyanne conway owe the federal government? saying she is in violation of this federal law.
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this all - to make right with an apology and paying back the federal government, how to pay back have the federal government? secretary sebelius sed campaign funds -- >> you're saying that kellyanne conway doesn't owe any money? >> i think our case is concluded. report -- >> does she owe money to the federal government? know of.r: not that i >> okay. thank you. mr. chairman. kerner this committee has responsibility for the hatch act. kellyanne conway does not share outlook. appear that she is
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above the law. she certainly is not above the law. agree.e american people i ask unanimous consent to of ude written testimony citizens for responsibility in 30,000 hich includes signatures from people, including people from my massachusetts seventh, asking for her termination. >> without objection. >> i wanted to speak to some by my colleagues from across the aisle. rew is a bipartisan organization. it includes two former members of congress on the board. o this isn't about partisanship. this is about ethics and the law. will u are correct, we continue to be here and return here and have members of this affiliated here as long as they are in violation of the law because we are here to oversight and reform.
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my formal line of questioning, i wanted to show conway's p of ms. reaction to your independent report which found that she the law dozens of times. you're covered by the hatch and the office of special counsel found that you twice the hatch act in 2018. >> and -- they misquoted my interview. they said on fox and friends -- could never do that. you have to get the facts. special counsel -- inaudible -- do
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relevant question for today? >> you were talking about -- think what worries you is that the frontrunner has a i've been er than alive of views and issues that touch m outof -- out of and outrageous. if you're trying to silence me not gh the hatch act it is going to work. >> i'm not trying to silence you. [inaudible] >> let me know when the jail starts. > mr. kerner, what is your reaction to that clip? mr. kerner: mr. meadows has been me about that clip all day. obviously i thought it was a in the eye. disappointed.as that was one of my main emotions because it just seemed clear were not going to get
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compliance from ms. conway. my goals is to get people into compliance with the law. she refused to testify today and was a no show, cannot hear from her directly as to why she did what she did. illing noreve she is rant of the -- ignorant of the she can do or can't do? mr. kerner: no. all officials receive training on the hatch act? yes.erner: >> white house counsel was guidance.hatch act during 2017 she received guidance or training on six occasions. does that sound about right? >> yes. on january 24, 2017, after the occupantion of of the white house, ms. conway the hatch aining on
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act. counsel met with ms. conway to rovide specialized hatch act training. does every employee get the enefit of one-on-one hatch act training? >> i don't believe all. employees e house were given information on official media account. you may not use your official position to affect the election. an ms. conway even violated the uidance the white house itself provided employees. >> that's correct. multiple receiving forms of guide ands and training nd in multiple settings, including personal one-on-one training, she continued to act throughoutch 2018 and 2019. is that correct? >> that's correct. young lady's time has expired. >> thank you. >> thank you very much. >> with all due regard to my
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are to ic friends, we he point where so many are running for president because so many are running for president. may, we are in it a very dangerous time here. hings are shifting dramatically. it seems like just yesterday to e and i've been involved in publics for over 20 years, we majority, harry birthrights.nd to airplanes off the border. a very dangerous time. so obviously things are shifting think if we y i don't enforce our border, i and our country is done, with that regard and why -- partisanship designed to
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the lastpeople who are firewall on saving america. an i ask you, who has been complaining about ms. conway here? who is offended? to have to ng you look into this? mr. kerner: well, so we get from organizations. we also get complaints from course, ind then, of the public sphere, there's been of complaints about the obviously violation. we could have a discussion about act that may atch or may not be clear. obvious. >> how many complaints did you et in the eight years of the obama administration? mr. kerner: we have stats on that. during the obama administration, i guess we -- so the law
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the ed in 2012 so complaints went down. 270, 106, and went up a little bit during the latest of years. trump during the same administration, can i ask who was second and third in line in complaints they received? mr. kerner: other than ms. conway? >> yes. i did want to point out one more thing. we get complaints from citizens organizations and complaints from the house and from the senate. just wanted to clarify that. >> you're upset about this. thing i noticed in politics, times an articulate and
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brings out woman the worst. by a et outraged conservative woman. to there any men subject vitrol? women on re men and that. -- k sarah hubbing by sand huckaby sanders -- conservative woman. hucaby't aware that sarah was number two on the list. hat it is -- >> we found no violations on her. visible.he most kellyann conway is in front of
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press all the time. >> apparently the two trump and istration officials -- i assume the complaints are by openype of people who want borders, the two trump people the most complaints appen to be two women in his andnistration sarah huckaby kellyanne conway. vainy was mick mull also -- mulvaney was also one. [inaudible] in he committee will stand recess until after votes. the committee will be notified as to when. thank you for your testimony. mr. kerner: thank you.
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carrie with akers, he legal advocacy group talks about recent supreme court decisions and political 2020.egies for campaign ews makers today at 6 p.m. eastern on c-span. free radioten on our app. >> the supreme court ruled 5-4 thursday that the trump administration did not give an dequate reason for adding a citizenship question to the 2020 census. hose challenging the question about citizenship said it would cause noncitizens or immigrants to skip the question. justices will provide another explanation.
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wrote the ustice majority opinion. the justices had a lot of in the case. several opinions were written with respect to each of the legal questions. here's the hour and 20 minute oral argument from april. >> you will hear argument in 18966, department of new york, rsus -- francisco.ral >> citizenship questions have -- asked >> i'm sorry. i'm sorry. it is not been a part of the where he ch is einstated it since 1950, and for 65 years every secretary of of commerce, every

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