White House Complains Request for Simas’ Public Testimony Different from Bush Administration Official’s Deposition; Issa Offers Deposition

July 24, 2014

Today, in a letter to House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa, R-Calif., the White House complained of dissimilar treatment of its political office head, David Simas, to that of Bush administration political office figures in 2008. In response, Chairman Issa offered White House Counsel Neil Eggleston the option of committing to make Mr. Simas available for a deposition and producing documents:  the same accommodations to which the Bush Administration agreed when Democrats held the majority in the House of Representatives.

“Your most recent correspondence contrasts the Committee’s request for Mr. Simas’s testimony and information about OPSO with former Chairman Waxman’s prior investigation of the Bush White House’s Office of Political Affairs,” writes Chairman Issa. “In the interest of providing accommodation, the Committee would be willing to postpone tomorrow’s proceeding if the White House makes the same commitments to cooperate as the Bush Administration did previously: an opportunity to question Mr. Simas in a deposition setting; and the production of documents I requested on March 18, 2014.”

Chairman Issa’s oversight request comes in the wake of reports that two members of President Obama’s Cabinet violated Hatch Act prohibitions on using official resources for partisan political activity and President Obama’s January 2014 decision to reopen a long troubled White House political office led by Mr. Simas.  After the White House rebuffed court precedent and declared that Mr. Simas enjoyed “absolute immunity” from having to testify, the Committee offered Mr. Simas a second chance to avoid a constitutional clash, by appearing at the previously recessed hearing tomorrow.  Chairman’s Issa’s latest offer to allow Mr. Simas to provide testimony in a deposition is consistent with the need to get Mr. Simas on-the-record about White House political activity while affording him the same accommodation as his predecessors in the Bush Administration.

The Chairman’s letter continues: “With the 2014 campaign season underway, there are already reports that raise questions as to whether, on Mr. Simas’s watch, the White House is using taxpayer dollars for political activities. For example, the President’s June 26-27 trip to Minnesota consisted of a previously scheduled Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee fundraiser. Official activities were subsequently tacked onto the itinerary, ensuring that the President’s travel to the fundraiser was, at least partially, undertaken at taxpayer expense.  Two weeks ago, the President traveled to Colorado on a fundraising trip in support of a Democratic Senator reportedly facing a close reelection race. The White House added an official event, and again, the taxpayers picked up part of the tab.  Mr. Simas can answer, among other things, how OPSO ensures that events such as these, and others, are Hatch Act-compliant.”

In the event that Mr. Simas does not appear or accept the Committee’s offer of a deposition in lieu of testimony, the Committee will move forward tomorrow with voting on a resolution to reject the White House’s claim that Mr. Simas is immune from congressional compulsion to testify on matters relating to his official duties.

Read the letter here.

Today, the Chairman released the resolution the committee will consider and vote on tomorrow if Simas declines to either testify or accept the deposition in lieu of testimony.

On July 18th, the Chairman offered the Simas the opportunity to testify tomorrow.

On July 16th, Simas failed to appear at the Oversight hearing, where he was to appear under subpoena following a refusal to testify.

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