Issa, who has subpoenaed top White House political adviser David Simas to testify Wednesday, didn’t join in Tuesday’s briefing. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
Updated 8:49 p.m. | The White House is asserting immunity for top political adviser David Simas in defiance of a subpoena from House Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Darrell Issa.
In a letter from White House Counsel W. Neil Eggleston, the White House asserted Congress does not have the power to compel Simas to testify, in a showdown between two of the three branches of government.
Eggleston cited a new legal opinion from the Office of Legal Counsel in the Department of Justice and past precedent of presidents asserting immunity for their top advisers from congressional subpoena.
“The Executive Branch’s longstanding position, reaffirmed by numerous Administrations of both political parties, is that the President’s immediate advisers are absolutely immune from the congressional testimonial process,” the OLC wrote. “This immunity is rooted in the constitutional separation of powers, and in the immunity of the President himself from congressional compulsion to testify.”
The OLC cited precedents going back to Presidents Harry Truman and Richard Nixon of asserting executive privilege against testimony. And bother the OLC and Eggleston said Issa had not shown why, exactly, he needed Simas to testify and what questions, exactly, he needed to answer.
The feud has been brewing for months over the new political strategy office headed by Simas, culminating in a lengthy staff briefing today that Issa said failed to answer all of his questions.
Simas is director of the remade Office of Political Strategy and Outreach, which the White House contends complies with the Hatch Act limiting the political activities of civil servants.
But Issa isn’t convinced.
“The Clinton White House, Bush White House, and other administrations before them have all faced congressional oversight of political activity supported by taxpayer funds,” Issa wrote in a letter to Eggleston earlier Tuesday. “Under this Administration, like previous Administrations, members of President Obama’s cabinet have committed violations of the Hatch Act, which draws a line between campaign and official business.” Full story