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February 12, 2016

White House Cites Immunity, Rebuffs Issa Subpoena for Simas

UNITED STATES - SEPTEMBER 26: Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., speaks with reporters as he leaves the House Republican Conference meeting in the basement of the Capitol on Thursday, Sept. 26, 2013. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

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.”

Issa said earlier Tuesday he expects Simas to honor the subpoena and testify Wednesday.

“I believe his on-the-record testimony will provide valuable insight into White House efforts to ensure appropriate use of taxpayer funds,” Issa said.

The letter to Eggleston said that White House staff “declined a request to discuss compliance with the Committee’s document requests” or to describe who was involved in the decision to reopen the political office.

Ranking Democrat Elijah Cummings ripped Issa.

“There is no evidence whatsoever to suggest that Mr. Simas or anyone on his staff did anything wrong,” the Maryland Democrat said in a statement. “Today’s briefing from the White House was detailed and thorough, and Committee staff were able to ask all the questions they had. There seems to be no reason to continue this ridiculous confrontation other than to manufacture false controversy as Chairman Issa’s tenure comes to an end.”

Democrats said nine Issa staffers attended the briefing from White House staffers.

“The new Office does not raise funds for political candidates, does not schedule travel for Cabinet Secretaries, and does not engage in the types of political ‘boiler-room’ activities that characterized the previous Administration’s Office of Political Affairs,” the Democratic release said. The Democrats said Republican and Democratic staff were able to ask all of the questions they had.

“At the conclusion of the briefing, the Republican staffer leading the meeting thanked the White House and said, ‘That’s all the questions I have,'” according to the Democrats’ account.

A Democratic source knocked Issa for failing to show at the meeting.

“Guess who didn’t even bother to show-up? One guess. Correct, no Issa,” a Democratic source said.

The Democratic source said staff briefed Issa’s staff for an hour and 15 minutes and answered every question — 45 in all — until they stopped.

“I do think it’s fairly remarkable, that if Issa wants to be seen as genuinely caring about the issue (and not just cameras), that he didn’t even bother to attend. I would love to know what his staff says he was doing instead,” the source said.

Issa spokeswoman Becca Glover Watkins said that the offer had been presented as an offer to brief Issa’s staff — an offer that Issa accepted on Friday.

Simas didn’t attend the meeting either.

Issa earlier refused to drop his subpoena of Simas on Monday after a plea from Eggleston, who warned that the subpoena threatened to impinge on the Executive Branch’s prerogatives. In Issa’s letter Friday to the White House, the California Republican offered to reconsider his subpoena if the briefing answered all of his questions.

  • Blkmouth

    I’m just curious as to when ANYONE is going to ask Mr. Issa probably this one question, “What EXACTLY, is he trying to accomplish with his CONSTANT, “I’m going to get that (blank),” inquiries. Seems he might be one of those that Mr. Holder spoke of, which also asks the question, EXACTLY who are his constituents in California. I don’t seem to recall him putting this much time and TAXPAYER money into investigating Bush. Did he ever bring to light who lied and faked the intelligence for the Iraq war. Okay, I’ll say it. Mr. Issa believes it was a GRAVE injustice to (W) America for a NEGRO to be elected to the WHITE House.

  • imboadicea

    Issa represents a safe republican district which includes Orange County and San Diego County. There are lots of progressive who live in his district, but not enough to vote him out of office, yet.

  • LarryBassett

    The predictable conclusion, employing the straw-man of racial animus, is a worn out, pathetic, smoke screen excuse for every legitimate concern expressed regarding policies and actions taken by this administration.
    It is the business of, the job of congress to exercise oversight and ask questions to assure compliance with law and proper use of taxpayer provided moneys. It is the business of every citizen to ask questions and their right to do so publicly without being cowed into silence by the BS accusation of racism. The excesses and wrongdoings of this administration would still be excesses and wrongdoings if Obama was of pure white heritage and would demand exposure for what they are.
    Testimony before congress is sworn testimony where false testimony can and has resulted in criminal charges. I White House briefing has no risk of such penalties for false testimony. The repeated false statements made by this president and others within his administration are reason enough to demand and require sworn testimony.
    If the self-proclaimed “most transparent administration ever”… that’s a laugh… has nothing to hide, why object to having one of its own testify publicly, before Congress, under oath?
    Are you suggesting that Obama and his administration should be exempt from oversight BECAUSE he is part black.

  • brunsk42

    He didn’t hold his position for the other presidents you rattled off. But that doesn’t matter in your mind..

  • Stick

    Sworn testimony is a sobering thing.

  • mikem42

    Issa will soon be gone, and will go down in history as possibly the worst chairman of the oversight committee EVER. He does nothing progressive for his constituents or the country at large. He has the nerve to say he is questioning the use of taxpayer money. Short of war, no one has wasted more taxpayer money than he has on his incessant investigations of non scandals. He is batting zero so far in all his follies, and just trying anything to find one, little misstep by the current administration. He should look into a lot of things done or not done by his own members.

  • 57nomad


    “the subpoena threatened to impinge on the Executive Branch’s prerogatives”

    What?!?!? Obama has told the congress, explicitly, that he intends to void the separation of powers and make laws himself, like any run of the mill tyrant. Now this flunky has the unmitigated gall to accuse the House of stepping on the president’s toes? Wow!

  • 57nomad

    If by ‘yet’ you mean during the interglacial period you might be on to something. I live in Issa’s district and it is composed of patriotic Americans. We love him.

  • Dan Hossley

    They need to get him under oath. If there is one thing we’ve learned in the last couple of years, it’s that the Obama administration will lie to just about everyone, on just about anything.

  • Jack Kelly

    Right and all the rest of us live in”unPatriotic” areas. Putz.

  • Jack Kelly

    Do you sleep with Limbaugh? Nothing you said has any basis in reality.

  • Jack Kelly

    Just ask Bush/Cheney when the refused to testify under oath after the 9/11 attack. In fact they also refused to testify separately, instead they did testify together and no one was allowed to take notes.

    Sworn Testimony is a sobering thing indeed.

  • Dan Hossley

    Hilarious comment. HIstory doesn’t really record chairman of government oversight committees. I’m thinking, but no names actually spring to mind of “great chairmen” of this particular committee. Also, I think he would take your comment that he hasn’t done anything “progressive” as a complement. Are you sure you intended it that way?

  • Layla

    Ah, the tolerant left… PUTZ.

  • mikem42

    Learn how to spell, then get back to me. You didn’t address the crux of my post. And history is just that; I didn’t mean like statistics kept in baseball. History is always there, and he will be remembered as possible the worst of all time. And of course, your aversion to anything progressive tells me all I need to know about you. It isn’t a bad word to normal people.

  • Raylusk

    Issa needs to attend the briefings. If it’s one thing we learned is that Issa will make accusation after accusation with absolutley no evidence. Americans are sick and tired of politicians complaining about not being informed and then skipping out on briefings where they can get the information they need.

  • Raylusk

    Obama has not said he intends to make laws himself. He has said he intends to run his administration in ways that benefit more than just the wealthy while complying with the law.

  • Raylusk

    57 implied that others weren’t patriotic Americans.

  • Raylusk

    I know a lot of people that live in Orange County and they don’t love Issa. These are firefighters and police officers. About as patriotic as you can get. Fact is Issa makes accusations that are not backed up by fact. When he is conducting oversight he should remain neutral but because he cares more about politics then the truth he makes wild accusations that he can never back up with facts. You know like the stand down order in Benghazi that facts show was never given. So if you love this guy it’s because you are partisan not because you are patriotic.

  • Dan Hossley

    Your post had a crux?

  • Howienica

    “progressive” is a curse word to normal people.

  • Crystallite

    I’m not a lawyer, but since this doesn’t have anything to do with National Security (at least, not that we know of), why would Simas be immune from testifying under oath? Obviously, they have something to hide. Perhaps there is money coming not only from taxpayers, but also from sources abroad (both of which are illegal) and that’s what they’re attempting to sweep under the rug.

  • Mary Lamb Pientka

    David Simas SHOULD have attended!

  • 57nomad

    I did nothing of the kind. The only inference to be drawn here is that you don’t think progressives are patriotic. That’s your burden to carry, dumbass.

  • 57nomad

    What he said was he was going to act on his own. The president does not make laws. That power is belongs to the congress. Obama does nothing BUT benefit his wealthy friends and campaign contributors. You must be joking.

  • 57nomad

    Keep your fantasies to yourself. No one likes an exhibitionist.

  • Truth Happens

    Even the best dodgers get hit.

  • Johnny Johnson

    What we should do, and Reagan encouraged this, is shrink the size of government.

  • Packard27

    And the Nixonian stonewall goes on.

    Yes, you can take the boy out of Chicago, but you can never take the Chicago out of the boy…ehh?

  • foramerica

    I would think by now you would be tired of drinking the koolaid. Progressive is a very dirty word now. We have a government full of liars (aka predominately liberals) and you can’t see it or refuse to even entertain the thought. You, sir, are part of the problem.

  • Jack

    More Obama criminals.

  • Jack

    Is there one single person working in the Obama administration who is NOT a criminal? I bet this guy’s hard drive crashed and has already been recycled.

  • Prismatic

    Since they took Benghazi away from him, Issa has little left with which to garner attention from the media. That’s all that’s going on here. Congress cannot compel testimony from the President or his advisors—a longstanding precedent.

  • mikem42

    14% and falling. idgit.

  • Layla

    This Congress is going to have to physically remove this president from office.

  • Layla

    We have EYES, Ray. Our borders are wide open. The President changes the terms of Obamacare daily.

    We have a dictator in the White House.

  • Layla

    You need to get out of Washington if you think Progressive isn’t a bad word…

  • mikem42

    Washington? Delaware born and raised. Went to school and played sports with our current V.P., and learned from his folks that taking care of others, those who have less than us was the way to live ones life. I feel for those who can’t relate to the real people of this country, and are not willing to help them. Read the Beatitudes.

  • Jack Kelly

    Are you the top or the bottom?

  • Jack Kelly

    You validate my point.

  • Jack Kelly

    For what high crime or misdemeanor? Don’t pull anything you think out of your rectal cavity either. Cite a law.

  • 57nomad

    See what I mean; disgusting.

  • 57nomad

    It doesn’t have to be a law. Misdemeanor, in this case, means conduct detrimental to the office or country. Or it could mean the misuse of the IRS which would be a crime.

  • Rose Glassez

    While democratic processes rely on majority opinion, this does not imply that today’s majority view will also be tomorrow’s majority view.

  • Jack Kelly

    That is your imagination working as he has already been cleared of knowledge of the IRS inquiries and the IRS inquiries have not even been proven to be anything yet.

  • Jack Kelly

    Yes you are.

  • Oscar Mysterious

    Despite the claims of those promoting despotism in democracy’s name, we must realize that only a combination of knowledge, advertisement, and fortitude will be enough to preserve morality, liberty, and prosperity.

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