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Posted at 4:25 p.m. on July 16, 2014
Updated 6:19 p.m. | White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest accused House Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Darrell Issa of engaging in “shenanigans” by subpoenaing top White House political adviser David Simas.
“This is I think more of the kind of shenanigans that Chairman Issa has been engaged in, and I think has undermined the credibility of his committee, unfortunately,” Earnest said. “Throwing out subpoenas like candy on Halloween has not served the functioning of that committee very well. It also has, I think, understandably caused a lot of people to — to tune him out. And I think that’s probably a source of some frustration to him.”
Earnest said the administration had answered the questions Issa’s staff posed in a briefing on Tuesday on why the White House believes the Office of Political Strategy and Outreach complies with the Hatch Act limiting the political activity of civil servants.
“Unfortunately, the chairman himself didn’t actually show up. … So that was something we certainly were disappointed by,” Earnest said.
Challenged that Issa’s staff has pointed out it was intended as a staff briefing, Earnest went further.
“It’s Chairman Issa’s name that’s on the door. It’s his name that was on the letterhead of the letters. I assume that he signed them.
“He professes when he’s talking to all of you that he has very serious concerns, but yet when it came time to actually talk about the substance of his baseless accusations, he wasn’t there to — to actually engage in that conversation.”
Earnest said there is still no evidence Issa has presented that the office headed by Simas is doing anything wrong, and he pointed out that Carolyn Lerner, the head of the Office of Special Counsel, submitted testimony to Issa’s committee Wednesday saying the White House appeared to be in compliance with the Hatch Act.
Issa recessed the hearing before Lerner could testify.
Earnest declined to respond to new audio released by Issa of former Labor Secretary Hilda Solis urging a subordinate to help with fundraising for Obama’s Organizing for America.
“Hi—this is Hilda Solis calling, um, just calling you off-the-record here—Wanted to ask you if you could, um, help us get folks organized to come to a fundraiser that we’re doing for Organizing for America for Obama campaign,” Solis said on the tape, according to a transcript provided by Issa’s office.
Issa during the hearing had pegged Solis and former Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius with violating the Hatch Act as context for examining the new political office.
Earnest also said the administration believes in oversight and would cooperate with congressional requests to answer questions.
Earlier Wednesday, Issa said the White House’s declaration of immunity from subpoena for Simas was “deeply disturbing.”