WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The White House said on Tuesday that political adviser David Simas would not answer a subpoena to appear on Wednesday before a congressional oversight committee, saying he was immune from being compelled to testify.
Republican Representative Darrell Issa (pictured above), chairman of the House of Representatives’ Oversight and Government Reform Committee, subpoenaed Simas last week to testify about how his office complies with the Hatch Act, a law that forbids most federal government employees from engaging in partisan political activity.
Simas is director of the White House Office of Political Strategy and Outreach. Recent presidents, both Democratic and Republican, have all had at least one top political adviser in a position similar to that of Simas.
The Obama administration had contested the subpoena, with White House counsel Neil Eggleston writing to Issa on Monday that it was “precipitate and surprising in light of our clear willingness to work with you to meet your informational needs.”
In a follow-up letter to Issa on Tuesday, Eggleston wrote that the committee’s effort to compel Simas’s testimony threatened the executive branch’s long-standing interest in preserving the president’s independence and autonomy “as well as his ability to obtain candid advice and counsel to aid him in the discharge of his constitutional duties.”
“In light of those principles … Mr. Simas is immune from congressional compulsion to testify on matters relating to his official duties and will not appear at the July 16, 2014 hearing,” the letter added.
Eggleston also said that Issa had made no effort to justify his “extraordinary demand that one of the president’s immediate advisers testify at a committee hearing.”
(Reporting by Jeff Mason, Steve Holland and Peter Cooney; Editing by Ken Wills)
Taliban release two Western hostages in Afghanistan
The Taliban handed two Western hostages over to US forces in southern Afghanistan Tuesday, three years after they were abducted, in a swap for three high-ranking insurgent prisoners that could boost peace talks.
The exchange of American Kevin King and Australian Timothy Weeks for the militants -- including Anas Haqqani, brother to the Taliban's deputy leader -- was welcomed by both the United States and the insurgents.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the releases "give us hope for the success of intra-Afghan peace negotiations, which the United States stands ready to support."
President Volodymyr Zelensky says Ukraine getting ‘tired’ of Trump scandal
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said on Tuesday that his country is "tired" of questions related to the Trump scandal, amid a critical week of public impeachment hearings in Washington.
"We have our country, we have our independence, we have our own problems," he complained after a press conference in Kiev with visiting Czech prime minister Andrej Babis.
Hearings began last week in Washington into whether US President Donald Trump ordered to freeze US military aid to Ukraine in an effort to get Kiev to launch investigations against potential 2020 election rival Joe Biden and his son Hunter.
Audience breaks into applause as Vindman explains why he’s not afraid of testifying against Trump
Republican efforts to undermine Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman apparently failed to persuade the audience in the impeachment hearing room.
The National Security Council staffer was showered with applause after reading the closing portions of his opening statement for a second time at the request of Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney (D-NY).
"Can you read the last paragraph for me again, the second-to-last one, can you read that again for me?" Maloney said. "I think the American public deserves to have it again."
Vindman agreed, and said his father would probably appreciate that.
"Dad, my sitting here today in the U.S. Capitol, talking to our elected officials, is proof that you made the right decision 40 years ago to leave the Soviet Union and come here to the United States of America in search of a better life for our family," Vindman said. "Do not worry, I'll be fine for telling the truth."