The House Oversight Committee today issued a subpoena to the White House for documents involving the White House political office, which reopened after two members of President Obama’s cabinet were found to have violated laws intended to separate taxpayer functions from partisan political efforts. The cabinet members were Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and Labor Department Secretary Hilda Solis.
The White House has asserted “absolute immunity” in prohibiting White House Office of Political Strategy and Outreach Director David Simas from appearing to testify before the Oversight Committee on two occasions. The Justice Department provided the opinion that Simas is “immune” from having to comply with the congressional subpoena to appear.
[ilink url=”http://www.justice.gov/sites/default/files/opinions/attachments/2014/07/25/simas-immunity-final_1.pdf”]Read the Justice Dept. opinion[/ilink]
In the letter today to White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough, Oversight Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) writes that the committee had worked to try to accommodate the White House’s concerns to no avail. [quote] “The accommodations process, which the White House itself characterized as constructive, has netted the Committee absolutely nothing.”–Rep. Issa [/quote]
The subpoena demands the following documents:
1. All documents and communications referring or relating to, or developed as part of, opening the White House Office of Political Strategy and Outreach (OPSO), including, but not limited to, any document or communication referring or relating to:
a. The purpose of OPSO;
b. OPSO’s predecessor, the White House Office of Political Affairs, which closed in January 2011;
c. Policies or guidelines for approval of travel;
d. Classification of travel as political, official, or both; and,
e. Criteria and processes for approval and classification determinations.
2. All documents and communications between and among OPSO employees referring or relating to President Obama’s June 26-27, 2014 trip to Minnesota and President Obama’s July 8-9, 2014 trip to Colorado, including, but not limited to, documents and communications referring or relating to the decision to add official events to the President’s itinerary.
3. All documents and communications to or from OPSO employees referring or relating to travel and/or political events involving Cabinet officials.