Kellyanne Conway, campaign manager for Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, right, and press secretary Hope Hicks watch during a campaign rally on Oct. 14, 2016, in Charlotte, N.C.
Photo by Evan Vucci/AP

Following ethics violation, White House’s Conway faces subpoena


The Office of Special Counsel – not to be confused with Robert Mueller and the special counsel’s office – recently investigated Kellyanne Conway’s violations of a federal ethics law called the Hatch Act. The White House aide did not fare well: the OSC determined that Conway is a “repeat offender” of the law who deserves to be fired.

The OSC added in its official report, “Ms. Conway’s violations, if left unpunished, would send a message to all federal employees that they need not abide by the Hatch Act’s restrictions. Her actions thus erode the principal foundation of our democratic system – the rule of law.”

For House Democrats, this seemed like a development worthy of oversight scrutiny, all of which led to yesterday’s subpoena.

The House Oversight Committee on Wednesday approved a subpoena to force White House counselor Kellyanne Conway to appear before the panel as it looks into allegations that she repeatedly violated a federal law that limits political activity by government workers.

Conway did not show up at a hearing Wednesday, after the White House said Monday it would not allow her to appear. The Democratic-led panel voted 25-16 to issue a subpoena.

Rep. Justin Amash (R-Mich.), the only congressional Republican to endorse Donald Trump’s impeachment, voted with Democrats in support of the subpoena.

But before House lawmakers voted on the subpoena, they heard from the man who leads the Office of Special Counsel: Henry Kerner, a Trump nominee who was confirmed by the Republican-led Senate in a voice vote.

This went surprisingly poorly.

For those unfamiliar with Kerner, he seems like the kind of guy whom GOP lawmakers would reflexively adore. He is, after all, a longtime Republican, Federalist Society member, former clerk for a Republican-appointed judge, and a man who took all kinds of Obama-era conspiracy theories – remember the IRS story? – quite seriously in his capacity as a former prosecutor who worked for the GOP-led Oversight Committee after the 2010 midterms.

But as Dana Milbank reported, now that Kerner expects Kellyanne Conway to honor federal ethics laws, Republicans have turned on him with a vengeance.

On Wednesday, with Kerner at the witness table, congressional Republicans attacked his integrity and ethics, and accused the stalwart conservative of carrying water for progressive groups. […]

The ferocity of the smear against a fellow conservative was matched only by the irrationality of it. Kerner told lawmakers he had “no choice” but to recommend that Conway be dismissed because of her “clear, repeated and knowing violations of the Hatch Act,” which bars federal employees from using their offices for political purposes. Senior officials in the Obama administration had committed only a couple of Hatch Act violations during the entire eight years of the administration, Kerner testified, but Conway alone had already committed 13.

Milbank added, “Such is the pull of partisan tribalism that, given the choice between defending the law and defending a Trump mouthpiece, Republican lawmakers chose the latter.”

If yesterday’s hearing was any indication, if carrying water for Trump means Republicans have to savage one of their own, so be it.