Darrell Issa (R-CA) in Washington on June 28, 2013.
Jim Lo Scalzo/EPA

Issa demands answers, but skips briefing

In November 2012, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) demanded information on Benghazi, then skipped the classified briefing on Benghazi. In June 2013, Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.) demanded information on NSA surveillance, but skipped classified briefings on the program.
 
In October 2013, House Republicans demanded a briefing from the White House on the rollout of the Affordable Care Act, then skipped the White House briefing they requested. In June 2014, Senate Republicans demanded a information on Bowe Bergdahl’s release, but skipped the classified briefing on Bowe Bergdahl’s release.
 
All of which leads us to yesterday, when House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) demanded information from the White House Office of Political Strategy and Outreach, which the far-right lawmaker suspects of wrongdoing. Administration officials went to Capitol Hill yesterday to answer questions and provide a detailed account of the office’s actions.
 
Care to guess who skipped the Q&A?
“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.
The congressman’s staff hasn’t explained his decision to skip the briefing, which included the answers to questions Issa claims to want so desperately.
 
But making matters worse, Issa refused to drop the reckless subpoena of White House political adviser David Simas, even after administration officials answered literally every question Issa’s aides had.
 
And so the White House has decided to stop playing along with the congressman’s game.
The White House has defied a subpoena from the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, refusing to make a top political adviser to President Obama available for testimony on Wednesday.
 
U.S. Special Counsel Carolyn Lerner and Scott Coffina, who served as a White House attorney during the George W. Bush administration, are still expected to appear at the hearing. Lerner’s agency, the Office of Special Counsel, enforces the Hatch Act, a statute that governs the political activities of federal employees.
 
The House oversight committee, chaired by Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), is examining the White House Office of Political Strategy and Outreach, a long-controversial department led by David Simas. Republicans on the panel plan to question whether the administration has used the department to raise campaign funds and support candidates.
There is literally nothing to suggest the administration has used the department to raise campaign funds and support candidates.
 
White House counsel Neil Eggleston explained in a letter to Issa yesterday that the subpoena for Simas’ testimony “threatens longstanding interests of the executive branch 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 duties.”
 
Keep in mind, Issa has offered absolutely no evidence to suggest Simas violated the Hatch Act. Indeed, Issa hasn’t even made any specific allegations against the White House Office of Political Strategy and Outreach. Rather, the Oversight Committee chairman appears to have issued a subpoena – without a committee vote, without consultation with the committee’s ranking member – because he’s bored and his other attempts to manufacture assorted “scandals” didn’t work out.
 
Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Calif.), the ranking member on the Oversight Committee, said, “It’s bad enough that Chairman Issa issued a unilateral subpoena to a senior advisor to the President with absolutely no debate or vote by the Committee, but in this case, there is no evidence whatsoever to suggest that Mr. Simas or anyone on his staff did anything wrong.  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.”
 
Dana Milbank added this morning, “This is not what the oversight committee was supposed to be.”
 
If propriety matters, there should probably be a very serious conversation right now about stripping Issa of his committee chairmanship. His unilateral “subpoena binge” is evidence of a lawmaker who seems to have lost control.
 

Darrell Issa and White House

Issa demands answers, but skips briefing