July 17, 2014

Rep. Darrell Issa with his latest bit of political grandstanding. To no one's surprise, he's found another reason to issue "his 100th subpoena since becoming chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform committee in 2011," and as Dana Milbank explained, "all of them without a committee vote and the vast majority without the concurrence of the committee’s ranking Democrat.":

The “unilateral subpoenas,” as they are known, are a departure from the way the committee has conducted its investigations for decades and an echo of the late Clinton years, when conspiracy-minded Chairman Dan Burton fired off more than 1,000 subpoenas (including one to the wrong man because of mistaken identity) and established his investigative bona fides by shooting a melon to reenact the death of Clinton friend Vince Foster.

The careless use of the subpoena — the power to compel a witness’s appearance or the production of documents — has discredited Issa’s chairmanship by politicizing his probes from the start. His unilateral style has also been a leading contributor to the overall toxicity in politics by turning his committee into a forum for partisan clashes over Benghazi, Libya, the Internal Revenue Service and Eric Holder’s Justice Department.

The latest showdown will come Wednesday: Senior White House official David Simas has been ordered by Issa, under a unilateral subpoena, to testify about political activities Issa alleged are illegal.

His cohort Jonathan Capehart has more: Darrell Issa cuts bait at Obama fishing expedition:

Oh, this is good. So, you know how Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) didn’t bother to show up for a briefing yesterday with White House staff to discuss his subpoena to compel the testimony of the head of its Office of Political Strategy and Outreach (OPSO)? Well, today, the chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform committee scuttled the fishing expedition moments after he was shamed by ranking member Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) but before an independent witness was set to testify there were no fish.

“We do not simply haul in one of the president’s top advisers at will,” Cummings said in his opening statement, “There must be a valid reason, a predicate, a justification, some evidence that this official engaged in some type of inappropriate activity. The foundation simply does not exist here.” Then, in a ghost-of-Christmas-past moment, Cummings played video from 2011 of Issa promising to seek the committee’s guidance before issuing the kind of subpoena he did for the 99th time last week.

“If we cannot come to an agreement, a vote of the Committee may very well be the most legitimate way to resolve a difference of opinion between us,” Issa said then. How refreshing. Pity he never followed through on it. What made Issa’s subpoena of OPSO chief David Simas so egregious is that not only is it constitutionally questionable to compel a presidential adviser to testify before a congressional committee, but also Issa failed to articulate a single allegation against Simas or OPSO.

And as Capehart and Jennifer at the HuffPo explained, Issa pulled another one of his stunts at the hearing this Wednesday: Darrell Issa Abruptly Ends Hearing Before Witness Can Debunk His White House Attacks:

Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, seemed to catch everyone off guard Wednesday when he suddenly pulled the plug on his committee hearing before witnesses could even testify.

Issa read his opening statement for the hearing on potential abuses of taxpayer funds by the White House's new political office, and let his Democratic counterpart, Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), read his statement before declaring the hearing over. Two witnesses who came prepared to testify were dismissed. A source who was in the hearing said one of Issa's witnesses, Carolyn Lerner, the director of the independent Office of Special Counsel, appeared to leave angrily.

"She didn't say a single thing," said this source, who requested anonymity. "She literally just left the hearing room."

So what happened?

A Cummings aide said he had no warning the hearing would be cut off before anyone could testify, and said there was no reason for doing so.

A request for comment from Issa's office was not returned. [...]

Lerner's shop is charged with enforcing the federal Hatch Act's prohibitions against federal employees engaging in political activity, which makes her the go-to person in the event of allegations of wrongdoing by the White House political office. She was prepared to tell the committee she did her homework and found nothing wrong.

Per her prepared remarks:

OSC received copies of correspondence between Chairman Issa and the White House concerning the establishment of the Office of Political Strategy and Outreach (OPSO). The White House did not consult with OSC about establishing the OPSO. However, based on our review of the White House correspondence to the Committee, it appears that the White House adhered to OSC guidance in determining the scope of activity for the office. To the extent that OPSO’s activities are limited to those described in the White House correspondence, OPSO appears to be operating in a manner that is consistent with Hatch Act restrictions.

It's unclear whether Issa will reschedule the hearing and allow the witnesses -- the other was Scott Coffina, a former associate counsel to President George W. Bush -- to testify. It's also unclear whether Issa is prepared to go to court over his subpoena being defied.

Of course none of that was mentioned during his interview with Megyn Kelly above. He was too busy pretending that it's somehow breaking news that he's got some audio of former Labor Secretary Hilda Solis, that proved nothing in and of itself, supposedly violating the Hatch Act back in 2012. The penalty for that is removal from office and she's already long gone, so I'm not sure what he thinks the Justice Department is going to do about it now. As the LA Times reported, it could become an issue if she was being considered for another job in the executive branch of the federal government.

And as the HuffPo also reported, Issa is using this as an excuse for another contempt vote. Oh joy: Darrell Issa Cites House Contempt Vote He Opposed To Justify Holding Another Contempt Vote:

Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) is mulling holding a White House official in contempt of Congress for refusing to comply with a subpoena, and he's pointing to a past case as justification for such a move: the 2008 House contempt vote for Harriet Miers, then-President George W. Bush's counsel.

But a look back at Issa's role in Miers' contempt vote shows that he opposed that effort every step of the way. Read on...


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