Issa Ramps Up "Subpoena Binge"
Washington, DC —On Friday afternoon, Rep. Darrell E. Issa, Chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, disregarded serious concerns raised in a detailed letter from the Committee’s Ranking Democrat, Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, and issued two new unilateral subpoenas, bringing his total to 98 subpoenas since he became Chairman three and a half years ago.
As of Friday morning, Issa had issued 96 subpoenas without any debate or a vote of the Committee—more than all three previous committee chairmen combined—in less than half the time. In the eight years from 2003 to 2010, former Republican and Democratic Chairmen Tom Davis, Henry A. Waxman, and Edolphus Towns issued a combined total of 78 subpoenas. With only rare exceptions, they issued all of their subpoenas with the concurrence of the Ranking Member or a vote of the Committee.
Issa’s unilateral subpoena activity “spiked sharply after the House established the Benghazi Select Committee in May and eliminated the Oversight Committee’s ability to conduct that investigation.” In June alone, Issa issued 11 subpoenas, more than any previous month in the 113th Congress.
Cummings’ letter was prompted after Republican staff notified Cummings’ office that Issa was planning to issue yet another unilateral subpoena to the White House to compel hearing testimony this Wednesday regarding the federal Hatch Act from David Simas, Assistant to the President and the Director of the Office of Political Strategy and Outreach (OSPO), despite the fact that the Committee has identified no evidence of inappropriate activity by Simas or the office he directs. Cummings wrote:
“Over the past several weeks—ever since House Speaker John Boehner took the Benghazi investigation away from the Oversight Committee and transferred it to the new Select Committee—you have been engaged in a subpoena binge, issuing more unilateral subpoenas than at any point during your tenure, and all with no debate or votes by our Committee.”
Cummings requested that Issa not issue the subpoena or, if he disagreed with Cummings, submit his proposal to the Committee for debate and a vote. In response, Issa disregarded Cummings’ letter and issued the subpoena unilaterally anyway—his 97th as Chairman—without responding to Cummings’ letter or scheduling a Committee vote.
Today, the White House Counsel sent a letter responding to Issa’s subpoena, noting that the Committee has not identified “any evidence that OPSO has violated the Hatch Act.” The letter urged Issa to withdraw the subpoena, which it called “surprising in light of our clear willingness to work with you.” The letter also offered to provide a briefing to answer remaining questions about how the office has complied with federal law.
In his letter to Issa, Cummings wrote:
“Issuing a congressional subpoena to a senior advisor to the President is not an action to be taken unilaterally, with no debate, and without adequate foundation. In the case of Mr. Simas, you have not demonstrated any valid justification for this extreme action. As a result, it appears that this subpoena is the latest in a string of misguided and increasingly desperate efforts to retain the spotlight while lobbing unsubstantiated attacks against the White House.”
Shortly after Issa issued this subpoena on Friday, he issued another unilateral subpoena to depose a mid-level career employee in the Counsel’s Office of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) about Lois Lerner’s hard drive crash. Issa also issued this subpoena—his 98th as Chairman—without any debate or a vote of the Committee.
IRS Commissioner John Koskinen sent a letter on Friday raising concerns that Committee interviews could interfere with the ongoing investigation being conducted by the Treasury Inspector General of Tax Administration (TIGTA) at the request of the House Ways and Means Committee:
“TIGTA has asked that we make its investigation a priority. In part, this means allowing TIGTA’s investigators the chance to gather information and interview witnesses before the IRS or others separately gather such information or interview these witnesses. As I have testified, we will honor this request. Consequently, since we expect that TIGTA will want to interview the people you requested as part of its investigation, I believe we should wait until the completion of TIGTA’s investigation before deciding on appropriate next steps and what interviews may be necessary…Compelling IRS employees to appear for transcribed interviews while a TIGTA investigation, requested by another Congressional committee, is ongoing seems inconsistent with this view.”
It is unclear how Issa plans to respond to these concerns.
To read Cummings’ letter to Issa, click here.
To read the White House Counsel’s letter to Issa, click here.
To read the IRS Commissioner’s letter to Issa, click here.