Issa Defends Subpoenas, Provides Timeline of Negotiations with DHS

Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) is jabbing back at criticism from Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), the ranking Democrat on the Oversight and Government Reform Committee, that the first three subpoenas Issa sent out this Congress were “rushed” and “unilateral” and show a scatter-shot approach to investigating aimed at making headlines rather than improving government.

Cummings sent Issa a letter Wednesday accusing him of misusing the committee and failing to adequately consult Democrats before sending out three subpoenas in the last week, one to Bank of America looking for documents related to Countrywide’s infamous VIP mortgage program, and two to Department of Homeland Security officials seeking depositions for the committee’s investigation into whether DHS politicized FOIA requests.

Issa spokesman Kurt Bardella sent a lengthy response to Cummings’ complaints and a detailed timeline, beginning with this quote: “Another day, another complaint and more righteous indignation. What else is new?”Cummings and other Democrats, Bardella said, should give Issa credit for investigating Countrywide’s VIP program, which was active during the time Republicans controlled the majority.

“The American people have a right to know the full size and scope of Countrywide’s VIP program,” he said. “How else will we be able to know the true measure of this program’s impact if we don’t know who was participating in it. … If Elijah Cummings can’t even accept oversight that focuses on a time when Republicans were in charge, what exactly is he willing to do oversight of?”

Bardella also said the DHS subpoenas were fully justified.

“Chairman Issa issued the subpoenas for depositions so that the investigation could continue moving forward and we are expecting DHS to fully cooperate with the Committee,” he said.

The detailed timeline shows the investigation beginning when the Associated Press ran the first story of evidence of the DHS politicizing the FOIA process back in July with the first request for documents occurring Jan. 14. Since then, Issa’s staff appears to have gone back and forth with DHS in negotiations over document and interview requests.

But Issa readily admits he didn’t include Cummings in discussions about the prospect of subpoenas until Feb. 16, six days before he issued the subpoenas.

On Feb. 22, Bardella says DHS had refused the committee’s request for transcribed interviews and said it was only willing to proceed with briefings. Issa then issued the subpoenas and calls Cummings to tell him about it.