House GOPers Hammer Trump-Appointed Watchdog Over Conway Hatch Violations

WASHINGTON, DC - FEBRUARY 27: Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) (R) talks with Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC) during testimony by Michael Cohen, former attorney and fixer for President Donald Trump before the House Oversight Committe... WASHINGTON, DC - FEBRUARY 27: Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) (R) talks with Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC) during testimony by Michael Cohen, former attorney and fixer for President Donald Trump before the House Oversight Committee on Capitol Hill February 27, 2019 in Washington, DC. Last year Cohen was sentenced to three years in prison and ordered to pay a $50,000 fine for tax evasion, making false statements to a financial institution, unlawful excessive campaign contributions and lying to Congress as part of special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential elections. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images) MORE LESS
June 26, 2019 1:58 p.m.

House Republicans used White House counselor Kellyanne Conway’s no-show at a Hatch Act hearing as an opportunity to berate and question the credibility of the Trump-appointed watchdog who accused Conway of repeated violations of the law that bars federal employees from engaging in partisan political activity.

Ranking member of the House Oversight Committee Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) kicked things off before Office of Special Counsel chief Henry Kerner gave his opening testimony by arguing that the self-described conservative got his “feelings hurt” by Conway’s defiance during TV interviews.

“The reason we’re here today is because Mr. Kerner got his feelings hurt, he told that to the White House counsel’s office. He said he took great offense to Ms. Conway’s response and that’s why, that’s why he rushed the report and only gave Ms. Conway 16 hours to respond,” Jordan said. “Mr. Kerner felt slighted. Ms. Conway didn’t pay enough attention to him and his office. And you know why she didn’t? Because the allegation is ridiculous.”

Jordan argued that Conway — who the OSC claims violated the Hatch Act at least 11 times by advocating for things like Roy Moore’s Senate bid in 2017 or Ivanka Trump’s clothing line — has been targeted by Kerner because she is “good at what she does.”

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In a second round of questioning, Jordan tried to push Kerner to reveal who filed the initial complaint against Conway. Kerner responded that there were multiple instances and he couldn’t publicly disclose the information. Jordan divulged that at least one of the complaints was filed by CREW (Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington), a non-profit watchdog group. Jordan then listed the number of prominent Democrats who have served on CREW’s board of directors, adding fodder to other Republicans’ complaints that the hearing was a “political spectacle.”

Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC) struck a similar tone, arguing that Conway made Kerner “mad” and suggesting he was influenced by the media to conduct the investigation.

“Mr. Kerner, she made you mad, didn’t she? Kellyanne Conway made you mad,” he said. “You mentioned to numerous people that she poked you in the eye. So you don’t get mad when you get poked in the eye?”

“I would describe my reaction as being disappointed because—” Kerner said, as Meadows cut him off.

“Well I know you’re describing it that way, but you’ve talked to multiple people how you were mad and you felt pressured to put out this report, isn’t that true?”

“That’s not true, no,” Kerner said.

“You’re under oath Mr. Kerner, I want to caution you, you know the rules,” Meadows warned, before repeatedly asking Kerner if he talked to anyone in the media or on the left about his decision to look into Conway’s Hatch Act violations.

Rep. Paul Gosar (R-AZ) dove into a past debunked allegation against Kerner — that when he worked for Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) in 2013, he suggested harassing non-profit tea party with audits until they ran out of money — right off the bat.

“How can we take anything you say as objective when you yourself have a history of questionable ethics?” Gosar asked. Kerner explained that the quote was inaccurate and offered up a transcript of the conversation to discredit the allegation.

The Republican effort to discredit Kerner left Democrats perplexed, with many using their questioning time to inquire as to why their colleagues were attacking the Trump appointee.

Conway did not show up to the hearing on Wednesday, as the White House said she wouldn’t earlier this week, and the committee voted to subpoena the Trump adviser for her testimony.

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