Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez attacked Donald Trump and Kellyanne Conway over alleged ethics violations Wednesday as Democrats voted to subpoena the White House counselor for refusing to turn up to be questioned on allegedly breaking the Hatch Act.
The firebrand Democrat said that Trump wanted the Central Park Five ‘executed’ but would not even ‘issue a slap on the wrist’ for Conway, who has been accused of repeatedly breaking the law banning government employees from endorsing political candidates.
The House Oversight committee on Wednesday voted to subpoena testimony from Conway after she failed to appear at a hearing about her alleged violations of the law that limits federal employees’ political activity.
The committee voted 25-to-16 to haul her before the panel.
All the Democrats on the committee and Republican Congressman Justin Amash, who has called for impeachment proceedings to being against President Donald Trump, voted to subpoena her.
Kellyanne Conway fired back at House Democrats who threatened to subpoena her if she doesn’t appear before the House Oversight committee on Wednesday
Attack: Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez said Trump wanted the Central Park Five executed for a crime they didn’t commit but won’t give Kellyanne Conway a ‘slap on the wrist’ for repeated violations of ethics laws
Empty chair: Kellyanne Conway’s place in front of the committee was unfilled
Oversight Chairman Elijah Cummings holding a hearing on the recommendation of an independent watchdog agency to fire Kellyanne Conway for violating the Hatch Act
Conway was with President Trump Wednesday morning. She was seen accompanying him to his speech at the Faith & Freedom Coalition but had yet to react publicly to the move.
She joins a growing list of subpoenaed White House officials and Trump appointees.
The Office of Special Counsel, an independent U.S. government watchdog agency, earlier this month recommended Conway be fired for repeatedly violating the Hatch Act by disparaging Democratic presidential candidates while speaking in her official capacity during television interviews and on social media.
Special Counsel Henry Kerner became a star witness for Democrats Wednesday when he testified Conway was out of line with her political comments often made from the White House lawn during her TV appearances.
‘Ms. Conway’s egregious and repeated Hatch Act violations, combined with her unrepentant attitude, are unacceptable from any federal employee, let along one in such a prominent position,’ Kerner told the panel. ‘Her conduct hurts both federal employees, who may believe that senior officials can act with complete disregard for the Hatch Act, and the American people, who may question the nonpartisan operation of their government.’
The White House has asserted that Conway did not need to testify to the committee.
White House lawyers had argued Conway, as a counselor to the president, does not have to appear before the House Oversight and Reform Committee, arguing that in accordance with long-standing precedent, staff in the West Wing do not testify before Congress.
Henry Kerner, special counsel in the Office of Special Counsel, is sworn in next to the empty seat of White House counselor Kellyanne Conway at the Oversight hearing
Democrats argue the White House cannot claim executive privilege or immunity for Conway because they are looking at her personal actions and not her West Wing duties.
‘This is about right and wrong. This is about the core principle of our precious democracy — that nobody, not one person, nobody in this country is above the law,’ Oversight Chairman Elijah Cummings said in his opening statement. ‘Contrary to claims by Ms. Conway and President Trump, this is not a conspiracy to silence her or restrict her First Amendment rights. This is an effort to enforce federal law.’
Ocasio-Cortez – who was marking a year since being propelled onto the national political stage by her upset win in the Democratic primary for the seat she now holds – attacked Conway for ignoring the Hatch Act.
She compared Conway’s situation to the Central Park Five ’20 years ago.’ The five men were convicted of the rape and attempted murder of the Central Park jogger in 1989, then cleared in 2001.
Flashback: How Trump demanded the death penalty for the Central Park Five in 1989
After their arrest Trump, then a real estate mogul, used a full-page advertisement in the New York Times to call for the death penalty in the case. That was 30, not 20 years, ago. The case has come into renewed focus because of Netflix’s dramatic adaptation of the case, When They See Us.
‘They believe that the rule of law only belongs to and applies to some people and not others,’ she said.
‘Right here, now, we’re about 20 years away from the Central Park Five, where the president put out a full-page ad demanding the death penalty for five black and brown boys – boys, they were not yet 18 years old – demanding the death penalty for something they were accused of and innocent of.
‘Here we have documented evidence, multiple times, of violation of the same law, and he won’t even issue a slap on the wrist.
‘This is a pattern about some people being subject to rule of law and not others.’
Republicans on the panel defended Trump’s top aide, who was also his 2016 campaign manager.
‘The reason we’re here today is because Mr. Kerner got his feelings hurt,’ said Congressman Jim Jordan, a prominent alley of the president on Capitol Hill. ‘Mr. Kerner felt slighted. Ms. Conway didn’t pay enough attention to him and his office … You know why she didn’t? Because the allegations were ridiculous.’
‘This subpoena is nothing more than a political spectacle,’ argued Republican lawmaker Mark Meadows. ‘We have one standard for Kellyanne Conway and another standard for everybody else.’
Cummings asked Conway to appear before the committee to discuss the recommendation from the independent Office of Special Counsel that President Trump fire her for the Hatch Act violations.
Conway, in return, charged House Democrats with wanting to put a ‘big roll of masking tape’ over her mouth with their threat to subpoena her if she doesn’t appear.
‘They want to put a big roll of masking tape over my mouth,’ she charged Monday morning on ‘Fox & Friends,’ saying Democrats were angry at her role in electing Donald Trump as his 2016 campaign manager and her defense of him as president.
‘We think I would be first member of the West Wing to be hauled in front of Congress to talk about the Hatch Act,’ Conway told ‘Fox & Friends.’
‘They don’t like the fact I’m so effective,’ the White House counselor said of Democrats and argued they ‘want to chill free speech.’
She blasted the lawmakers as ‘a left-wing propaganda machine or provocateurs who are trying to weaponize the Hatch Act.
‘Even if the Hatch Act applies, our position is I haven’t violated it,’ she added.
The OSC is an independent federal investigative agency that is in charge of enforcing the Hatch Act and is run by Trump-appointee Henry Kerner.
Two weeks ago, the OSC said Conway ‘violated the Hatch At on numerous occasions by disparaging Democratic presidential candidates while speaking in her official capacity during television interviews and on social media.’
‘Given that Ms. Conway is a repeat offender and has shown disregard for the law, OSC recommends that she be removed from federal service,’ the OSC announced in a statement.
Kerner said the decision to fire or keep Conway was in President Trump’s hands.
‘We respect his decision and, of course, the president has any option he’d like—to reprimand or not to reprimand,’ Kerner told Fox News. ‘It is up to the president’s discretion and we respect that.’
Trump and Vice President Mike Pence are exempt from the Hatch Act but White House employees are not.
Cummings, the powerful chairman of the House Oversight and Reform Committee, said Trump should fire her.
‘Complying with the law is not optional. President Trump should terminate Ms. Conway’s employment immediately in light of these dozens of violations of federal law,’ he said in a statement after the OSC recommendation came out.
Last month, when Conway was criticizing former Vice President Joe Biden – who’s leading the field for the Democratic presidential nomination – for his Senate record, she brushed aside questions if she was violating the Hatch Act.
‘I’m going to talk about people’s records because I have the right to,’ she said.
When a reporter asked her about violating federal law, she responded: ‘Blah, blah, blah.’
‘If you’re trying to silence me through the Hatch Act, it’s not going to work,’ she said. ‘Let me know when the jail sentence starts.’
In March of last year, the OSC found Conway in violation of the Hatch Act when she promoted then-U.S. Senate hopeful Roy Moore’s Alabama special election campaign.
Trump has said he will not fire Conway, who is a frequent presence on television defending the president and knocking his political rivals.
‘No, I’m not going to fire her. I think she’s a tremendous person, tremendous spokesperson,’ the president told ‘Fox & Friends’ the day after the recommendation came out. ‘They have tried to take away her speech and I think you’re entitled to free speech in the country.’
The White House is also heavily defending Conway.
‘We ask that you withdraw and retract the report,’ wrote White House counsel Pat Cipollone in the administration’s response.