According to Roll Call, the White House is asserting immunity from Congressional process for David Simas, Director of the white House Office of Political Strategy and Outreach.
In a letter from White House Counsel W. Neil Eggleston, the White House asserted Congress does not have the power to compel Simas to testify, in a showdown between two of the three branches of government.
Eggleston cited a new legal opinion from the Office of Legal Counsel in the Department of Justice and past precedent of presidents asserting immunity for their top advisers from congressional subpoena.
“The Executive Branch’s longstanding position, reaffirmed by numerous Administrations of both political parties, is that the President’s immediate advisers are absolutely immune from the congressional testimonial process,” the OLC wrote. “This immunity is rooted in the constitutional separation of powers, and in the immunity of the President himself from congressional compulsion to testify.”
The OLC additionally offered precedents going back at least to Harry Truman of close Presidential advisers being immune from testifying before the Congress. This fight has been ongoing for some months now, and involves Issa trying to determine just what Simas and company are doing on taxpayer money; and if, perhaps, such activities might be in violation of the Hatch Act. Typically, the White House has not been forthcoming, refusing to make available their people to testify or complying with documentary evidence requests. It is equally true, as Politico observes, White House advisers are not completely immune from testifying before Congress; witness Committee on the Judiciary v. Miers.
So, we’ll see where this goes. Unquestionably, it would be an easier road with a competent and honest Attorney General, but that’s wishful thinking. Even so, it is not impossible the testimony will be compelled. One thing’s certain: the Obama administration could not make mock more thoroughly of their claim to be the most transparent administration in history. Secrecy is their lifeblood. And why, if they were not so constantly up to things of which the People would not approve?