Trump aide Conway will not testify before Congress: White House

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Donald Trump’s senior adviser Kellyanne Conway will not testify before the House of Representatives Oversight Committee this week on her alleged violations of the Hatch Act, the White House told the panel’s chairman on Monday.

“In accordance with long-standing precedent, we respectfully decline the invitation to make Ms. Conway available for testimony before the Committee,” White House legal counsel Pat Cipollone told Democratic Representative Elijah Cummings in a letter.

The 1939 Hatch Act prohibits executive branch employees from engaging in some political activities.

The Oversight Committee has said it would vote on a potential subpoena if Conway does not testify before lawmakers on Wednesday.

The hearing was scheduled after the Office of Special Counsel, a 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.

Trump has said he would not fire Conway, 52, a former political pollster who became Trump’s campaign manager in 2016 and the first woman to oversee a winning U.S. presidential campaign.

If Conway does not testify at the hearing, the Oversight Committee plans to hold a business meeting to consider authorizing a subpoena for the White House adviser for “testimony in connection with her failure to comply with the Hatch Act and ethics laws,” Cummings wrote in a letter to committee members dated Friday.

House Democrats have been frustrated by the Trump administration’s stonewalling of their efforts to hold senior officials to account. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, Attorney General William Barr and other officials have defied subpoena requests from Democratic-led House panels in recent months.

Reporting by Steve Holland; Writing by Mohammad Zargham; Editing by Peter Cooney