WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. lawmakers have backed off on plans to hold White House senior adviser Kellyanne Conway in contempt of Congress for defying a subpoena last week as a string of current and former Trump officials spurn congressional oversight.
Conway, Republican President Donald Trump’s former campaign manager, had failed to appear at a July 15 congressional hearing relating to allegations she violated laws limiting federal employees’ political activity.
The U.S. House of Representatives’ Oversight Committee, led by Democrats, had subpoenaed Conway to compel her testimony after she earlier declined to appear voluntarily. But a vote to hold her in contempt on Thursday was postponed, the committee said late on Wednesday.
Last month, a U.S. government watchdog agency recommended Conway be fired for repeatedly violating the Hatch Act by disparaging Democratic presidential candidates during television interviews and on social media in her official White House capacity.
Trump has vowed to fight any congressional oversight of his administration, and numerous other officials — including Attorney General William Barr, U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, and former White House counsel Don McGahn — have also refused to appear.
Democrats, who won control of the House of Representatives in the 2018 midterm election, have vowed to examine Trump and his policies, as well as his and family’s business holdings.
One of the probes into White House officials’ use of personal email and texts to conduct official government business began during Republicans’ previous control of the House. The Oversight panel on Thursday voted to subpoena records in that investigation.
House Democrats are also continuing investigations into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election and alleged obstruction of justice by Trump and his associates following the conclusion of U.S. Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation. Court action, including over McGahn, is expected as soon as Thursday or Friday.
If the oversight panel had held Conway in contempt on Thursday, the matter would then have moved to the full House to consider.
The House similarly has voted to hold Barr and Ross in contempt over a dispute involving the U.S. 2020 Census, but the U.S. Justice Department this week said it would not pursue criminal charges against the two men.
(Additional reporting by Jan Wolfe; Writing by Susan Heavey; Editing by Bernadette Baum and Tom Brown)