The backstory behind Issa subpoening Napolitano: DHS dragging its feet

Jonathan Strong | Contributor

New information about a showdown between top GOP oversight official Rep. Darrell Issa and Department of Homeland Security Sec. Janet Napolitano shows numerous attempts by Issa to obtain cooperation by the Obama administration in releasing documents and testimony related to political interference with Freedom of Information Requests at the agency.

The showdown revolves around Issa’s request to interview key officials, including Napolitano’s chief of staff, about how top Obama administration officials subjected sensitive information requests by lawmakers, watchdog groups and reporters to a special political review.

After Napolitano snubbed Issa on his first deadline for a set of documents in early February, Issa sent five separate requests to DHS regarding scheduling the interviews before broaching the subject of compelling testimony with the use of a congressional subpoena on Feb. 16, according to a timeline of interactions provided by Issa spokesman Kurt Bardella.

The numerous requests, which came while DHS was publicly advertising its cooperation with Issa, calls into question the charges from Issa’s combative foil on the oversight panel, Democratic Rep. Elijah Cummings, who called the subpoenas “hasty.”

Issa struck back at Cummings’ criticisms. “Another day, another complaint and more righteous indignation, what else is new?” said Bardella.

After numerous written requests and phone calls between Issa and DHS, the agency notified Issa it would definitely not cooperate by providing key officials for transcribed interviews Feb. 17.

Feb. 18, Issa spoke with Napolitano on the phone, agreeing to try to find ways to narrow the original document request as Napolitano said it was logistically difficult to fulfill.

Hours later, DHS claimed in a followup communication – denied by Issa – that that an agreement had been struck to suspend the document request, an apparent power play immediately rebuffed by Issa via e-mail.

Feb. 22, DHS reiterated its refusal to subject key officials to transcribed testimony, instead promising informal briefings to the full committee.

Later that day, Issa informed Cummings of his intent to subpoena two career DHS officials for transcribed interviews, then, an hour and a half later, issued the subpoena.

“Chairman Issa issued the subpoenas for depositions so that the investigation could continue moving forward and we are expecting DHS to fully cooperate with the Committee,” Bardella said.

A spokesman for DHS did not reply to a request for comment. A spokesman for the White House did not return a request for comment.

Tags : darrell issa department of homeland security janet napolitano
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