Breaking: House Oversight Committee Accuses HHS of Criminal Obstruction in Investigation of Rollout

In a letter addressed to Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) accuses the department of criminally threatening the vendor that developed the troubled website. Issa chairs the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, which has been investigating the extremely rocky rollout of on October 1.

Issa cites a December 6, 2013 letter that HHS sent to Creative Computing Solutions, Inc. In that letter, "the Department claimed that the company is contractually precluded from producing documents to Congress. The letter further stated that the Department will respond to requests from Congress on the company's behalf." Issa's letter states that other vendors received similar letters.

But Issa notes that the actual HHS contract precludes vendors from sharing documents with other companies, not Congress, which is charged by the Constitution with overseeing the actions of the executive branch.

"The Department's attempt to threaten CCSI for the purpose of deterring the company from providing documents to Congress places the officials responsible for drafting and sending the letter on the wrong side of federal statutes that prohibit obstruction of a congressional investigation," Issa states in the letter to HHS. He cites Section 1505 of Title 18 of the U.S. Code, which states:

Whoever, with intent to avoid, evade, prevent, or obstruct compliance, in whole or in part, with any civil investigative demand duly and properly made under the Antitrust Civil Process Act, willfully withholds, misrepresents, removes from any place, conceals, covers up, destroys, mutilates, alters, or by other means falsifies any documentary material, answers to written interrogatories, or oral testimony, which is the subject of such demand; or attempts to do so or solicits another to do so; or

Whoever corruptly, or by threats or force, or by any threatening letter or communication influences, obstructs, or impedes or endeavors to influence, obstruct, or impede the due and proper administration of the law under which any pending proceeding is being had before any department or agency of the United States, or the due and proper exercise of the power of inquiry under which any inquiry or investigation is being had by either House, or any committee of either House or any joint committee of the Congress—

Shall be fined under this title, imprisoned not more than 5 years or, if the offense involves international or domestic terrorism (as defined in section 2331), imprisoned not more than 8 years, or both.

Issa's letter adds that his committee "takes any effort to obstruct or otherwise interfere with its investigations very seriously." He also reminds Sebelius that she remains under subpoena for the relevant information herself.

The entire letter is posted here.