The House Oversight and Reform Committee will vote on Wednesday on whether to hold Attorney General William BarrWilliam Pelham BarrDemocrats needle Trump with Watergate witness Democrats needle Trump with Watergate witness Barr compares his return to DOJ to D-Day invasion MORE and Commerce Secretary Wilbur RossWilbur Louis RossWhite House sought to assert executive privilege in Kobach interview on census citizenship question, Cummings says White House sought to assert executive privilege in Kobach interview on census citizenship question, Cummings says Cummings to move forward with contempt votes for Barr, Ross over census question MORE in contempt for failing to comply with congressional subpoenas.
Committee Chairman Elijah CummingsElijah Eugene CummingsBarr compares his return to DOJ to D-Day invasion Barr compares his return to DOJ to D-Day invasion White House sought to assert executive privilege in Kobach interview on census citizenship question, Cummings says MORE (D-Md.) said last week that he would schedule the contempt votes after both of the officials’ agencies did not hand over subpoenaed documents relating to the Trump administration’s efforts to add a citizenship question to the 2020 census.
“Both Secretary Ross and Attorney General Barr are refusing to comply with duly authorized subpoenas from Congress. Because they are in contempt of Congress, on Wednesday, the Committee will vote to move forward to enforce our bipartisan subpoenas,” Cummings said in a statement Monday.
“I continue to hope that they will change course and begin producing the information we need to do our job under the Constitution,” he added.
The resolution stems from Cummings’s committee’s investigation on the addition of a citizenship question to the 2020 census.
Opponents of the question argue that asking about citizenship will lead to an inaccurate population count and skewed census data, which is used for the allocation of federal funds and drawing congressional districts.
The Trump administration argues that the question is needed to enforce the Voting Rights Act.
Cummings on Monday also released the text of the proposed contempt resolution.
It cites Ross for failing to turn over documents requested through a congressional subpoena. And it penalizes Barr for not providing documents and for instructing a top official in the Department of Justice’s Civil Division to defy a congressional subpoena for his testimony on the citizenship question.
That resolution also allows committee chairmen to go straight to the Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group — the group of five top lawmakers who oversee the House general counsel — to seek permission to go to federal court over the enforcement of congressional subpoenas without the full House voting on the potential legal action first.
That means Cummings could go to court over any contempt action against Barr and Ross without seeking permission from the full House and without forcing lawmakers to take a stance on the resolution. Democrats currently make up the majority of the legal advisory group, meaning that any legal action brought there is likely to be approved.
In a statement, Ross said that it “is sad for the country that the committee continues to roll in this reckless direction.”
“I never refused to meet with the Chairman. I did urge him to first provide the information we requested numerous times, and that is why the Committee specifically needs privileged information that the Chairman himself and the litigation process have recognized as confidential. He declined, because the Committee isn’t interested in cooperation – it wants to improperly influence the Supreme Court’s impending decision with media broadsides,” Ross said.
Further speculation has been raised about the citizenship question after the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed new court documents last month alleging that a late GOP redistricting strategist played a previously undisclosed role in getting the question added to the census.
Those documents, the ACLU claims, undermines the Trump administration’s argument that the citizenship question wasn’t added to the census for political reasons.
The Justice Department has pushed back against the allegations, characterizing the newly uncovered evidence as an attempt to derail the Supreme Court case on the citizenship question.