Trump’s attorney general William Barr could be held in contempt of Congress over census question

Justice and Commerce departments refuse request for documents on census change

Colby Itkowitz
Friday 07 June 2019 12:34
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House votes to hold William Barr in contempt of Congress

The Justice and Commerce departments has denied an order from a House committee for more documents about the decision to add a citizenship question to the 2020 Census, all but ensuring that the House will hold William Barr, the attorney general, and Wilbur Ross, the commerce secretary, in contempt of Congress.

In a letter to Elijah Cummings, the oversight committee chairman, on Thursday, assistant attorney general Stephen Boyd said the agency had tried to be accommodating to the panel.

He added that he thought a vote on contempt over the department's refusal to comply with this demand would be "premature".

The Justice Department said that certain documents the Democrats subpoenaed are protected by attorney-client privilege and therefore cannot be released.

Mr Cummings had given the agency until 5pm on Thursday to produce them or he would schedule a vote to hold Mr Barr in contempt.

The Commerce Department later said that it was also rejecting the committee's demands and accused the committee of "playing politics," according to a statement obtained by Politico.

Several weeks ago, the House Judiciary Committee voted to hold Mr Barr in contempt for refusing to release special counsel Robert Mueller’s report in full and without redactions.

Mr Boyd wrote that the department already gave the committee 17,000 pages of documents and has made witnesses available.

The census question is the focus of one of the many House investigations into Donald Trump and his administration. The White House has said it will not comply with committee subpoenas.

Democrats have accused the administration of adding the citizenship question to scare immigrants away from responding to the decennial survey, the results of which are used to guide congressional redistricting and the number of representatives a state gets in Congress.

Despite Trump administration officials' denials, evidence revealed last week suggests that the question was added as a way to give an electoral advantage to Republicans and white voters.

A consortium of states, cities and civil rights groups sued over the citizenship question and three federal judges have struck it down.

The Supreme Court heard the case in April.

Mr Boyd cited the ongoing litigation as an added challenge.

In addition to the documents it wanted, the Oversight panel also subpoenaed John Gore, the principal deputy assistant attorney general, to testify.

In March, Mr Gore met with the Oversight Committee, but Mr Cummings said he refused to answer more than 150 questions, citing the litigation over the census question.

Mr Boyd said the Justice Department has offered to make Mr Gore available to the committee again if counsel from the agency can also attend.

The Washington Post

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