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Associated Press

House Panel Set to Hold Barr, Ross in Contempt of Congress

06-03-2019
Attorney General William Barr (Photo credit: Patrick Robertson/CBN News)
Attorney General William Barr (Photo credit: Patrick Robertson/CBN News)

WASHINGTON (AP) — The House Oversight Committee is moving to hold Attorney General William Barr and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross in contempt of Congress for failing to comply with subpoenas for documents related to the Trump administration’s decision to add a citizenship question to the 2020 census.

Rep. Elijah Cummings of Maryland, the panel’s Democratic chairman, said lawmakers will vote soon on contempt measures for both men.

A contempt vote would be an escalation of Democratic efforts to use their majority to aggressively investigate the inner workings of President Donald Trump’s administration. But while finding the men in contempt would be a political blow, there would be no real punishment since Barr and Ross are unlikely to go to jail or be arrested.

In a statement Monday , Cummings said the failure of Barr and Ross to respond to the Oversight subpoenas was “part of a pattern” by the administration to engage in a “cover-up” and challenge the authority of Congress to conduct constitutionally required oversight.

“This cover-up is being directed from the top,” Cummings said, noting that Trump has vowed to fight all subpoenas issued by Congress and refused to work on legislative priorities, such as infrastructure, until Congress halts investigations of his administration.

While Trump has suggested that congressional subpoenas are partisan and somehow related to the Russia probe, neither claim is true, Cummings said. “The subpoenas in this investigation were adopted on a bipartisan basis, and this investigation has nothing to do with Russia,” he said.

The committee approved the subpoenas on the census issue in April. Rep. Justin Amash of Michigan was the sole Republican to join with Democrats in the 23-14 vote. Amash later said he supports an impeachment inquiry against Trump.

Democrats say they want specific documents to determine why Ross added the citizenship question to the 2020 census. They say the Trump administration has declined to provide the documents despite repeated requests.

Ross said the decision in March 2018 to add the question was based on a Justice Department request to help it enforce the Voting Rights Act.

Cummings disputed that, citing documents unearthed last week suggesting that the real reason the administration sought to add the citizenship question was to help officials gerrymander legislative districts in overtly partisan and racist ways.

Computer files from North Carolina redistricting expert Tom Hofeller include detailed calculations that lay out gains Republicans would see in Texas by basing legislative districts on the number of voting-age citizens rather than the total population.

Hofeller, a Republican operative who died last year, said in the documents that GOP gains would be possible only if the census asked every household about its members’ immigration status for the first time since 1950.

Ross said the department has turned over 11,500 pages of documents and noted that he testified at a hearing this year.

Democrats say Ross considered adding the citizenship question from his first days in the administration in 2017. They fear the question will reduce census participation in immigrant-heavy communities, harming representation and access to federal dollars.

Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. 

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