Committee Files Contempt Report Against AG Barr and Commerce Secretary Ross, Releases Transcripts from Census Investigation

Jun 25, 2019
Press Release

Washington, D.C. (June 25, 2019)—Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, the Chairman of the Committee on Oversight and Reform, filed the Committee’s bipartisan report recommending that the House of Representatives hold Attorney General William Barr and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross in contempt of Congress for refusing to comply with subpoenas for documents about the real reasons behind the Trump Administration’s efforts to add a citizenship question to the 2020 Census.  The contempt report includes new transcripts of witnesses who were interviewed by Committee staff as part of the investigation, but refused to answer hundreds of questions.

Among the new information released today is a memo and transcript from the Committee’s interview with James Uthmeier, a former Senior Advisor and Counsel to Secretary Ross.  According to the memo:

“During the interview, the Department blocked Mr. Uthmeier from answering approximately 100 questions from Committee staff.  Department lawyers instructed Mr. Uthmeier not to reveal his discussions with the White House about the citizenship question—or even the identities of White House officials to whom he spoke.  Equally troubling, the Department directed Mr. Uthmeier not to disclose what Secretary Ross told him about why he was trying to add a citizenship question.  Finally, the Department instructed Mr. Uthmeier not to reveal the contents of a secret memo he wrote about the citizenship question at the direction of Secretary Ross and hand-delivered to John Gore at the Department of Justice (DOJ).

“Despite these restrictions, Mr. Uthmeier provided the Committee with some new information.  He disclosed that he sought advice on adding the citizenship question from John Baker, an outspoken advocate who has argued that ‘the citizenship question is necessary to collect the data for a redistricting of House seats that excludes aliens from the calculation.’  Mr. Baker’s views on the citizenship question have nothing to do with enforcing the Voting Rights Act, but instead are focused on redistricting.

“Mr. Uthmeier’s discussion with Mr. Baker marks the third individual espousing similar views that had contact with Trump Administration or Transition Team officials regarding the addition of a citizenship question.  This includes Republican gerrymandering expert Thomas Hofeller, who advised the Transition Team on adding a citizenship question after concluding that the question ‘would be advantageous to Republicans and non-Hispanic whites.’  It also includes former Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, who discussed the citizenship question with President Trump and his top advisors, and then urged Secretary Ross in an email to add a citizenship question to address the ‘problem’ that undocumented immigrants ‘are still counted for congressional apportionment purposes.’”

Cummings issued the following statement today on the release of the new documents:

“The Trump Administration claimed that the only reason it wanted to add the citizenship question was to help the Department of Justice enforce the Voting Rights Act, but that claim has now been exposed as a pretext.  Official after official appearing before the Committee have refused to answer questions about the real reasons behind their effort, but the mounting evidence points to a partisan and discriminatory effort to harm the interests of Democrats and non-Whites.  The Census is the foundation of our democracy, and our Committee will continue doing everything in its power to ensure that it counts every single person in the United States.”

Click here to read the memo on James Uthemier’s interview.

Click here to read the full transcript of James Uthemier’s interview.

Click here to read the full transcript of John Gore’s interview.

Click here to read the full transcript of Gene Hamilton’s interview.

Click here to read the full transcript of Kris Kobach’s interview.

Click here to read the Committee’s bipartisan contempt report.

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116th Congress