Committee Releases New Memo on Previously Undisclosed Interview of Kris Kobach on Census

Jun 7, 2019
Press Release
White House “Interfered Directly and Aggressively,” Claimed Executive Privilege to Block Answers on White House Meetings

Washington, D.C. (June 7, 2019)—Today, Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, the Chairman of the Committee on Oversight and Reform, released a memo with new information about a previously undisclosed transcribed interview conducted on Monday by Democratic and Republican Committee staff with Kris Kobach, the former Secretary of State of Kansas, regarding the Trump Administration’s addition of a citizenship question to the 2020 Census.

The White House intervened repeatedly to block Kobach from answering the Committee’s questions about his meetings with President Trump and other top White House officials, sending multiple letters purporting to assert Executive Privilege over Kobach, who was not an employee of the Executive Branch.

Cummings issued the following statement on the release of the memo:

“These aggressive efforts by the White House to block Mr. Kobach from cooperating with the Committee raise significant new questions about what the Trump Administration is concealing—and why.  They also cast doubt on the Trump Administration’s claims that the decision to add the citizenship question was ‘made at the department level’ rather than at the White House.”

According to the memo’s summary:

“This past Monday, on June 3, 2019, Democratic and Republican Committee staff conducted a private, previously-undisclosed interview with Kris Kobach, the former Secretary of State of Kansas, regarding the Trump Administration’s efforts to add a citizenship question to the 2020 Census.

 

“The White House interfered directly and aggressively with the Committee’s interview by instructing Mr. Kobach not to answer any questions about his communications with the President and White House advisors about the real reasons they added the citizenship question.  The White House sent several letters, including on the day of the interview, vastly expanding its previous assertions of Executive Privilege to apply to Mr. Kobach—a private citizen who did not work for the Trump Administration when these communications took place. 

 

“The Trump Administration’s expansion of Executive Privilege to apply to anyone the President talks to—including those completely outside the government—is a vast departure from previous precedent and obstructs the Committee’s constitutional responsibility to conduct oversight of the Census.

 

“Although Mr. Kobach followed the White House’s orders for much of his interview, he did provide some new information.  For example, he confirmed on the record certain elements of his conversations with the President and top White House aides.  He also disclosed communications with the Trump campaign far earlier than previously known.  However, he refused to answer questions about whether he had additional meetings with the President and his top aides other than those that have been previously disclosed.  Finally, his description of his communications with Secretary Ross appeared inconsistent with Secretary Ross’ testimony before the Committee in March.”

 

The Committee is scheduling a vote next week to hold Attorney General William Barr and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross in contempt of Congress after both officials refused to meet the Committee’s deadline to produce documents in response to bipartisan subpoenas issued more than two months ago for documents relating to the addition of a citizenship question.  The contempt vote would initiate the process of bringing a civil enforcement action to obtain compliance with the subpoena.

 

Click here to read today’s memo.

 

The full transcript of Mr. Kobach’s interview is on file with the Committee.  The Committee made the transcript available to Mr. Kobach’s attorneys on Wednesday to review it for typographical or other errors.  The Committee will not release the full transcript at this time, based on assurances by Mr. Kobach’s counsel that he will provide feedback in the near future.

 

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116th Congress