Cummings Issues Statement on Refusal of Barr and Ross to Produce Subpoenaed Census Documents to Avoid Contempt Vote
Washington, D.C. (June 7, 2019)—Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, the Chairman of the Committee on Oversight and Reform, issued the following statement after the Department of Justice and the Department of Commerce sent letters late last night refusing 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 to the 2020 Census.
Cummings warned Attorney General William Barr and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross on Monday that the Committee would vote next week to hold them in contempt of Congress if they did not produce key documents required by the Committee’s bipartisan subpoenas issued on April 2, 2019.
“We gave Attorney General Barr and Secretary Ross every opportunity to produce the documents the Committee needs for our investigation, but rather than cooperate, they have decided that they would rather be held in contempt of Congress. They produced none of the documents we asked for, they made no counter-offers regarding these documents, and they seem determined to continue the Trump Administration’s cover-up.
“The letters last night were case studies in double-speak. They claim that fighting witness interviews for months under threat of subpoena is evidence of a ‘good faith accommodations process,’ they suggest that Secretary Ross’ refusal to meet demonstrates that the Department ‘is eager to continue its cooperation with the Committee,’ and they argue that withholding every single one of the key unredacted documents we subpoenaed somehow proves that ‘there is no information to hide’.”
Although the Administration has claimed that contempt is “premature,” Committee Democrats originally requested these documents more than a year ago, and Barr and Ross have been under subpoena for more than nine weeks.
During that time, the Administration has produced thousands of pages of documents that are heavily redacted, non-responsive, and are already public—but has consistently refused to turn over the narrow set of priority documents the Committee identified.
The Department of Justice and Department of Commerce have cited no valid reason for withholding these critical documents. The Supreme Court has ruled that ongoing civil litigation is not a reason to withhold information from Congress.