House Schedules Floor Vote to Hold AG and Commerce Secretary in Contempt

Jul 11, 2019
Press Release

Washington, D.C. (July 11, 2019)— Today, Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, the Chairman of the Committee on Oversight and Reform, announced that the House of Representatives will vote on July 16 to hold Attorney General William Barr and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross in criminal contempt of Congress for refusing to comply with bipartisan subpoenas issued as part of the Committee’s investigation into the Trump Administration’s pretext for adding a citizenship question to the 2020 Census.

“For months, Attorney General Barr and Secretary Ross have withheld key documents subpoenaed by the Committee on a bipartisan basis without asserting any valid legal justification for their refusal.  These documents could shed light on the real reason that the Trump Administration tried to add the citizenship question.  Unfortunately, the Administration is stonewalling our investigation and obstructing our efforts to get the information we need to do our jobs.  We should not be forced to take these extreme actions to get the documents and information we need to conduct a thorough investigation.  I urge Attorney General Barr and Secretary Ross to change course and produce the documents we have subpoenaed on a bipartisan basis so the House is not forced to hold them in contempt of Congress.”

Today’s announcement comes on the heels of President Trump announcing that he may issue an executive order to circumvent the Supreme Court’s ruling that the Trump Administration’s effort to add the citizenship question was based on a pretext that violated the law.

 

Since the Committee issued bipartisan subpoenas on April 2, 2019, the Departments of Justice and Commerce have refused to produce key unredacted documents identified by the Committee, made no commitments to produce these key documents, and made no counter-offers relating to those key documents.  The key documents include:

 

  • Secret Memo from Commerce to DOJ.  John Gore, who drafted DOJ’s 2017 letter requesting a citizenship question, told Committee staff that a lawyer at the Department of Commerce, James Uthmeier, provided him with a memo before DOJ issued its official request.  That memo, which was hand-delivered with a personal note instead of being emailed, may shed light on how the Administration orchestrated this process.

 

  • Drafts of DOJ’s December 2017 Request.  DOJ’s letter to Commerce asserted that the citizenship question was needed to enforce the Voting Rights Act, but the evidence shows that this was a pretext.  Drafts of the letter could shed light on the rationales considered. 

 

  • Unredacted Emails from Ross and His Staff.  Secretary Ross testified repeatedly that he was adding the citizenship question “solely” at the request of DOJ to help enforce the Voting Rights Act.  But emails obtained by the Committee show that Ross began pushing to add a citizenship question within days of taking office in early 2017 and engineered the request from DOJ.  Unfortunately, many of these emails are redacted.

 

On June 12, 2019, the Committee voted on a bipartisan basis to hold Attorney General William Barr and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross in contempt of Congress for refusing to produce these documents.

 
116th Congress