House Panel Threatens Barr, Ross With Contempt Over Census

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(Bloomberg) -- A House committee is threatening to hold Attorney General William Barr and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross in contempt if they don’t produce documents by Thursday on efforts to add a citizenship question to the 2020 Census.

In letters Monday to both Trump administration cabinet members, Oversight and Reform Chairman Elijah Cummings gave them until Thursday to comply with subpoenas for the material, without redactions, or face the contempt actions by his committee.

“In this investigation, the committee is seeking information on a host of questions, including the administration’s actual reasons for trying to add the citizenship question,” Cummings said in the letters Monday to Barr and Ross. He said the committee wants them to “stop defying” the panel’s subpoenas.

The House Judiciary Committee already voted last month to hold Barr in contempt of Congress for refusing to turn over redacted parts of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report on Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.

In the census dispute, Cummings accused Barr of ordering a Justice Department official, John Gore, to defy a subpoena for his testimony. Cummings said a contempt action will kick off a process of bringing a civil action against the two.

Democrats on the committee have made the issue a priority, citing the likelihood that adding such a question could have significant political and economic implications for states and communities with large immigrant populations.

Democrats and other critics say the controversial Commerce Department decision would directly impede the Census Bureau’s count of the U.S. population, which they say is required under the U.S. Constitution and doesn’t differentiate between citizens and non-citizens.

The Commerce Department said that it has worked in good faith to comply with the panel’s probe by providing nearly 14,000 pages of documents.

©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

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