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House panel votes to hold AG Barr, Commerce Secretary Ross in contempt over census documents


Trump asserted executive privilege hours earlier to block access to documents on adding a citizenship question to the 2020 census.

The House Oversight and Reform Committee advanced a resolution Wednesday to hold Attorney General William Barr and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross in contempt of Congress for withholding documents on the Trump administration’s decision to add a citizenship question to the 2020 census.

The vote, 24-15 largely along party lines, came only hours after President Donald Trump asserted executive privilege to block access to the information. The Department of Justice announced the move in a letter to the committee’s chairman, Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., just as the panel was preparing to vote on the resolution Wednesday morning. Only one Republican, Justin Amash of Michigan, voted in support of the measure.

Trump told reporters at the White House in the afternoon that “it’s totally ridiculous” not to include the question in the census.

“Can you imagine you send out a census and you’re not allowed to say whether or not a person is an American citizen?” the president said, speaking alongside the visiting president of Poland. “In Poland, they say they’re either Polish or they’re not.”

“I think it’s totally ridiculous that we would have a census without asking,” Trump added. “But the Supreme Court is going to be ruling on it soon. I think when a census goes out, you should find out whether or not, and you have the right to ask whether or not, someone is a citizen of the United States.”

The House resolution allows Democrats to pursue both civil and criminal contempt charges against Barr and Ross for defying subpoenas issued by Cummings on April 2 to produce the documents. Now, Democratic leadership and House counsel must decide which avenue to pursue.

To take action in criminal contempt, the House will need to hold a full floor vote. For civil contempt, Democrats can seek authorization from a bipartisan group of House leaders, in which Democrats hold the majority, to file a lawsuit to enforce the committee’s subpoenas. Read more

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