House panel plans to vote on holding commerce secretary, AG in contempt over census handling

Both wouldn't give info on citizenship question

By Lauren Fox and Jeremy Herb, CNN
Win McNamee/Getty Images

U.S. Attorney General William Barr testifies before the Senate Judiciary Committee 

The House Oversight Committee plans to move ahead on holding Attorney General William Barr and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross in contempt of Congress for refusing to comply with their requests for information into a probe about how a question about citizenship ended up on the US Census.

In letters to Barr and Ross, House Oversight Committee Chairman Elijah Cummings wrote, "Unfortunately your actions are part of a pattern. The Trump administration has been engaged in one of the most unprecedented cover-ups since Watergate, extending from the White House to multiple federal agencies and department of the government and across numerous investigations."

"I am writing to inform you that the committee is scheduling a vote to hold you in contempt of Congress as a result of your failure to comply with a bipartisan subpoena issued more than two months ago for documents relating to the addition of a citizenship question to the 2020 Census."

A separate House panel, the Judiciary Committee, has already voted to hold Barr in contempt of Congress for failing to provide the committee with the full unredacted Mueller report and evidence.

In the letters, Cummings said Monday that he would postpone the committee's contempt vote if the Commerce and the Justice Departments produced the materials the committee had previously requested by Thursday.

The committee is seeking 11 documents from the Commerce Department related to the citizenship question on the 2020 Census, and had issued a subpoena in April.

"Although the Department produced some documents in response to this subpoena, many are heavily redacted and do not include attachments, and others are not responsive to the subpoena," Cummings wrote in the letter to Ross. "The Department has consistently declined to produce unredacted copies of the 11 high priority documents demanded by the subpoena."

Cummings had also sought documents from the Justice Department including unredacted "copies of high priority documents demanded by a subpoena such as a memo and note from Mr. Uthmeier (in the Office of General Counsel at the Department of Commerce) to Mr. Gore," as well as drafts of a December 2017 letter. The committee had also subpoenaed principal deputy assistant Attorney General John Gore for a deposition that he did not appear for.

A Commerce spokesperson said in a statement to CNN that the department had been dealing in good faith with the committee and already complied with numerous requests.

"The Committee has taken this extraordinary step to compel production of documents protected by longstanding and well-settled privileges, including the government's right to protect confidential attorney-client and deliberative communications, which has been upheld in court," the spokesperson said. "To any objective observer, it is abundantly clear that the Committee's intent is not to find facts, but to desperately and improperly influence the Supreme Court with mere insinuations and conspiracy theories."

This story has been updated with additional developments Monday.

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