House Holds Barr, Ross in Contempt Over Census Document Fight

Attorney General William Barr speaks about the census as Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross listens during an event with President Donald Trump in the Ros

Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said Wednesday that a planned vote by the Democratic-controlled House to hold him and Attorney General William Barr in contempt of Congress was nothing more than "political theater" meant to embarrass and harass the Trump administration.

"Today's vote by Speaker [Nancy] Pelosi and House Democrats to hold Attorney General Barr and Secretary Ross in contempt is ridiculous and yet another lawless attempt to harass the President and his Administration", said the White House in a statement following the vote.

The 230-198 vote was largely symbolic because there's virtually no chance the Justice Department would move in court against the two officials.

House Democrats say the Trump administration's bid to include the citizenship question was created to suppress the census response rate of immigrants and non-citizens.

After the Supreme Court last month blocked the question from being added to the census, Trump created uncertainty over what would happen when he insisted that efforts to add the question were "absolutely moving forward" despite statements from both his Department of Justice and secretary of commerce that the administration was printing the census without the question. But at the end of last week, Trump retreated, instead asking government agencies to provide records that could determine a head-count of citizens without polling census-takers directly. They hope the contempt resolution will expedite their request for documents.

Earlier in the day, Barr and Ross urged House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to delay the vote, saying she should 'allow the constitutionally mandated accommodation process to continue'. Pointing to the contempt vote, a Democratic resolution on impeachment and Tuesday's resolution condemning Trump's racist remarks aimed at four minority Democratic congresswomen, McCarthy said Democrats are consumed with passing measures "attacking Trump" while voters are more concerned with kitchen-table issues.

Grisham said the departments of Justice and Commerce have produced more than 31,000 pages of documents on the issue, and that senior officials from both agencies have spoken on record to address the matter.

"It is about protecting the integrity of the Congress of the United States of America", Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD) said on the House floor Wednesday. "The committee vote took place hours after President Donald Trump asserted executive privilege over materials related to the citizenship question. stances".

"But in this case, the Attorney General and Secretary Ross have blatantly obstructed our ability to do congressional oversight into the real reason Secretary Ross was trying - for the first time in 70 years - to add a citizenship question to the 2020 Census", Cummings said Wednesday. 'The Supreme Court said that'. The Committee has short-circuited that production by pursuing this premature contempt resolution, choosing instead to focus on a small subset of privileged documents. Contrary to Democrats' claims, Ross and other officials have cooperated with the Oversight panel and provided thousands of documents, Comer said.

"Criminal contempt is a high standard that has not been met", Katko said.

Wednesday's vote authorizes the House to take the demands for documents and testimony to court, but its timeline for doing so is unclear.

The secretary dismissed the vote as "just more political theater", and noted that his department had handed over thousands of pages of documents over to the committee already.

Trump has pledged to "fight all the subpoenas" issued by Congress and says he won't work on legislative priorities, such as infrastructure, until Congress halts investigations of his administration.

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