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House Oversight Committee Backs Contempt Vote

Panel votes to hold Barr, Ross in contempt over 2020 census citizenship question
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jun 12, 2019 3:59 PM CDT
House Oversight and Reform Committee Chairman Elijah E. Cummings, D-Md., considers whether to hold Attorney General William Barr and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross in contempt for failing to turn over...   (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
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(Newser) – A House committee voted Wednesday to hold two top Trump administration officials in contempt of Congress for failing to comply with subpoenas for documents related to a decision adding a citizenship question to the 2020 census, the AP reports. The Democratic-controlled House Oversight Committee voted 24-15 to advance contempt measures against Attorney General William Barr and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross. The vote sends the measures to the full House. The committee's action marks an escalation of Democratic efforts to use their House majority to aggressively investigate the inner workings of the Trump administration. The White House asserted executive privilege on the matter earlier Wednesday. The Justice Department said officials had "engaged in good-faith efforts" to satisfy the committee's oversight needs and labeled the planned contempt vote "unnecessary and premature."

Democrats say they want specific documents to determine why Ross added the question to the 2020 census and contend the administration has declined to provide the documents despite repeated requests. The administration has turned over more than 17,000 of pages of documents and Ross testified for nearly seven hours in March. The Justice Department said two senior officials were interviewed by committee staff and said officials were working to produce tens of thousands of additional pages of relevant documents. The oversight panel's chairman, Rep. Elijah Cummings of Maryland, disputed the Justice Department's account and said most of the documents turned over to the committee had already been made public. A vote by the full House to hold Barr and Ross in contempt on the census issue would be a political blow but would not result in real punishment since the men are unlikely to go to jail or be arrested.

(Read more House Oversight Committee stories.)

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