IG: Ross Misled Congress but Won't Face Charges

Justice Department doesn't explain decision on census testimony case
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 19, 2021 7:00 PM CDT
IG: Ross Misled Congress but Won't Face Charges
Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross testifies before a House Appropriations subcommittee on Capitol Hill last year.   (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik, File)

Although an inspector general's report found that he misled Congress about the Trump administration's attempt to put a citizenship question in the census, former Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross won't face any charges. "Our investigation established that the then-Secretary misrepresented the full rationale for the reinstatement of the citizenship question" in two 2018 congressional hearings, Peggy Gustafson, inspector general for the Commerce Department, wrote to congressional leaders, the Hill reports. Ross testified that the administration wanted to ask about citizenship on the 2020 form only because the Justice Department wanted the question, so it could use the data in enforcing the Voting Rights Act, per CNN. Evidence later showed Ross and other administration officials were planning a citizenship question before the Justice Department, which declined Monday to comment on the case, asked for it.

Gustafson released her letter Monday, which says that she gave the evidence of Ross' deception to the Justice Department but that prosecutors decided against bringing perjury charges. Democratic Rep. Carolyn Maloney, who asked for the investigation, issued a statement saying that "lying to Congress is unacceptable." She said her Oversight Committee nonetheless will look into the "Trump administration's political interference with the census." Civil rights advocates and others had objected to the question, saying that it could cause an undercount by deterring immigrants from answering the survey. That in turn could result in immigrant communities being underserved by the federal government. In the end, the Supreme Court blocked the question, with Chief Justice John Roberts writing that Ross' answers were a deflection. His majority opinion cited "a significant mismatch between the Secretary’s decision and the rationale he provided." (Read more Wilbur Ross stories.)

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