Representative Elijah Cummings (D-MD) brings all the dignity, gravity, and solemnity to his role as House Committee on Oversight and Reform chair as any person before him. He is not a man to be played with, and it appears that the Donald Trump White House is playing a deadly game, winning at any cost.
Cummings sent a copy of the letter he sent to the month-old Attorney General William Barr to NBC News via his spokesperson. It read:
‘The committee expects Mr. Gore to testify in accordance with the Committee’s lawful subpoena and the Committee’s rules. If Mr. Gore fails to comply with the subpoena, the Committee will consider him to be in contempt of Congress.’
The committee requested John Gore, a Department of Justice (DOJ) official, appear before it regarding Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross adding an illegal question to the 2020 census. The secretary had added a question about citizenship, knowing full well that it would trigger fear in a substantial number of people.
When the Census does not accurately reflect the population numbers, that changes funding and even the number of representatives allowed in a district.
Cumming’s letter threatened to hold Gore in contempt of Congress, after the man ignored the committee’s subpoena requesting his testimony and documents that related to the question. The letter further instructed the principal deputy assistant attorney general that he would be held in contempt of Congress for refusing to comply with it.
The chair of the most powerful committee in the House of Representatives, Cummings said:
‘(AG Barr appears) to be instructing (Gore) to defy a duly authorized congressional subpoena.’
Before Cummings sent out his letter, Assistant Attorney General Stephen Boyd wrote a letter to the committee indicating that he refused to make Gore available. The only condition under which he would comply would be if he brought a DOJ attorney with him.
Committee rules specifically prohibit DOJ attorneys from doing so. Boyd retorted:
‘(The rule) would unconstitutionally infringe upon the prerogatives of the executive branch.’
Ross’ Commerce Department is responsible for the Census Bureau. The secretary had to appear before the Democrats a month earlier to answer whether he had lied to Congress in previous testimony.
MSNBC reported that Cummings asked Ross:
‘The key question we will ask Secretary Ross today is, what was he hiding from the Congress? What’s the real reason that the Trump Administration wanted to add this unconstitutional citizenship question?’
‘I instructed staff to follow up with DOJ for a written statement confirming whether or not DOJ was going to ask for reinstatement of the question. I wanted to make sure that we had enough time to adequately consider any formal request that DOJ might make.’
The reason that the Oversight Committee was interested in Gore was that Ross said the Justice Department might have wanted to add the Census question. Cummings’ committee voted 23-14 to issue Gore’s subpoena to testify.
The Supreme Court will be deciding shortly whether Trump’s insertion of the citizenship question violates the Constitution and the Administrative Procedure Act. Earlier, three federal judges had already ruled the question was unconstitutional and in violation of federal law.