The Trump administration continues to stonewall against oversight and investigative efforts from House Democrats, and they continue to be hit by substantive challenges to their obstruction. This Monday, House Oversight Committee Chairman Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) announced his committee was planning votes for Wednesday on resolutions to hold both Attorney General William Barr and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross in contempt of Congress, which — after those resolutions get a full floor vote — would authorize his committee to take Barr and Ross to court.
The contempt votes are in response to the officials refusing to provide the Oversight Committee with subpoenaed information covering the Trump administration’s plans to add a question about respondents’ citizenship to the upcoming United States Census, which will be completed next year. The committee sought nearly a dozen key documents from the Commerce Department, which it issued a subpoena for in April, and besides being after more documents from the Justice Department, they’ve also sought testimony from Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General John Gore. Neither Gore nor any of the demanded documents have turned up.
In response, Cummings bluntly shared:
‘The Trump Administration has demonstrated repeatedly that it is willing to disregard the Constitution, defy decades of clear precedent, and invent frivolous new arguments to delay and obstruct Congress’ oversight authority, and Attorney General Barr and Secretary Ross are complicit in this cover-up.’
There is currently a case before the U.S. Supreme Court about whether that citizenship question can even get added to the census after having not been included since the mid-20th century, decades in the past. Advocates against it recently unearthed information from one of those behind its imposition explicitly outlining the move as a tool to depress Democratic representation, since minority voters — who tend Democratic — might be intimidated by the prospect of responding to census questions considering established federal harshness against those whose immigration status is even in question. Census responses are used to determine the distribution of Congressional seats across the U.S., besides other uses.
This is definitely not the only case in which House Democrats have targeted Barr in particular and come up short. The House Judiciary Committee issued a subpoena for the full final report from Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation and its underlying evidence, but for awhile, the Justice Department refused to comply and the committee voted to hold Barr in contempt. This week, they announced they’d reached a deal to obtain some material from Mueller’s probe in exchange for pausing criminal contempt proceedings against Barr.
There’s still a vote scheduled this week in the House for a resolution that would hold former White House counsel Don McGahn in contempt of Congress for refusing to testify and that also would make committee chairs “become empowered to file their own lawsuits in order to seek documents or testimony in investigations into Trump and administration officials,” avoiding the step of going to that step only after a contempt resolution from the full House. Consistently and repeatedly across Congress, the Trump administration has refused to produce demanded information, opening the door for this kind of dramatic action.
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