Department of Justice Attorney General William P. Barr is advising President Donald Trump to “assert executive privilege” in an effort to protect documents related to the administration’s decision to add a citizenship question to the 2020 Census. He made the request of Trump, as Democrats with the House Oversight Committee move forward to hold Barr in contempt tomorrow morning, the Justice Department letter from Assistant Attorney General Stephan E. Boyd revealed Tuesday.
Boyd advised House Oversight Committee Chairman Elijah Cummings to “hold the subpoenas in abeyance and delay any vote on whether to recommend a citation of contempt for noncompliance with subpoenas, pending the President’s determination of this question.”
Cummings Plans Contempt Vote
Democrats on the committee plan to vote Barr and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross in contempt early Wednesday for what they say is a failure to comply with congressional subpoenas that required them to turn over documents requested by Cummings.
Cummings is pursuing the contempt vote, despite the fact that the Department of Justice has provided thousands of documents, as well as requested information to Congressional committees. In fact, the DOJ’s response to House Oversight and Reform Committee Cummings Wednesday laid out exactly how much has already been provided to his committee.
“After the Committee served the Attorney General with a subpoena on April 2, 2019 for much of the same material, the Department continued to engage in good-father efforts to satisfy the committee’s legislative needs,” Boyd said in the letter to Cummings. “To date, the Department has made eight document submissions totaling more than 17,000 pages. In addition, the Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General for the Department’s Civil Rights Division, John Gore, voluntarily appeared for a transcribed interview to answer the committee’s questions, as did Counselor to the Attorney General.”
Boyd added “regrettably, the committee has made this request necessary by threatening to abandon the constitutionally mandated accommodation process between the branches and to hold a vote on contempt tomorrow morning.”
“In the face of this threatened contempt vote, the Attorney General is now compelled to request that the President invoke executive privilege with respect to the materials subject to the subpoena to the Attorney General and the subpoena to the Secretary of the Department of Commerce.:
Moreover, the DOJ noted that the committees request to interview two administration officials without counsel present is in violation of the President’s “constitutional authority to control the disclosure of privileged information and to supervise the Executive Branch’s communications with Congress.”
“Congressional subpoenas that purport to require agency employees to appear without agency counsel are legally invalid and are not subject to civil or criminal enforcement,” stated the DOJ’s response to the committee.
Two Senior Administration Officials Grant Committee Interviews
On eight separate occasions from Feb. 25 to May 24, the DOJ provided the requested documents respectively to Cummings. Barr’s office also made two senior officials available for transcribed interviews by the committee staff, according to the DOJ.
- March 7, 2019: John Gore, Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General for the Department’s Civil Rights Division, voluntarily appeared for a lengthy transcribed interview.
- May 30, 2019: Gene Hamilton, Counselor to the Attorney General, spent several hours answering all Committee questions regarding the reinstatement of the citizenship question on the 2020 census without objection from the Department.
Further, DOJ officials stated that the department has also “identified tens of thousands more responsive documents that it is in the process of producing.”