The House of Representatives voted to hold Attorney General William Barr and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross in criminal contempt Wednesday, over a growing battle to add a question on immigration status to the 2020 census. The Trump administration has been battling the House for more than a month and tensions have grown in the past week.
Barr and Ross asked Speaker Nancy Pelosi earlier Wednesday to delay a House vote scheduled, which was scheduled. They sent a letter, which stated they “strongly oppose the pending resolution of the Committee on Oversight and Reform (‘Committee’) concerning the decision to reinstate a citizenship question on the 2020 Census.”
This vote is nothing more than a political stunt. While the House plays games, the Department will continue its critical work of pursuing justice and ensuring safety for all Americans, Kerri Kupic, Doj Spokeswoman
On Wednesday evening Department of Justice spokeswoman Kerri Kupec said the DOJ “has worked for months to supply thousands of documents to accommodate Congress’s requests.”
“Additionally, many documents at issue with this particular vote have been held privileged by a federal court,” she added. “Holding the Attorney General in contempt for working in good-faith with Congress marks a new low for Speaker Pelosi’s House of Representatives. This vote is nothing more than a political stunt. While the House plays games, the Department will continue its critical work of pursuing justice and ensuring safety for all Americans.”
Tensions have grown over the past month between House Democrats and the administration. The issue arouse when the House Oversight Committee approved a resolution last month recommending that the House find Barr and Ross in contempt. Democrats claimed that it was because Barr and Ross refused “to comply with subpoenas.”
However, Barr and Ross noted in their letter that both men had made “substantial efforts to accommodate the Committee’s interests, the Committee.”
What the DOJ Has Provided:
- The Department produced more than 17,000 pages in eight separate document productions since February. Further, the Department has identified tens of thousands more responsive pages and was working to produce them before the Committee halted the accommodation process to pursue its entirely premature contempt resolution.
- DOJ has already produced more than 17,000 pages of documents, and has identified tens of thousands more non-privileged documents to produce. The Committee has short-circuited that production by pursuing this premature contempt resolution, choosing instead to focus on a small subset of privileged documents. These documents—a number of which were already upheld as privileged by a federal judge—implicate fundamental Executive Branch interests, and are protected from disclosure by the deliberative process privilege, attorney-client privilege, and/or attorney work product doctrine.
- Since January, the Department of Justice has received over 50 oversight letters and subpoenas from Congress. DOJ is actively working to accommodate Congress’s legitimate oversight interests and has, in the past several months alone, made nearly 40 document productions, including more than 70,000 pages. DOJ has also made multiple witnesses available for briefings, transcribed interviews, and Committee hearings.
Barr and Ross stated that Wednesday’s vote was an “unjustified contempt vote regarding a citizenship question that, as you know, will not be asked on the 2020 Census question.”