Democrats contend that the Trump Administration’s proposed addition of a citizenship question on the 2020 census is political and, even assert it is a “right wing conspiracy,” however, newly released witness testimony from the House Oversight and Reform Committee contradicts those assertions.

The U.S. Supreme Court is expected to make a decision as to the constitutionality of adding the question. Last week, Chairman Elijah Cummings (D-MD) held a vote to hold Justice Department Attorney General William Barr and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross in contempt of Congress. Cummings was frustrated with Barr and Ross who refused to comply with a subpoena to testify on the census question. 

In Tuesday’s press release, Committee Ranking Member Jim Jordan (R-OH) shared the minority’s views that the Democrats were using the question to, yet again, obstruct the administration’s agenda. “The minority views highlight new witness testimony that directly rebuts Democrat conspiracy theories about the origins and purpose of the citizenship question,” said Tuesday’s press release.

Who Was Thomas Hoffeller?

Democrats also stated that Thomas Hoffeller  was behind a racial gerrymandering campaign and the alleged right wing conspiracy. James Uthmeier, a former Senior Counsel at DOC, who worked on the citizenship question directly with U.S. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross testified that Hoffeller had zero role in an alleged right-wing racial gerrymandering campaign. Uthmeier didn’t even know who Hoffeller was and had never discussed the citizenship question with the White House.

Here is the exact exchange with Uthmeier:

Mr. Uthmeier, do you know who Thomas Hofeller is? Or Hoffler
[sic]?

A. I am familiar with the name. But I do not know this individual, no.

Q. Did you ever speak or communicate with him during the transition,
or any other time?

A. I did not.

Q. Have you ever read anything or seen anything written by him?

A. No. To my knowledge, no, I have never seen anything written by
him.

Q. Have you ever discussed him with anyone?

A. I discussed him with counsel in preparation for this interview.

However, I had no other discussions. I was present for the deposition
of Mark Newman, where I also would have heard the name
mentioned.

Q. Are you familiar with his 2015 study or report?

A. I am not.13

Other witnesses offered similar answers. Gene Hamilton, a senior administration official working on immigration issues at DOJ, also had no idea who Hoffeller was in his interview. Similarly, Kris Kobach, former Kansas Secretary of State, said, “I don’t agree with his assumption that when you count – when you count accurately the number of citizens, that that necessarily helps one party or another party.”

No White House Connection

Witnesses who testified said there was no connection between the White House and the DOJ. John Gore, a top official in the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, told the committee that there was no conversation between the DOJ and the White House related to the citizenship question.

Here’s what he testified,

Q. Were you aware of any conversations between Attorney General
Jeff Sessions and Steve Bannon about the addition of a citizenship
question?

A. No.

Q. Were you aware of any conversations with anyone else at the
Department of Justice and Kris Kobach about an addition of a
citizenship question?

A. No.

In his testimony, Kobach even went as far to deny any conversation with the Republican National Committee.

Q. During the campaign or transition, did you ever discuss adding a
citizenship question to the 2020 census with a transition official
named Mark Neuman, and I’m happy to spell that if that’s helpful.

A. I don’t recall anybody named Mark Neuman. It’s possible I met him
and forgot him, but that name does not ring a bell at this time.32

Q. Have you ever had any conversations regarding the citizenship
question with anybody at the Republican National Committee?

A. No.


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