WASHINGTON — A scheduled Wednesday morning House Oversight and Reform Committee vote to hold Attorney General William Barr and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross in contempt for failing to turn over subpoenaed documents related to the addition of a citizenship question on the 2020 U.S. Census was postponed after the Justice Department notified the committee that President Donald Trump had invoked executive privilege over the documents.
“This letter is to advise you that the President has asserted executive privilege over certain subpoenaed documents identified by the Committee in its June 3, 2019 letters to the Attorney General and the Secretary,” Assistant Attorney General Stephen Boyd wrote in a letter that CNN obtained Wednesday.
The Justice and Commerce departments have made several requests to delay contempt proceedings since the committee first requested the documents in early April.
Boyd said in his letter that the committee’s decision to proceed with a vote over the departments’ objections violated the spirit of good-faith negotiations.
Chairman Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) said the committee will vote later in the afternoon.
In March 2018, Ross told the committee the addition of the citizenship question to next year’s Census would help to better enforce minority protections under the Voting Rights Act.
Ross said the question was added at the request of the Justice Department. However, the committee later received emails that reportedly showed that Ross pushed for the addition of the question prior to the time he said DoJ had made the request.
In March 2019, Ross sought to clarify his earlier testimony, telling the committee he “never intentionally misled Congress or intentionally said anything incorrect under oath.”
Opponents of the citizenship question maintain it would discourage many Hispanics and undocumented residents from participating in the Census.
The issue is currently the subject of a lawsuit. The U.S. Supreme Court is expected to rule on the case within the next few weeks.