House votes to hold Barr and Ross in contempt

Attorney General William Barr speaks about the census as Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross listens during an event with President Donald Trump in the Ros

Attorney General William Barr speaks about the census as Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross listens during an event with President Donald Trump in the Ros

The US House has voted to hold two top Trump administration officials in contempt of Congress for failing to comply with subpoenas related to a decision to add a citizenship question to the 2020 census.

Attorney General William Barr speaks about the census as Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross listens during an event with President Trump in the Rose Garden at the White House on Thursday, July 11, 2019, in Washington.

The impact of the contempt vote is largely symbolic.

The measure, which passed 230-198, was a response to the cabinet members' failure to produce documents requested by House Democrats as part of an investigation into whether the Trump administration attempted to add a citizenship question to the 2020 census that would discriminate against racial minorities.

Lawmakers say Barr and Ross refused to hand over key documents shedding light on the administration's push to include the question about United States citizenship on the 2020 census, after Donald Trump asserted executive privilege over them.

The Justice Department noted in a statement that Democrats were playing "political games".

The vote comes one day after a federal district court issued a ruling permanently barring the question from being added to the Census.

In the meantime, Mr. Trump has ordered all federal government agencies and departments to provide data they have about citizens and non-citizens to the Commerce Department.

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The White House responded to the vote by calling it "ridiculous" and insisting that House Democrats have "no right" to the documents. Pointing to the contempt vote, a Democratic resolution on impeachment and Tuesday's resolution condemning Trump's racist remarks aimed at four minority Democratic congresswomen, McCarthy said Democrats are consumed with passing measures "attacking Trump" while voters are more concerned with kitchen-table issues.

The intent of the citizenship question, opponents said, was to manufacture a deliberate undercount of areas with high immigrant and Latino populations, costing Democratic-leaning regions seats in the House of Representatives. 'But in the case of the attorney general and Secretary Ross, they blatantly obstructed our ability to do congressional oversight into the real reason Secretary Ross was trying for the first time in 70 years to add a citizenship question to the 2020 census'.

While Ross and other officials have claimed the sole reason they wanted to add the citizenship question was to enforce the Voting Rights Act, 'we now know that claim was nothing but a pretext, ' Cummings said. "The Democrats' misuse of their contempt authority today raises the question: why don't they want to know how many American citizens are in this country?"

Others, such as Rep. Jamie B. Raskin (D-Md.), said the battle was about congressional oversight of the executive branch, noting that the Trump administration had "already lost" the policy battle in the courts. They have pressed for specific documents to determine Ross' motivation and contend the administration has declined to provide the material despite repeated requests.

"If the Democrats can't impeach President Trump, they will instead hold his Cabinet in contempt of Congress", he said.

In a letter late Wednesday to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Barr and Ross asked Democrats to postpone the vote, saying they have shown a "clear record of cooperation" with Congress. While the resolution authorized the House panel to take its subpoena of Barr to court, an agreement struck between the Judiciary Committee and the Justice Department ahead of the vote meant the committee said it wouldn't take that action so long as the department is cooperating. "This is just another episode in political theatre".

The administration said Congress is not entitled to some of the documents because they are subject to executive privilege.

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