House Oversight Votes to Hold Barr, Ross in Contempt Over Refusal to Turn Over Census Docs

Attorney General William Barr testifies before a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, May 1, 2019. (Aaron P. Bernstein/Reuters)

The House Oversight and Reform Committee voted largely along party lines Wednesday afternoon to hold Attorney General William Barr and Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross in contempt over their refusal to comply with lawmakers’ subpoena-backed demands for documents related to the inclusion of a citizenship question on the upcoming census.

The contempt resolution passed 24–15, with Representative Justin Amash of Michigan the only Republican to join Democrats in support. The vote took place hours after the Department of Justice announced that President Trump had asserted executive privilege over the census documents Congress sought in anticipation of the contempt vote.

“These documents are protected from disclosure by the deliberative process, attorney-client communications, or attorney work product components of executive privilege,” Assistant Attorney General Stephen Boyd wrote in a letter to Oversight and Reform Committee chairman Elijah Cummings (D., Md.). “Regrettably, you have made these assertions necessary by your insistence upon scheduling a premature contempt vote.”

Cummings responded to the assertion of executive privilege by accusing the administration of trying to hide misconduct related to Ross’s March 2018 decision to add the citizenship question to

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