House Democratic leaders are moving forward with criminal contempt proceedings against Attorney General William Barr and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross for refusing to provide subpoenaed documents relating to the 2020 Census, according to Politico.
The contempt proceedings began a month ago, when the House Oversight and Reform Committee reported to the chamber that Ross and Barr should be held in civil and criminal contempt. On Monday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said in a letter that the House will “soon” take action on the contempt charges.
It’s still uncertain whether the House will go to court to enforce the subpoenas.
It’s unlikely that the contempt charges will have any actual impact on Barr or Ross. Since Barr runs the Justice Department, it’s hard to imagine how he’d allow himself to be charged with a crime. The orders to ignore subpoenas from Congress, the reason for the contempt vote, have come from the DOJ itself.
The contempt vote in this case involves the ongoing battle over the addition of a citizenship question to the 2020 Census, which Democrats say was intended to weaken Democratic representation in government. The files of the late Republican redistricting official Dr. Thomas Hofeller seemed to prove this intention, but Trump, along with the DOJ, used executive privilege to prevent those files from going to Congress.
Pelosi said in her letter on Monday that the Trump administration was trying to “make America white again,” with the addition of the question, which might scare immigrants into not participating.
The DOJ said earlier this month that the census would be printed without the question. But that was before Trump contradicted his own administration by insisting the question would be included, setting off a race to find a way to do so without the approval of the Supreme Court or Congress. Yesterday, the DOJ announced it would replace the legal team that had worked on the issue. Trump has also threatened to use an executive order to add the question.
Barr said earlier today that he has a strategy to allow the addition of the question, but gave no details of what it might be.
This is the second time Barr has been threatened with contempt this year. The first was due to his refusal to give the full report by Special Counsel Robert Mueller into Russian meddling in the 2016 election to Congress.