The House Is Threatening to Hold William Barr in Contempt, Again

Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty

House Democrats are threatening to hold Attorney General William Barr in contempt of Congress for the second time in two months, according to Politico. This time, the threatened contempt citation, which would also target Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, was spurred by the administration’s refusal to turn over subpoenaed documents relating to the racist citizenship question that the administration is working to add to the 2020 census.

“Unfortunately, your actions are part of a pattern,” House Oversight and Reform Chairman Elijah Cummings wrote in a letter to Ross and Barr on Tuesday. “The Trump administration has been engaged in one of the most unprecedented cover-ups since Watergate, extending from the White House to multiple federal agencies and departments of the government and across numerous investigations.”

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Cummings has demanded that Ross and Barr turn over the documents by this Thursday or face a contempt vote.

The House Oversight Committee requested documents from the Justice Department in April after they began looking into the addition of a citizenship question to the 2020 census. Democrats worried that the question would discourage immigrants from participating in the census and thus lead to an undercount of people living in Democratic majority areas.

It seems they were right. Last week, the ACLU alleged in a court filing that the Trump administration “concealed” the role of GOP gerrymandering specialist Thomas Hofeller in instigating the addition of a citizenship question. Hofeller, who has since died, argued that the question would increase GOP power by discouraging participation in Democratic areas, leading to the redrawing of districts in Republicans favor.

The Trump administration has said the addition of the question would help them enforce the Voting Rights Act, but Cummings wrote in his letter that this new evidence suggests the real purpose of the addition was “to gerrymander congressional districts in overtly racist, partisan, and unconstitutional ways.”

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Barr and Ross have refused to turn over subpoenaed documents, which include communications from the White House, the Republican National Committee, President Trump’s campaign, and more.

“The tactics of this cover-up are now clear,” Cummings wrote. “The administration has been challenging Congress’ core authority to conduct oversight under the Constitution, questioning the legislative bases for congressional inquiries, objecting to committee rules and precedents that have been in place for decades under both Republican and Democratic leadership, and making baseless legal arguments to avoid producing documents and testimony.”

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High-ranking Justice Department official John Gore did previously appear in front of the committee to discuss the addition of the question, but subsequently refused to testify without his lawyer. Democrats rejected that condition.

You may remember the last time Barr was held in contempt of Congress, just a few weeks ago, for refusing the hand over the full contents of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election. The House still has yet to vote on that contempt citation.

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A third citation is expected for Barr on June 11th, when the House may vote to hold Barr and former White House counsel Don McGhan in contempt of Congress for refusing to comply with subpoenas.

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