House Votes to Hold Ross, Barr in Contempt Over Citizenship Question on Census

from The Wall Street Journal,

Oversight Committee continues its probe of the administration’s effort, dropped last week by Trump.

The House of Representatives voted to hold Attorney General William Barr and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross in criminal contempt over their refusal to produce documents concerning the addition of a citizenship question to the census, days after President Trump abandoned his legal efforts to amend the survey. The Democratic-led chamber’s approval of the measure, which passed by a 230-198 margin, allows the Oversight and Government Reform committee to consider taking action against the two Trump administration cabinet secretaries in federal court—where committee attorneys could ask a judge to enforce the subpoena. Holding a cabinet secretary in contempt is unusual...

House Republicans called the vote political theater, and Messrs. Barr and Ross told House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.) in a letter Wednesday that a contempt vote would be premature given their departments’ cooperation with the committee that included the production of witnesses and more than 30,000 pages of documents.

They couldn’t provide the other information the committee sought because it is protected under several legal privileges, they said in the letter, and urged Mrs. Pelosi to postpone the vote so both sides could continue to negotiate.

Any lawsuit could set up a constitutional clash between the branches. The Supreme Court has never ruled on whether a congressional demand for information can overcome an executive-privilege claim, and a ruling could reshape the relationship between Congress and presidential administrations.

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