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House holds William Barr and Wilbur Ross in criminal contempt of Congress

July 18, 2019

On Wednesday, the House of Representatives voted to ask the Department of Justice to prosecute Attorney General William Barr and Commerce Department Secretary Wilbur Ross for defying congressional subpoenas and showing criminal contempt of Congress.

The vote came down to 230-198 and is not expected to be carried out by the Department of Justice. Barr and Ross did not show up to hearing on the 2020 census in which the Trump administration is trying to add a question asking responders if they are U.S. citizens.

“I do not take this decision lightly,” said Chairman of the House Oversight Committee Representative Elijah Cummings (D-Md.). “Holding any secretary in criminal contempt of Congress is a serious and sober matter, one that I have done everything in my power to avoid.”

“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.”

This vote marks the first time any Trump administration cabinet members have been held in criminal contempt of Congress. All Republicans voted against this resolutions, and four democrats joined them.

In a letter addressed to Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi a few hours before the vote, Barr and Ross voiced their disagreement to Congress holding them in criminal contempt.

“We strongly disagree with any suggestion that our departments have obstructed this investigation,” read the letter. “It is unfortunate that the House has scheduled a vote to hold two sitting members of the president’s Cabinet in contempt of Congress given the clear record of cooperation.”

The letter noted that their departments have handed over tens of thousands of documents in compliance with congressional requests.

Democrats have criticized Secretary Ross and the Trump administration as a whole about the origins of the citizenship question, saying they oppose the addition of the question as it would seriously cut respond rates in immigrant-dense communities.

On Wednesday, Cummings accused the Trump administration of a “purposeful effort to obstruct” the House Oversight Committee’s investigation into the matter.

– MK. II

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