House Holds Attorney General Barr and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross in Contempt over 2020 Census Question

The House voted to hold Attorney General William Barr, left, and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross in contempt for defying congressional subpoenas related to the U.S. census. (Alex Wong/Getty Images; Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images)
Alex Wong/Getty Images; Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images

The House voted to hold Attorney General William Barr and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross in contempt on Wednesday, 230-198, over their refusal to turn over documents to Congress related to adding a citizenship question to the 2020 census.

All Republicans present voted against the resolution, and were joined by four Democrats — Reps. Anthony Brindisi (NY), Jared Golden (ME), Conor Lamb (PA), and Jefferson Van Drew (NJ).

All other Democrats and Rep. Justin Amash (I-MI) voted to hold Barr and Ross in contempt.

The vote formally authorizes the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform to bring Barr and Ross to federal court to seek the documents.

The Trump administration staved off a similar effort last month to hold Barr in contempt over his refusal to testify to the House Judiciary Committee and be questioned by staff rather than members of Congress, turn over the fully unredacted Special Counsel report, and provide underlying materials for the report.

But Wednesday’s contempt vote was only the second time a sitting cabinet member has been held in contempt, with the first being former President Barack Obama’s first attorney general Eric Holder Jr.

White House Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham slammed the vote.

“Today’s vote by Speaker Pelosi and House Democrats to hold Attorney General Barr and Secretary Ross in contempt is ridiculous and yet another lawless attempt to harass the President and his Administration,” she said in a statement. She added: “The Departments of Justice and Commerce have produced more than 31,000 pages of documents to the House regarding the census issue, and senior officials from both agencies, including Secretary Ross, have spoken on the record about the matter. Instead of accepting the numerous good-faith efforts of accommodation the Departments have made, Democrats continue to demand documents that are subject to executive privilege. House Democrats know they have no legal right to these documents, but their shameful and cynical politics know no bounds.:

 

Follow Kristina Wong at @kristina_wong.

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