The House Oversight Committee has sued Attorney General William Barr and Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross for blocking its investigation into the administration’s decision to forgo adding a citizenship question to the 2020 census.
Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), who was recently elected as chair of the oversight panel, said she filed the lawsuit because the two departments have not handed over documents related to the squashing of the question.
“Since the Supreme Court ruled against them — and the House of Representatives held them in contempt for blocking the Committee’s investigation — Attorney General Barr and Commerce Secretary Ross have doubled down on their open defiance of the rule of law and refused to produce even a single additional document in response to our Committee’s bipartisan subpoenas,” said Maloney.
“I am filing this enforcement action today because the Trump Administration’s brazen obstruction of Congress must not stand,” she added. “President Trump and his aides are not above the law.”
Trump abandoned the citizenship question last summer after the Supreme Court said the administration’s justification for the question “seems to have been contrived.” Trump directed agencies to try to compile the information using existing databases.
The Justice and Commerce departments did not immediately comment on the lawsuit, although officials have previously said the documents Democrats are demanding are subject to executive privilege.
The administration has produced more than 31,000 pages of documents to the House regarding the census issue, and senior officials from both agencies, including Ross, have spoken on the record about the matter.
Maloney said the committee has continued its investigation and obtained new documents and information from other sources.
Lawmakers need the documents being withheld by Justice and Commerce, in part, to determine whether Congress should take emergency action to protect the census from partisan political interference, Maloney said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.