Ahead of contempt vote, Trump shields census documents from Congress

US

House Oversight and Reform Committee chairman Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD) arrives at the committee contempt votes on whether to find Attorney General William Barr and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross in contempt of Congress for withholding Census documents on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., June 12, 2019. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas – RC15674C3000

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Donald Trump asserted executive privilege on Wednesday to keep under wraps documents related to adding a citizenship question to the 2020 U.S. Census, defying a U.S. House committee in another move to stonewall Democrats’ multiple investigations of the president.

The move came minutes before the House Oversight Committee convened to vote on holding two of his Cabinet members in contempt of Congress over the census question.

Democrats on the committee were angered after receiving a letter from the Justice Department saying Trump had asserted executive privilege over the documents.

“This does not appear to be a good faith effort at negotiation,” House Oversight Committee Chairman Elijah Cummings said in an opening statement at the panel’s meeting.

“Instead it appears to be another example of the administration’s blanket defiance of Congress’ constitutionally mandated authority … This begs the question: what is being hidden?” Cummings said.

He said the committee would vote later in the afternoon on whether to hold Attorney General William Barr and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross in contempt of Congress for refusing to comply with a committee subpoena seeking the documents related to an administration decision to add a citizenship question to the census.

The census question already has triggered lawsuits with several states and cities saying that asking census respondents if they are U.S. citizens will frighten immigrants and Latinos into abstaining from the count. Critics have said Republicans want to engineer a deliberate population undercount in Democratic-leaning areas where many immigrants live in order to gain seats in the House.

Reporting by Mark Hosenball, Jan Wolfe and David Morgan; editing by Kevin Drawbaugh and Bill Trott

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