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Trump invokes executive privilege in fight over census citizenship question

Jennifer Haberkorn, Los Angeles Times on

Published in News & Features

WASHINGTON -- President Donald Trump on Wednesday asserted executive privilege over information House Democrats are seeking regarding the decision to include a citizenship question on the 2020 census.

The move came as a House panel was expected to vote later in the day to hold Attorney General William Barr and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross in contempt of Congress for failing to comply with subpoenas seeking information about the decision.

If the House Committee on Oversight and Reform approves the contempt resolution, it would become the second panel that has voted to hold Barr in contempt for failing to cooperate with congressional investigations.

The debate comes ahead of the 2020 census, in which the Trump administration hopes to ask whether respondents are U.S. citizens. Democrats allege the question was added for partisan reasons and will result in intimidating noncitizens into not responding to the constitutionally mandated query of residents, pointing to documents that appear to prove their suspicions.

Ross was "aggressively pressing his staff to add the citizenship questions" and "he was doing it at the urging of the White House," said Committee Chairman Elijah E. Cummings, D-Md.

They have demanded interviews and documents that would show the administration's internal deliberations.


"I want to know why this question was magically added after we have seen that a political operative knew and detailed an intent to intimidate racial and immigrant communities for a partisan purpose, saying this will hurt Democrats and help Republicans," said Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y.

Ross has denied any political motivations for adding the question. The administration has claimed the citizenship information will assist it in enforcing the Voting Rights Act, though experts cast doubt on that assertion.

Trump on Wednesday defended the citizenship question, saying it's "totally ridiculous" to do a census without it.

"When you have a census and you're not allowed to talk about whether somebody's a citizen or not, that doesn't sound so good to me," he said.


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