The House voted Wednesday evening to hold Attorney General William Barr and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross in criminal contempt of Congress for obstructing a probe into the Trump administration’s failed attempt to add a citizenship question to the 2020 census.
What We Know:
- The resolution passed by a vote of 230-198 and no Republicans voted in favor. Democratic Reps Anthony Brindisi of New York, Jared Golden of Maine, Conor Lamb of Pennsylvania and Jefferson Van Drew of New Jersey voted against it. White House Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham said the vote was “ridiculous and yet another lawless attempt to harass the President and his Administration.”
- The House scheduled the vote after Barr and Ross withheld documents that were subpoenaed by the Oversight and Reform Committee, as part of its probe into the origins of the citizenship question. Though Trump’s Department of Justice will not act on the request, the vote reflects the House Democrats’ frustration about the administration’s defiance. “I do not take this decision lightly,” said Rep. Elijah Cummings, chairman of the Oversight Committee.
- Barr and Ross sent a joint letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. “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,” their letter said.
- Ross testified that he added the question “solely” because of a request from the DOJ. However, it turns out that he’d asked the department to make the request. It later emerged that he and administration officials had been discussing adding the question for months.
- If the resolution passes the Democratic-controlled House, it would be the second time in U.S. history that an attorney general had been found in criminal contempt. The first time was in 2012 when the Republican-controlled House found then Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt for failing to turn over subpoenaed documents.
Last week, Trump announced that they had given up on the census question.