House report ties Trump citizenship question to political goals
Trump officials tried to add a citizenship question to the 2020 census to try to impact congressional apportionment, according to a report released Wednesday by the House Committee on Oversight and Reform.
Why it matters: The report found that documents obtained by the committee are at odds with a 2019 testimony from former Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross, who said the Trump administration tried to add a citizenship question so it could better enforce the Voting Rights Act.
- The report also says that some administration officials pushed the citizenship question despite knowing it may be illegal.
Driving the news: "The Committee's investigation has exposed how a group of political appointees sought to use the census to advance an ideological agenda and potentially exclude non-citizens from the apportionment count," the report said.
- The documents include drafts of an August 2017 memo from Commerce Department lawyer, James Uthmeier, who warned that adding a citizenship question for apportionment could violate the constitution.
- In later drafts, Uthmeier and another political appointee, Earl Comstock, altered the memo's language that had suggested the citizenship question could be illegal.
- "'There are bases for legal arguments that the Founding Fathers intended for the apportionment count to be based on legal inhabitants,'" the memo said.
- The Department of Justice in December 2017 sent a formal request to the Commerce Department to add the citizenship question and in 2018, Ross said the question would be added to the 2020 Census.
The big picture: The Supreme Court in 2019 ruled that the citizenship question could not be added to the census unless and until it does a better job of explaining why that question is necessary.
- Experts said the citizenship question would lead to a less accurate census, which in turn would skew the makeup of the House and deprive minority communities of federal funding, Axios' Sam Baker reports.
State of play: The House committee faced "unprecedented obstruction" from the Trump administration while conducting the investigation, the report says.
- Ross and former Attorney General Bill Bar were both held in contempt of Congress after refusing to produce documents subpoenaed by the committee.
- "President Trump personally directed this obstruction with an overbroad assertion of executive privilege intended to block the Committee’s inquiry," the report found.