Nov 26, 2019

House Oversight Committee sues Barr and Ross to enforce Census subpoenas

Attorney General Bill Barr (R) and Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross with President Trump. Photo: Chen Mengtong/China News Service/Visual China Group via Getty Images

The House Oversight Committee filed a federal lawsuit Tuesday against Attorney General Bill Barr and Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross for refusing to comply with subpoenas for documents related to the Trump administration’s efforts to add a citizenship question to the 2020 Census. 

Why it matters: The White House had previously claimed its aides were "absolutely immune" from congressional subpoenas. On Monday, a federal judge ruled former White House counsel Don McGahn must testify under subpoena in the ongoing House impeachment inquiry, giving House Democrats a stronger hand to enforce its other oversight requests.

The backdrop: The House voted 230-198 in July to hold Barr and Ross in criminal contempt for withholding subpoenaed materials. Democrats believe the administration's reason for attempting to add a citizenship question to the 2020 Census was a cover for a politically motivated effort to diminish the electoral power of Democrats by eliminating non-citizens from population statistics.

President Trump ultimately caved on adding the citizenship question in July, stunning figures in the conservative legal community after he publicly weighed an executive order to push the question forward.

  • The Supreme Court had ruled that the Trump administration can't add a citizenship question to the Census unless it does a better job of explaining why the question is necessary.
  • A 2015 study conducted by a now-deceased GOP gerrymandering strategist concluded that adding a citizenship question to the 2020 Census would "clearly be a disadvantage to the Democrats" and "advantageous to Republicans and Non-Hispanic Whites," according to court documents filed in a legal challenge.

Go deeper: Judge rules McGahn must comply with House impeachment subpoena

Go deeper

Rep. Jeff Van Drew expected to switch parties, become Republican

Rep. Jeff Van Drew in the Capitol on Dec. 4. Photo: Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images

New Jersey Rep. Jeff Van Drew, a moderate freshman Democrat who said he plans to oppose articles of impeachment against President Trump, is expected to flip parties and become a Republican, a White House official briefed on the matter tells Axios' Jonathan Swan.

The big picture: Van Drew has voted against Trump on nearly all issues except impeachment, according to data gathered by FiveThirtyEight. The congressman did side with the president when the House voted to hold Attorney General William Barr and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross in criminal contempt of Congress over the failed 2020 Census citizenship question. Van Drew represents a congressional district that Trump won by nearly five points in the 2016 election.

Go deeper: House Democrat plans to oppose articles of impeachment

Keep ReadingArrowDec 14, 2019

McGahn appeals ruling ordering him to comply with House impeachment subpoena

Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

A federal judge ruled Monday that former White House counsel Don McGahn must testify under subpoena in the ongoing House impeachment inquiry, rejecting the White House's assertion that its aides are "absolutely immune" from congressional subpoenas. McGahn and the Justice Department appealed the ruling on Tuesday.

"When DOJ insists that Presidents can lawfully prevent their senior-level aides from responding to compelled congressional process and that neither the federal courts nor Congress has the power to do anything about it, DOJ promotes a conception of separation-of-powers principles that gets these constitutional commands exactly backwards. In reality, it is a core tenet of this Nation’s founding that the powers of a monarch must be split between the branches of the government to prevent tyranny."
— Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson
Go deeperArrowUpdated Nov 26, 2019

The U.S. communities in danger of being overlooked in the 2020 census

Data: AP analysis of Census Bureau data; Map: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

About a quarter of the U.S. population —and more than 8 in 10 residents of Detroit — live in areas likely to be difficult for the census to accurately count next year, according to census data analyzed by the Associated Press.

Why it matters: "Hard to count" often translates to underrepresentation. The 2020 census will be the basis for allocating political power and government funding for the next decade.

Go deeperArrowDec 12, 2019