Sign up for our daily briefing

Make your busy days simpler with Axios AM/PM. Catch up on what's new and why it matters in just 5 minutes.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Denver news in your inbox

Catch up on the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Denver

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Des Moines news in your inbox

Catch up on the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Des Moines

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Minneapolis-St. Paul news in your inbox

Catch up on the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Twin Cities

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Tampa Bay news in your inbox

Catch up on the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Tampa Bay

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Charlotte news in your inbox

Catch up on the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Charlotte

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Wilbur Ross looks on as William Barr delivers remarks on citizenship and the 2020 Census on July 11. Photo: Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images

The House voted 230-198 to hold Attorney General William Barr and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross in criminal contempt of Congress on Wednesday for withholding subpoenaed materials related to the failed 2020 Census citizenship question.

Why it matters: Democrats believe the administration's reason for attempting to add a citizenship question to the 2020 Census is "a cover for a politically motivated attempt to eliminate noncitizens from population statistics ... [thereby] diminishing Democratic power," the NYT reports. Wednesday's vote follows a House Oversight Committee decision last month.

Where it stands: President Trump caved on adding the citizenship question last week, stunning figures in the conservative legal community after he publicly weighed an executive order to push the question forward.

  • The Supreme Court ruled last month 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.

How we got here: House Oversight Chairman Elijah Cummings said the Justice and Commerce departments did not fully comply with subpoena requests related to departmental decision-making on the citizenship question.

  • The DOJ said those documents were shielded by executive privilege asserted by Trump.
  • Ross has defended the citizenship question as necessary to enhance the 1965 Voting Rights Act, despite the Census Bureau's own analysis that it could scare households with noncitizens into low response rates.
  • Cummings released a statement on Wednesday in support of the House resolution:
"I do not take this decision lightly.  Holding any Cabinet Secretary in criminal contempt of congress is a serious and somber matter—one that I have done everything in my power to avoid.
But in this case, the Attorney General and Secretary Ross have blatantly obstructed our ability to do congressional oversight into the real reason Secretary Ross was trying—for the first time in 70 years—to add a citizenship question to the 2020 Census."
— Chairman Cummings’ statement made on the House floor

What's next: After Barr and Ross are referred to the Justice Department for prosecution, there is no real risk that the DOJ will take action, since Barr heads the agency. The fight over this citizenship question could take years and potentially outlast Trump's current term, based on legal precedent from the Obama administration.

Go deeper: Trump administration admits defeat on citizenship question

Go deeper

President Joe Biden vows to be "a president for all Americans"

Moments after taking the oath of office, President Joe Biden sought to soothe a nation riven by political divisions and a global pandemic, while warning that "we have far to go" to heal the country and defeat a "virus that silently stalks the the country."

Why it matters: From the same steps that a pro-Trump mob launched an assault on Congress two weeks earlier, the new president paid deference to the endurance of American political institutions.

Updated 38 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Inauguration Day dashboard

U.S. Capitol and stage are lit at sunrise ahead of the inauguration of Joe Biden. Photo: Patrick Semansky - Pool/Getty Images

President Biden has delivered his inaugural address at the Capitol, calling for an end to the politics as total war but warning that "we have far to go" to heal the country.

What's next: Biden and Vice President Harris review readiness of military troops, a long-standing tradition to signify the peaceful transfer of power.

Updated 1 hour ago - Politics & Policy

In photos: The Biden and Harris inauguration

Joe Biden is sworn in as the 46th president of the United States. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

Joe Biden and Kamala Harris were inaugurated as president and vice president respectively in a ceremony at the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday morning.

Why it matters: Top Democrats and Republicans gathered for the peaceful transfer of power only two weeks after an unprecedented siege on the building by Trump supporters to disrupt certification of Biden's victory. Trump did not attend Wednesday's ceremony.

You’ve caught up. Now what?

Sign up for Mike Allen’s daily Axios AM and PM newsletters to get smarter, faster on the news that matters.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!