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Photo: Al Drago/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The Justice Department has declined to prosecute former Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross for misleading Congress on the Trump administration's push to add a citizenship question to the 2020 census.

Catch up quick: Ross had testified that the Trump administration wanted the addition due to a DOJ request for data so it could better enforce the Voting Rights Act. But internal records showed that Trump officials, including Ross, had planned to add the question long before the DOJ submitted its formal request in December 2017.

Why it matters: Civil rights activists and some census experts feared that adding the question would discourage immigrants from participating, which could then lead to an undercount with significant implications for redistricting and funding.

  • The Supreme Court ultimately blocked the Trump administration's move, calling Ross' Voting Rights Act reasoning "contrived."
  • Democrats also requested that Commerce Department Inspector General Peggy Gustafson investigate Ross on his characterization of the request.

What they're saying: Ross "misrepresented the full rationale" when he testified in Congress on two separate occasions in March 2018, according to Gustafson.

  • "During Congressional testimony, the then-Secretary stated his decision to reinstate the citizenship question was based solely on a DOJ request [from late 2017]," Gustafson wrote in a letter to Democratic lawmakers last week.
  • "However, evidence shows there were significant communications related to the citizenship question among the then-Secretary, his staff, and other government officials between March 2017 and September 2017, which was well before the DOJ request memorandum."
  • "Evidence also suggests the Department requested and played a part in drafting the DOJ memorandum," she noted.
  • After documents revealed in the legal case undermined his testimony, Ross sent a memo to the department clarifying his involvement in June 2018, Gustafson added.

The bottom line: The Public Integrity Section of the DOJ's Criminal Division declined to prosecute the case, Gustafson said.

Go deeper

DOJ charges 5 with money laundering in alleged Venezuela bribery scheme

Photo: Samuel Corum/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The Justice Department announced Thursday that it was charging five people with money laundering in connection with an alleged Venezuela bribery scheme.

The big picture: The five people charged allegedly bribed Venezuelan government officials to obtain contracts to import and distribute food and medicine through a state-run program known as CLAP, according to the DOJ.

Biden says he'll make Supreme Court pick by end of February

President Biden speaks on the retirement of Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer in the Roosevelt Room of the White House. Photo: Yuri Gripas/Abaca/Bloomberg via Getty Images

President Biden on Thursday said he will announce the nominee for Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer's replacement by the end of February.

Driving the news: Biden also affirmed that he will nominate a Black woman to replace Breyer, saying "it's long overdue."

Stephen Breyer formally announces retirement from Supreme Court

Photo: Andrew Harnik/AP

Justice Stephen Breyer on Thursday sent a letter to President Biden formally announcing his retirement from the Supreme Court.

State of play: Breyer said his retirement will take effect when the court "rises for the summer recess (typically late June or early July) assuming that by then my successor has been nominated and confirmed."