U.S. House holds top Trump officials in contempt over census citizenship question

WASHINGTON — The U.S. House on Wednesday voted to hold two of President Donald Trump’s top officials in contempt of Congress for refusing to hand over documents related to the administration’s plans to add a citizenship question to the 2020 census. 

The chamber voted 230-198, largely along partisan lines, to hold Attorney General William Barr and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross in contempt after they failed to comply with subpoenas from House Democrats. 

Michigan independent Rep. Justin Amash joined Democrats in voting for contempt. Four Democrats voted against the resolution: Reps. Anthony Brindisi of New York, Jared Golden of Maine, Conor Lamb of Pennsylvania and Jefferson Van Drew of New Jersey. 

The vote marks House Democrats’ latest rebuke against Trump as the White House continues to defy their oversight requests. The contempt vote is primarily symbolic, as Trump’s Justice Department isn’t expected to pursue charges against the officials. 

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The battle over the citizenship question has been fought on several fronts, with lawmakers seeking documents while a lawsuit wound through the courts. The U.S. Supreme Court last month delayed the addition of a citizenship question to the census, citing problems with Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross’ rationale for doing so. 

Despite declaring victory in that case, Democrats and other Trump opponents want more information from the administration, insisting that top officials were attempting to deter people — particularly immigrants — from responding to the census, which could drastically skew the count. Evidence unearthed from the files of a GOP operative suggests the question’s origins lie in an attempt to create an advantage for Republicans in redistricting.

Ross has said that the plan to revive a citizenship question on the 2020 census was an attempt to bolster the Voting Rights Act.

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