The House Oversight Committee voted Wednesday to recommend holding Attorney General William P. Barr and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross in contempt of Congress, accusing them of stonewalling subpoenas to get information about the citizenship question on the 2020 census.
The 24-15 vote saw one Republican — Rep. Justin Amash — join Democrats in slamming the president.
The matter now goes to the full House.
Anticipating the move, President Trump asserted executive privilege over the documents the committee is trying to get a look at, meaning there’s little chance the committee will see the documents it wants any time soon.
The contempt vote is the latest escalation in the battle between an administration that feels it’s being harassed, and a Democrat-led House convinced it’s facing unprecedented obstruction.
“We have been seeking these documents for more than a year,” Oversight and Reform Committee Chairman Elijah Cummings said, saying the administration rejected all attempts at cooperation.
The Justice and Commerce Departments, though, said it’s Mr. Cummings who’s refused to negotiate, and who jumped straight to impeachment just two months after issuing his subpoena for the documents.
The departments say they have produced 17,000 pages of documents, made witnesses available, and were willing to negotiate over other matters.
Now those negotiations are over, the Justice Department said.
Mr. Ross called the vote “shameless,” saying he’d offered cooperation but Democrats weren’t willing to accommodate any conditions.
“The committee is taking this action despite the fact that a federal district court has already upheld the department’s confidentiality assertions,” he said.
He said despite the attacks, he made a staffer available for a six-hour interview with the committee this week.
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