House Holds Barr, Ross in Criminal Contempt over Census Documents

Carlos Barria/Reuters

The U.S. House of Representatives voted on Wednesday to hold Attorney General William Barr and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross in criminal contempt for defying congressional subpoenas related to the U.S. census.

The measure, which passed 230-198, was a response to the cabinet members’ failure to produce documents requested by House Democrats as part of an investigation into whether the Trump administration attempted to add a citizenship question to the 2020 census that would discriminate against racial minorities.

Four Democrats voted against the measure, while no Republicans supported it. Justin Amash, an independent congressman from Michigan who recently left the Republican Party, voted in favor of the resolution.

The criminal contempt vote against the two Trump cabinet members is likely to be little more than symbolic since the charges would be referred to Barr’s Justice Department.

Still, the maneuver intensified a Democratic assault on President Donald Trump’s stonewalling of congressional probes.

Earlier on Wednesday, Barr and Ross urged House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to delay the vote, saying she should “allow the constitutionally mandated accommodation process to continue.”

“House Democrats never sought to have a productive relationship with the Trump administration, and today’s PR stunt further demonstrates their unending quest to generate headlines instead of operating in good faith with our department,” Ross said in a statement.

The U.S. Supreme Court last month blocked Trump’s initial effort to add the citizenship question. He then planned an executive order to add it to the census, but later dropped the idea.

“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,” said Rep. Elijah Cummings, the Democratic chairman of the House Oversight and Reform Committee, which is conducting the census investigation.

“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,” he added.

Wednesday’s vote marked the first time Trump administration officials have been held in criminal contempt of Congress since Democrats took control of the House in January. Prior to the vote there had been only one other instance in U.S. history of Congress holding a sitting cabinet official in contempt.

In 2012, congressional Republicans held then President Barack Obama’s Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt over his refusal to produce documents relating to the “Operation Fast and Furious” gun trafficking investigation.

(Reporting by Sarah Lynch; writing by David Shepardson; editing by Dan Grebler, Diane Craft and G Crosse)

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Edmund Hickey

Now what would you expect from a Democrat Congress? Something else? The entire lot of them disgusts me no end as it should every America citizen. Never, in the entire history of our country, has a constitutionally-elected president been subjected to what Democrats are doing to Trump and his administration. And these are the people that want to run the country? God help us, as citizens, should they achieve their goal. Democrat Socialism, run by elite Democrats such as Pelosi, Schumer and the rest of that horrific bunch, would mean an end to personal freedoms, dictatorship by committee and a… Read more »

Connie Yost

I feel that the citizenship question should be on the Census


– another great reason why republicans need to take the House in 2020. Can’t wait to see Pelosi relinquish her gavel!


It would be no surprise if Barr and Ross hold Congress in contempt, since it’s filled with idiots like Cummings….and they didn’t even squander tax dollars to do it.


Since when is question on the census a criminal offense. This reminds me of the boy who cried wolf. Credibility is lostm


“But in this case, the attorney general and Secretary Ross have blatantly obstructed our ability to do congressional oversight“. Where was Elijah Cummings when Hillary destroyed subpoenaed evidence? Was she held in contempt? Not just refused to provide it- destroyed it!

Patti Harrison

Again, who I would truly hold in contempt for would be Mr. Cummings, and any other democrat that sat in on that waste of committee , which wasted our tax money and time, all because of their hatred of our President Donald Trump!


The only contempt there should be would be for the ridiculous waste of time and money of these hate filled Democrats and one Amash, an Independent attention seeker. There seems to be no limit to the schemes they conjure up to slow President Trump down. What an insult to Barr who has an impeccable history. Cummings and Pelosi…. both MD Democrats have no shame.





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