Democrats on Capitol Hill have continuously accused the Trump administration of deliberately working against them to stifle investigations, and those allegations intensified on Friday when the House Oversight Committee accused the White House of interfering “directly and aggressively” with an interview this week.
In a memo from the majority staff, Democrats said that they interviewed former Secretary of State of Kansas Kris Kobach, “regarding the Trump Administration’s efforts to add a citizenship question to the 2020 Census.” The previously undisclosed interview took place on Monday.
The letter accuses the White House of interfering “directly and aggressively” with the interview:
“The White House interfered directly and aggressively with the Committee’s interview by instructing Mr. Kobach not to answer any questions about his communications with the President and White House advisors about the real reasons they added the citizenship question. ”
They wrote that “the White House sent several letters, including on the day of the interview, vastly expanding its previous assertions of Executive Privilege to apply to Mr. Kobach,” noting, that Kobach is “a private citizen who did not work for the Trump Administration when these communications took place.”
The memo also accuses Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross of operating “a secret campaign to orchestrate the addition of the citizenship question.”
Next week, the Oversight Committee intends to vote to hold Ross and Attorney General William Barr in contempt of Congress. Chairman Elijah Cummings said that “rather than cooperate, they have decided that they would rather be held in contempt of Congress.”
Kobach, for his part, has been something of a recurring figure in the Trump orbit, though the president seems to have mixed feelings about him. He tried to talk himself into a cabinet position before a White House official told McClatchy that Kobach was not in consideration for any role in the White House.
Trump tapped Kobach to lead an investigation of voter fraud after insisting that he would have won the popular vote if it weren’t for alleged fraudulent ballots. But Trump eventually disbanded the heavily criticized panel.
The Kansas politician has been mostly unsuccessful in his career — he hasn’t won a significant election outside of Secretary of State races in 2010 and 2014. In 2000, he lost a State Senate race, and in 2004 he lost a Congressional race. He ran for governor in 2018 but lost to Democrat Laura Kelly.