William Barr, Wilbur Ross may be held in contempt of Congress amid row over Census citizenship question

May 8: Congress can hold a person in contempt if the person's conduct or actions get in the way of congressional proceedings or an inquiry by a committee of Congress.

The top U.S. law enforcement officer and the Commerce secretary will face a contempt of Congress vote unless they hand over documents by Thursday on efforts to put a citizenship question on the 2020 Census, the chairman of a House of Representatives panel warned on Monday.

Representative Elijah Cummings, chairman of the House Oversight and Reform Committee, sent letters to Attorney General William Barr and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross warning them they had until Thursday to comply with the subpoena after having failed for two months to produce the documents.

WATCH: May 8 — Republican on judiciary committee slams Democrats over holding Barr in contempt

Cummings sent the letters after an immigrant advocacy group said in a filing in a Manhattan federal court last week that a longtime Republican specialist on drawing electoral districts played a “significant role” in planning the citizenship question.

The filing charged that the Trump administration had concealed evidence that its proposal for the question was intended to help Republicans draw favorable electoral maps.

READ MORE: Explained — what it means to be held in contempt of Congress

A study by Harvard researchers in March predicted the citizenship question would lead to an undercount of some 4.2 million people among Hispanics, costing their communities federal aid and political representation.

In his letter to Ross, Cummings said the Commerce secretary had testified he added the citizenship question “solely” at the request of the Justice Department to help enforce the Voting Rights Act.

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“Last week, new documents were unearthed that suggest that the real reason the Trump administration sought to add the citizenship question was not to help enforce the Voting Rights Act at all, but rather to gerrymander congressional districts in overtly racist, partisan and unconstitutional ways,” he added.

Cummings said the panel would consider postponing its contempt of Congress vote if Ross and Barr produced unredacted documents the committee had requested by Thursday.

READ MORE: House committee votes to hold Barr in contempt as Trump asserts executive privilege

© 2019 Reuters

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