WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The Democratic chairman of the House Oversight Committee accused the Trump administration of a “massive, unprecedented, and growing pattern of obstruction” for ordering federal employees not to comply with congressional investigations.
“Both President Trump and Attorney General Barr are now openly ordering federal employees to ignore congressional subpoenas and simply not show up – without any assertion of a valid legal privilege,” U.S. Representative Elijah Cummings said in a statement.
The Justice Department on Wednesday rebuffed the House Oversight and Reform Committee, which had sought to interview an official involved in the Trump administration’s decision to put a citizenship question on the 2020 U.S. Census.
The department said John Gore, a deputy assistant attorney general in the Civil Rights Division, would not participate in a deposition scheduled for Thursday if he could not have a Justice Department lawyer at his side. The committee had offered to allow a lawyer to sit in a different room.
Cummings said the subpoena issued to Gore was adopted on a bipartisan basis and that there was no privilege asserted by the White House or Justice Department that would preclude him from appearing.
“This is a massive, unprecedented, and growing pattern of obstruction,” Cummings said, warning the federal employees to “think very carefully about their own legal interests” in refusing to comply with the panel’s requests.
Reporting by Doina Chiacu and Mark Hosenball; editing by Mohammad Zargham and Richard Chang