House panel seeks contempt citation against Barr, Ross over Census

FILE PHOTO: U.S. Attorney General William Barr speaks at the FBI National Academy Graduation Ceremony in Quantico, Virginia, U.S., June 7, 2019 REUTERS/Tom Brenner

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. House Oversight and Reform Committee on Tuesday moved to hold two top Trump administration officials in contempt of Congress for defying lawmakers investigating the addition of a controversial citizenship question to the 2020 Census.

In a report, the Democratic-controlled panel recommended that the full U.S. House of Representatives take up the contempt issue to force U.S. Attorney General William Barr and U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross to comply with congressional subpoenas.

The move puts the issue before House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who can bring it before the chamber for additional enforcement action including seeking legal redress. The report comes amid a political battle between the Republican U.S. president and House Democrats seeking to hold the executive to account.

“The Trump Administration claimed that the only reason it wanted to add the citizenship question was to help the Department of Justice enforce the Voting Rights Act, but that claim has now been exposed as a pretext,” the panel’s chairman, Democratic U.S. Representative Elijah Cummings, said in a statement.

“Official after official appearing before the Committee have refused to answer questions about the real reasons behind their effort, but the mounting evidence points to a partisan and discriminatory effort to harm the interests of Democrats and non-Whites.”

Representatives for the White House, the Department of Justice and the Commerce Department could not be immediately reached for comment. Representatives for Republicans on the committee did not immediately respond to a request for comment

Reporting by Mark Hosenball and Susan Heavey. Editing by Jane Merriman and Chizu Nomiyama

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