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House Democrats schedule ANOTHER committee contempt vote for AG Barr
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House Democrats schedule ANOTHER committee contempt vote for AG Barr

'Empty stunt'

Another Democrat-led House committee has scheduled a vote to hold Attorney General William Barr in contempt over a congressionally issued subpoena.

In an early Friday morning press release, House Oversight Committee Chairman Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) said that his committee plans to vote next week to hold Barr and Commerce Secretary Wilber Ross in contempt of Congress if they did not produce key documents related to an administration plan to add a citizenship question on the 2020 census.

"We gave Attorney General Barr and Secretary Ross every opportunity to produce the documents the Committee needs for our investigation, but rather than cooperate, they have decided that they would rather be held in contempt of Congress," a Friday morning statement from Cummings said. "They produced none of the documents we asked for, they made no counter-offers regarding these documents, and they seem determined to continue the Trump Administration's cover-up."

The Department of Commerce announced last March that the U.S. census would reinstate a question on citizenship status for the 2020 population survey. California sued to block the move. A federal judge blocked it. The Supreme Court is expected to take the question up.

The House Oversight Committee subpoenaed Barr's and Ross' departments for documents related to the decision back in April.

Cummings warned that Barr and Ross would face a contempt vote on his committee if their departments failed to turn over documents earlier this week. Barr's team responded by saying that the Department of Justice has been working in good faith to comply as best it can with the request, despite Cummings' dissatisfaction.

"The Committee's action is premature and we are disappointed by the Committee's mischaracterization of the Department's continued and ongoing efforts to accommodate the Committee's oversight interests," a Thursday afternoon letter to Cummings from the desk of Assistant Attorney General Stephen Boyd said.

"The Department has been working diligently and in good faith to make documents available, and it plans to continue its review and production in an effort to accommodate the Committee's requests" but cannot immediately turn those documents over to Cummings' committee, the letter continued. "We hope that the Committee will not take such an abrupt measure to terminate the accommodation process, but will instead work in good faith to respect the legitimate prerogatives of each of our co-equal branches."

A similar letter to Cummings from Department of Commerce acting Assistant Secretary for Legislative and Intergovernmental Affairs Charles Kolo Rathburn called it "unfortunate" and lamented that "the Committee has embarked on this path when the Department has made substantial efforts to accommodate the Committee's interests and is prepared to continue to do so."

In the committee's Friday press release, Cummings called DOJ's and Commerce's responses to the contempt threat "case studies in double-speak."

A Department of Commerce spokesperson responded with a statement accusing the committee of an attempt to interfere with ongoing litigation as the Supreme Court wrestles with the census question.

"In its zeal to influence the Supreme Court's decision, the committee is poised to hold Secretary Ross in contempt," the statement said. "Holding the secretary in contempt is an empty stunt, and it shows that the committee is simply interested in playing politics."

The House Judiciary Committee voted to hold Barr in contempt of Congress over a subpoena related to the Mueller report and Russia investigation back in May; a full House vote on that resolution is expected next week.

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