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Cummings and Connolly Seek Subpoena for Commerce Secretary’s Testimony on Citizenship Question

Today, Rep. Elijah. E. Cummings, the Ranking Member of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, and Rep. Gerald E. Connolly, the Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on Government Operations, sent a letter to Chairman Trey Gowdy requesting that he issue a subpoena to compel Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross to testify at a hearing before the Committee regarding his misleading testimony about the decision to add a citizenship question to the 2020 Census.

“Secretary Ross gave sworn testimony before multiple committees of Congress in both the House and Senate that he added the citizenship question to the Census solely at the behest of the Department of Justice,” the Ranking Members wrote. “He downplayed his own role to one of merely responding to DOJ’s request by weighing the pros and cons and adding the citizenship question based on policy considerations. However, newly disclosed documents directly contradict Secretary Ross’ testimony and indicate that he engaged in a secretive, behind-the-scenes campaign to enlist several agencies in his own effort to orchestrate the addition of the citizenship question.”

Cummings and Connolly explained in today’s letter that Secretary Ross and other Department of Commerce (DOC) officials asserted multiple times that the decision to include a citizenship question on the 2020 Census arose solely from a request from DOJ in December 2017, but internal documents show that Secretary Ross was taking steps to orchestrate the addition of the citizenship question long before DOJ’s request.

“Falsifying or concealing a material fact to Congress is a serious criminal offense,” the Members wrote. “It is our Constitutional duty to investigate this matter and to hold Secretary Ross accountable for his actions.”

The Ranking Members wrote to Secretary Ross in June asking him to address his contradictory and misleading statements, but he did not respond. Committee Democrats wrote to him again in August, renewing their request to have him answer questions about his testimony, but he provided no response.

Committee Democrats also wrote a series of letters to Gowdy requesting that the Committee obtain information about the decision to add the citizenship question, including a letter on August 2, 2018, requesting a hearing with Secretary Ross to investigate his misleading statements. This request was made in light of additional documents that indicated that the rationale for addition the citizenship question was nothing but a pretext. No hearing was scheduled.

“For the past nine months, we have been trying to obtain information about the origin of and reasoning for the addition of the citizenship question, but our efforts have been frustrated by Secretary Ross’ refusal to comply and the failure of Republican Committee Members to join our requests to obtain information, documents, or testimony,” Cummings and Connolly wrote.

“For all of these reasons, we request that you issue a subpoena to compel Secretary Ross to testify at a hearing before our Committee,” they concluded. “If you decide not to issue this subpoena, then I ask that you place this matter on the agenda for our next regularly scheduled business meeting so all Committee Members will have the opportunity to debate and vote on this motion.”

Click here to read today’s letter.
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