Committee Files Federal Lawsuit Against Barr and Ross to Enforce Subpoenas in Census Investigation

Nov 26, 2019
Press Release
Attorney General and Commerce Secretary Continue to Stonewall Even After Supreme Court Ruling and House Contempt Vote

Washington, D.C. (Nov. 26, 2019)—In her first official act as Chairwoman, Congresswoman Carolyn B. Maloney filed a federal lawsuit today on behalf of the Committee on Oversight and Reform against Attorney General Bill Barr and Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross for refusing to produce documents regarding the Administration’s effort to add a citizenship question to the 2020 Census. 

Barr and Ross have not produced a single additional document in response to the Committee’s bipartisan subpoenas since the Supreme Court ruled against them in June and the House of Representatives held them in contempt in July.

Chairwoman Maloney issued the following statement announcing the enforcement action:

“Our beloved former Chairman Elijah Cummings launched this bipartisan investigation because he believed with all his heart that the Constitution requires Congress to ensure that the rapidly approaching Census is conducted in a professional manner that promotes accuracy, ensures integrity, and is free from partisan politics—and I couldn’t agree more.  That’s why I led more than 120 current and former Members of Congress in an amicus brief to the Supreme Court explaining why the Administration must not be allowed to add the citizenship question.  

“Since the Supreme Court ruled against them—and the House of Representatives held them in contempt for blocking the Committee’s investigation—Attorney General Barr and Commerce Secretary Ross have doubled down on their open defiance of the rule of law and refused to produce even a single additional document in response to our Committee’s bipartisan subpoenas.

“I am filing this enforcement action today because the Trump Administration’s brazen obstruction of Congress must not stand.  President Trump and his aides are not above the law.  They cannot be allowed to disregard and degrade the authority of Congress to fulfill our core Constitutional legislative and oversight responsibilities.”

On June 27, 2019, the Supreme Court ruled that the Administration’s plan to add a citizenship question to the Census violated federal law and that its purported rationale for adding the question was “contrived,” “cannot be adequately explained,” and “does not match the explanation the Secretary gave for his decision.”

On July 17, 2019, the House of Representatives voted to hold Barr and Ross in contempt for refusing to produce documents in compliance with the Committee’s bipartisan subpoenas.

Despite the Supreme Court ruling and the House contempt vote, Barr and Ross have continued to refuse to produce any additional documents in response to the subpoenas over the past four months.

On November 12, 2019, Rep. Maloney, in her capacity as Acting Chairwoman, issued a detailed 18-page memo to all Committee Members explaining that, despite the Administration’s obstruction, the Committee has continued its investigation and obtained new documents and information from other sources.

The Committee needs the documents being withheld by the Administration, in part, to determine whether Congress should take emergency action to protect the Census from partisan political interference.  The upcoming Census begins in Alaska in January 2020 and across the country in April 2020.


116th Congress