Despite earlier saying he knew nothing about how the effort was orchestrated within the White House, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross has revealed that he does remember putting Steve "Let-them-call-you -racist" Bannon, the white nationalist former top advisor to President Trump, in touch with then-Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach in order to provide guidance about adding a citizenship question to the 2020 census—an effort that drew outrage from voting rights advocates when it was introduced by the administration earlier this year.
"It's obvious that the administration hates immigrants and wants to deny big, blue states federal resources and political power by undercounting them in the Census. This is a perversion of the Constitution for partisan gain and a direct attack on anyone who doesn't meet Steve Bannon's warped approval." —Steven Choi, NYIC
"Big big deal," tweeted journalist Josh Marshall, in reaction to the news. "So the white nationalists—Bannon and Kobach—are the guys behind the plan to rig the census to disenfranchise blue state voters."
"Trump wants to distract us with Kanye West in the White House, while news leaks that his Commerce Secretary conspired with a white supremacist to rig the Census," said Steven Choi, executive director of the New York Immigration Coalition. "It's obvious that the administration hates immigrants and wants to deny big, blue states federal resources and political power by undercounting them in the Census. This is a perversion of the Constitution for partisan gain and a direct attack on anyone who doesn't meet Steve Bannon's warped approval."
Journalist Ari Berman, called the revelation—contained in a filing by the Department of Justice as part of an ongoing lawsuit against the administration—a "smoking gun" in proving that the origin story of the policy spun by the White House was false and that it was, as many critics assumed, conceived as a conscious effort to impact future redistricting of communities by suppressing participation in the next census by immigrants and others:
This is smoking gun showing that Steve Bannon & Kris Kobach pushed citizenship question on 2020 census. It had nothing to do with Voting Rights Act & was all about suppressing immigrant participation & shifting political power to GOP https://t.co/5F8rupXMoL— Ari Berman (@AriBerman) October 11, 2018
In the filing by the DOJ, obtained by The Hill, as the outlet reports:
Ross recalls Bannon calling him in the spring of 2017 to ask if he would be willing to speak to then-Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach about Kobach’s idea of adding the potential question to the upcoming census.
The document is a response to written questions from the New York Attorney General in the discovery phase of a lawsuit New York and 16 other blue-leaning states have brought challenging the administration’s decision to ask about citizenship.
As Talking Points Memo reports, Ross' admission in the filing "is contrary to previous testimony he gave to Congress in which he said he was not aware of being contacted by anyone in the White House about adding a citizenship question."
Wilbur Ross has repeatedly lied to Congress about Census citizenship question, claiming DOJ requested it to enforce Voting Rights Act when in fact Ross added question after consulting with Bannon & Kobach https://t.co/bqv7iV7p1e— Ari Berman (@AriBerman) October 11, 2018
In fact, Ross was so bent on avoiding the questions demanded by the lawsuit that he, as the Washington Post earlier reported, went to the U.S. Supreme Court "just days before his deposition was to have taken place" to demand reprieve. While the court declined to block Ross' deposition, he was granted a delay — an extension that ended at 4:00 pm on Thursday.