Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

Committee Chairman Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD) listens to an aide during a meeting of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform June 12, 2019 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. The committee held a meeting on “a resolution recommending that the House of Representatives find the Attorney General and the Secretary of Commerce in contempt of Congress.” (Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images)

'What Is He Hiding?' Trump Asserts Executive Privilege Over Census Question Documents Subpoenaed by Congress

"Another example of the administration's blanket defiance of Congress's constitutionally mandated responsibilities."

Jon Queally

Congresswoman Barbara Lee was among Democratic lawmakers begging serious questions on Wednesday after President Donald Trump invoked executive privilege over documents subpoened by Congress regarding the administration's alleged effort to politicize the 2020 census by attempting to insert a citizenship question to the national survey.

"This is about the rule of law. This is about the respect of our institutions. And this is about all of us as a body as a United States Congress and the integrity of the government of the United States." —Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY)"Yet another example of the Trump Admin stonewalling and preventing Congress from exercising our constitutional right of oversight," declared Lee, a progressive Democrat from California, in a tweet. "What is he hiding?"

According to Reuters:

The fight over adding a citizenship question to the census presents high stakes for both Trump’s fellow Republicans and the Democrats, with the 2020 U.S. elections looming. The U.S. Supreme Court is due to rule by the end of this month in the Trump administration’s appeal of a judge’s ruling blocking the addition of the question as a violation of federal law.

The judge's ruling came in a lawsuit by a group of states and immigrant rights organizations arguing that including a citizenship question would frighten immigrants and Latinos from participating in the decennial national population count out of fear of immigration enforcement.

Critics have said Republicans want to engineer a deliberate population undercount in Democratic-leaning areas where many immigrants live in order to gain seats in the House. The census population count is used to allot seats in the House and to guide distribution of billions of dollars of federal funds.

The administration's claim of executive privilege came in the form of a Department of Justice letter sent to House Oversight and Reform Committee Chairman Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) just before a meeting on Wednesday morning where the committee was set to vote on contempt of Congress charges against Attorney General William Barr and Secretary Wilbur Ross for their refusal to share requested documents—first subpoened in April—for oversight purposes.

Like Lee, Cummings asked out loud what the administration had to hide by claiming the privilege.

"This begs the question: what is being hidden?" Cummings asked at the outset of the proceedings. "This does not appear to be an effort to engage in good faith negotiations or accommodations. Instead, it appears to be another example of the administration's blanket defiance of Congress's constitutionally mandated responsibilities."

As Politico reports:

Democrats have accused Ross of lying about how the citizenship question was added to the census, in particular after new evidence emerged recently that highlighted the role of a now-deceased Republican gerrymandering expert who argued that adding such a question to the census would cause congressional districts to be redrawn in ways that help Republicans.

“I want to know why this question was magically added after we have seen that a political operative knew and detailed an intent to intimidate racial and immigrant communities for a partisan purpose," said Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.).

In addition to those comments, Ocasio-Cortez—described as "fired up"—excoriated the Republicans on the committee for failing to defend the process of checks-and-balances and oversight which it is their sworn duty to uphold:

While she said nobody wants to issue subpoenas to other government officials, Ocasio-Cortez said, "We have no choice. This is about the rule of law. This is about the respect of our institutions. And this is about all of us as a body as a United States Congress and the integrity of the government of the United States."


Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

We've had enough. The 1% own and operate the corporate media. They are doing everything they can to defend the status quo, squash dissent and protect the wealthy and the powerful. The Common Dreams media model is different. We cover the news that matters to the 99%. Our mission? To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good. How? Nonprofit. Independent. Reader-supported. Free to read. Free to republish. Free to share. With no advertising. No paywalls. No selling of your data. Thousands of small donations fund our newsroom and allow us to continue publishing. Can you chip in? We can't do it without you. Thank you.

Conservative British Prime Minister Boris Johnson Agrees to Resign

"It is good news for the country that Boris Johnson has resigned as prime minister. But it should have happened long ago," said Labour Leader Keir Starmer. "He was always unfit for office."

Jake Johnson ·


Fulton County Subpoenas of Trump Allies Offer Hope 'That Justice Will Ultimately Be Served'

"The coordinated attempts by former President Donald Trump and his associates to discount and ignore the will of Georgian voters during the 2020 election cannot be swept under the rug," said one activist.

Jessica Corbett ·


Russian Official Makes Nuclear Threat Over US Support for Ukraine War Crimes Probe

Another official responded to Western sanctions by suggesting that Russia could reclaim Alaska.

Brett Wilkins ·


Biden Denounced for Imposing New Sanctions as Iran Nuclear Talks Falter

One Middle East expert accused the U.S. administration of "continuing and embracing Trump's max pressure policy, while expecting a different result."

Brett Wilkins ·


Under 'Draconian Abortion Ban,' Woman in El Salvador Sentenced to 50 Years for Pregnancy Loss

Laws like El Salvador's are "now being replicated in states across the U.S.," noted one observer.

Julia Conley ·

Common Dreams Logo