President Donald Trump on Wednesday moved to block Congress’ access to documents about how a citizenship question was added to the 2020 census.
Trump claimed executive privilege over subpoenaed documents at the urging of the Justice Department, as the House Oversight and Reform Committee was beginning proceedings Wednesday morning to hold Attorney General William Barr and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross in contempt of Congress for failing to comply with the panel’s subpoenas, which the committee issued in April.
“These documents are protected from disclosure by the deliberative process, attorney-client communications, or attorney work product components of executive privilege,” Assistant Attorney General Stephen Boyd wrote in a letter to House Oversight and Reform Committee Chairman Elijah Cummings (D-Md.).
“Regrettably, you have made these assertions necessary by your insistence upon scheduling a premature contempt vote,” Boyd added.
Boyd’s letter came just minutes before the committee convened to vote on civil and criminal contempt citations for Barr and Ross. Talks between the Justice Department and the committee broke down late Tuesday night after both sides exchanged last-minute offers that would have staved off the contempt votes.
“This begs the question: what is being hidden?” Cummings said. “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.”