tv House Rules Committee Meeting on Barr- Ross Contempt Resolution CSPAN July 17, 2019 11:30am-12:00pm EDT
jacqueline thomsen of the hill, or on twitter, @jacq_thomsen. thanks so much for the update. >> and the al green impeachment resolution also coming up today. the interview we just showed you was from earlier this week. later today, the house will take up that contempt of congress resolution against attorney general william barr and commerce secretary wilbur ross for failing to comply with subpoenas relating to the 2020 census citizenship question. the house will be back at noon eastern, about half an hour from now. members of the house oversight and reform committee testified about that resolution earlier this week at the rules committee.
mr. cummings: i would now like to call up our next panelist to testify on the resolution recommended that the house find william barr and wilbur ross in contempt of congress for refusal to comply with subpoenas. chairman cummings and ranking member jordan, we are delighted that you are here. anything you brought in in writing will without objection be relevant to the record. i now recognize the distinguished chairman from maryland, mr. cummings. mr. cummings: thank you, mr. chairman. to you, ranking member cole and mcgovern. members of the committee, i want to thank you for holding this meeting this afternoon. i support the proposed rule because this resolution to hold attorney general barr and sec. wilbur ross in contempt of congress is necessary to preserve the integrity of this ody. and of the united states census. the constitution mandates we conduct a census every 10 years. a thoughtful, fair and accurate
count is critical to ensuring that we properly allocate funding and congressional enforcement. for more than a year the trump administration has stonewalled the oversight committee's investigation into the real reason commerce secretary wilbur ross was trying, for the first time in 70 years, to add a citizenship question to the 2020 census. secretary ross testified under oath in front of congress that he added the citizenship question "solely" to help the -- and let me say that again -- solely to help the justice department enforce the voting rights act. but we now know that claim was
nothing but a pretext, that in fact the supreme court said that. our committee's investigation uncovered evidence that ecretary ross launched a secret campaign to add the citizenship question within days after he assumed his post. we learned that secretary ross ignored warnings from experts inside and outside the census bureau including the bureau's chief scientist. they said that they told him that adding a citizenship question would be costly and harm the accuracy of the census. our investigation also revealed that secretary ross spoke with attorney general sessions, steve bannon, and chris copart. contrary to his testimony before the congress, the commerce department conjured up the voting rights rationale to hide these interactions.
we first asked for documents from the department of commerce and department of justice when we were in the minority in april and may of 2018. both departments ignored us. when i became chairman i renewed these requests on behalf of the committee and since then the administration has engaged in a purposeful effort to obstruct our investigation. and i do not use the word obstruct lightly. the departments have refused to provide key unredacted documents that we need to understand the truth about why they really made this ecision. instead, they produced thousands of pages that were largely unresponsive, heavily redacted or publicly already available. when they let us interview
witnesses, they ordered the witnesses not to answer more than 500 of our questions. secretary ross even refused my request to meet with them to work it out. as a result, on april 2, more than three months ago, after a bipartisan vote, the committee subpoenaed the documents including a secret memo that the department of commerce wrote about the citizenship question and then gave to the department of justice. the departments have admitted to us that this memo exists. but they refuse to produce this document and many others.
last month, the oversight committee passed a resolution to hold attorney general william barr and secretary wilbur ross in contempt of congress. that vote, by the way, members of the committee, was bipartisan. however, many of our republican colleagues apparently support the trump administration's refusal to comply with our duly authorized subpoenas. they claim that we were interfering with the supreme court's decision on this issue. that argument never made sense since we launched our investigation in 2018. more than 10 months before the supreme court even took up the case, but even if you accept that misguided argument, the supreme court cases now -- case is now over, so that argument is gone. the president announced last week that he would no longer pursue adding a citizenship question to the census. however, in the same speech, the president admitted that he
wanted citizenship data to implement partisan errymandering of legislative districts. the president's statement directly contradicts secretary ross' sworn testimony to ongress that the only and sole reason the trump administration wanted this data was to help the justice department enforce the voting rights act. the departments of justice and commerce were engaged in a campaign to subvert our laws. and the processes that congress put in place to maintain the integrity of the senses. so we need to understand how and why that happens, in order to pass reforms, to ensure that it does not happen again. i urge my colleagues on both ides of the aisle to put the -- support our resolutions to hold attorney general barr and secretary ross
in contempt of congress. i request the committee on rules request a closed rule to assist us in expredishesly passing this legislation. and with that i yield back, mr. hairman. mr. hastings: i would asked the committee to expeditiously pass this legislation. ith that i yield back. -- mr. hastings: i recognize the gentleman from ohio. mr. jordan: no one is stonewalled. the department of justice, and commerce are cooperating, about he citizenship question on the 2020 census. the administration has produced to the committee 14,000 pages from the commerce department, 70,000 from the justice department and secretary ross voluntarily testified for over six hours this spring.
several administrative witnesses, daylong transcribed interviews, providing information for the investigation. in fact, the committee expected to have another interview this month. in all that testimony, six hours with the secretary and all the transcribed interviews, all of it undercuts the conspiracy theories about the administration's decision to have the citizenship question on the census. we have no testimony, none to support shadowy political operatives, senior white house officials conspiring to use the census for improper purposes. the real question is simple. why don't the democrats want to know how many citizens are in this country? judge alito in the decision a few weeks ago said this, no one disputes the idea that we should know how many inhabitants in this country are citizens. and you know the easiest way to figure that out? ask a question on the census. imagine that. go ask anyone in this country, go to someone in our district, go up to someone on the street and say, hey, do you think we should ask on this census if people are citizens of this country, and every single person you talk to will say, well, sure. aren't we doing that already? and you would say, we've been
doing that in one form or another for 200 years. and the united nations says we should do it. all kinds of other countries do it. the person will quickly follow up and say, aren't we doing it? yes, yes. the idea they don't want to know is what boggles my mind. the supreme court's ruling was narrow. it was a technical decision. the supreme court did not say that asking the question on the census was wrong. in fact, the supreme court said it was completely appropriate for the government to solicit citizenship information on a census. now president trump is proceeding forward in a matter consistent with the decision last week. while i believe we should ask the question on the census, i applaud the president for his work to know more about citizenship in our country than ever before. given these recent events, i believe this contempt resolution and the investigation into the question has been rendered moot. despite this, democrats are rushing this contempt resolution. contempt of congress is one of congress' most powerful tools
and it should be wielded responsibly. this is not a responsible use of that authority. this is an attempt by the other party to delegitimize the citizenship question. something that frankly, everyone thinks we are already asking because we are and everyone thinks we should continue. it is pretty noncontroversial. consider this. the oversight and reform committee has legislative jurisdiction over census. if democrats wanted to remove the question, they could've marked up delegate holmes norton's bill to do that. nope. no hearings on that bill. they want to go with contempt instead. i would urge the committee to vote against moving this contempt resolution to the house of representatives. with that i yield back, mr. chairman. mr. hastings: thank you, ranking member jordan. i see you submitted an amendment. would you like to testify on that amendment now? mr. jordan: if that's appropriate for the chair. mr. hastings: yes. mr. jordan: we offered all of these in committee.
quick. they are all facts. one says the number of documents i just described and the fact mr. gore voluntarily appeared before the committee. the other says the attorney -- secretary of commerce produced his documents before. and that the commerce secretary continued to engage with the committee. we have witnesses coming later this month. the investigation is ongoing. the last two are the most important, to reiterate what we said. we offered all these in committee. what's interesting, these are all just facts. a citizenship question is asked by dozens of countries around the world, and the united kingdom and united nations recommends countries solicit citizenship information on their form. the final amendment says this, resolved, that a citizenship question is not new and has appeared on every census from 1820 to 1950 and on every long form census from 1970 to 2000 and on every community survey from 2005 to the present.
so for 200 years we have been asking it but for some reason today we can't. these five amendments are voted down on a partyline vote and i would respectfully ask the committee to include them. mr. hastings: wrrch to the amendment -- mr. perlmutter. mr. woodall. i'm sorry, tom. you are right there. mr. cole. i missed you last time. mr. cole: been uncharacteristically quiet but on this one i need to be a little bit louder. let me ask you, if i may, mr. jordan, because i want to at least get some of the facts that you raised in the record. how many pages has the justice department produced to date? mr. jordan: 17,000. 17,000 documents in response to
the subpoena. mr. cole: and how many pages or documents have the commerce department produced? mr. jordan: 14,000. mr. cole: as the justice department made any officials available for transcribed interviews or testimony? mr. jordan: yes, mr. gore and others and some are coming, as i said, we have another witness scheduled for later this month. mr. cole: has the commerce department made any individuals available for transcribed interviews? mr. jordan: yes. mr. cole: quite a bit of information has been forthcoming to your committee? mr. jordan: yeah. that's the way it's supposed to work. mr. cole: this one puzzles me or a lot of reasons. are the negotiations going on right now between justice -- i should ask both of you this. you would know probably better than anyone else. are there ongoing negotiations now between commerce and the committee? mr. cummings: we are trying to get documents and cooperation. ndiscernible] referring to
amendments 4 and 5. nd amendment 4 talks about the idea that commerce produced thousands of documents in response to the subpoena [indiscernible]. this amendment, congressman cole, the department of commerce has produced thousands of documents that are redacted, lready public. but it has refused to produce any of the unredacted key documents identified in the committee subpoenas, including emails between secretary ross indiscernible] very important document. we have already lost a year of getting the census up and going, and through this
process, and we have not been able to get the document. they know what we need. we have narrowed it. they do it they usually do with this administration. they send a whole bunch of documents that are not the documents that we want and they know what we want. they know they exist. and by the way, as mr. -- as the ranking member just said, the oversight committee debated this, a similar amendment on june 12, and we rejected it in a bipartisan vote. second on amendment number 5. this is the one that adds a clause stating the department of justice has been cooperative with the investigation including submitting 17,000 documents. this again is misleading. the department of justice has produced thousands of documents that are redacted -- that are redacted, already public, or nonresponsive. but d.o.j. has refused to
produce any of the unredacted key documents identified in the committee's subpoenas. d.o.j. refused to produce a secret memo, a handwritten note that were hand delivered from commerce to d.o.j. begin, the oversight committee already debated a similar amendment on june 12, and rejected it on a bipartisan ote. mr. hastings: mr. cole, before you proceed, i offered the courtesy to mr. jordan on his amendment. and then i spoke to -- let's question him with reference to his amendment. and then go back to questioning both our distinguished witnesses with reference to their testimony. mr. cole: thank you very much, mr. chairman. sorry if i missed that. mr. cummings: one second. what are we doing right now, mr. chairman? mr. hastings: his amendments,
question -- mr. cummings: all five? mr. jordan: i will just add, the secretary himself came and testified under oath for six hours. i figured that's the best way to get information from the department is talk to the secretary himself who was there for over six hours answering every single member's questions. mr. cummings: with all due respect, if i might, the secretary camescreaming and hollering, he did not want to come, and when he came -- i'm not knocking this, but it happened, he took about four bathroom breaks, each one of them was 30 or 40 minutes, 25 minutes, 30 minutes, take that time off. i just wanted to be clear. i am not knocking him. we get older. [laughter] i'm old myself. [laughter] mr. cole: well, i understand that more than i care to. [laughter] mr. cole: i remember to my age,
not yours, mr. chairman. mr. jordan, did the president assert executive privilege over documents pursuant to subpoena on april 2? has that been the basis for contempt resolution? did the federal judge uphold? mr. jordan: yeah, exactly right. on april 2 the subpoena, they exerted executive privilege, which they are entitled to do. i do not know what more the -- they can do. documents they are allowed to give, they give. they testify for over six hours, we can get those, they exert privilege, they had carried out business, that's the way it's supposed to be. maybe instead of focusing on citizenship -- you know how many hearings we have had an actual census process? just the process? zero. maybe instead of this singular focus on asking a question that everyone in the country thinks we should already ask and have been asking for 200 years, maybe we should figure out how the census will work and make
it works well and get the question. mr. cole: i want to ask that since you raised your amendment and get it in the record. how many times has the citizenship question listed on the decennial census from 1820 to 1950? mr. jordan: every time. mr. cole: how many times was there a citizenship question listed on the long form census from 1970 to 2000? mr. jordan: every time. mr. cole: how many times was the citizenship question listed in the american community survey from 2005 to the present? mr. jordan: every time. [laughter] mr. cole: does the united nations -- i think you may have made this point -- actually recommend a citizenship question, sort of best practice when you are doing the census? mr. jordan: that group, the one we don't always recognize, recommends it, yes, they do. mr. cole: ok. let me ask this. clearly, i would assume so, you think this is premature since there are ongoing negotiations to bring this before congress because this will put us in
this legal situation as an institution? mr. jordan: very good question. mr. cole: i won't go into those things unless i'm absolutely sure i will win, if we go into court and fail, and the courts of the respectful division of power between the institutions. these are never slam dunk cases. they will prefer, they will usually ask over and over again, have you really worked as hard as you can to work this out? they don't want to be in the position of making these rulings. mr. jordan: well said. you're exactly right. i couldn't say it -- that was well said. you're exactly right. this is premature at best. even the supreme court in the 5-4 decision stopped it on a technical reason. they understand this should be asked. i argue republicans, democrats, independents across this country we should ask this question except democrats in congress. this is common sense. mr. cummings: may i --
mr. cole: certainly. mr. cummings: with all due respect, you don't need to [indiscernible] mr. hastings: you have ample opportunity. mr. cummings: i want to make sure the truth comes out. mr. hastings: all right. i heard that. mr. morelle. mr. morelle: just to be clear, none of the amendments would add the citizenship question to the form, right, that's not what you're intending to do? mr. jordan: we can't do that. only the commerce department and administration can add to the form. this is -- these are statements in the resolution that we offered in the committee that we think make the resolution -- that are just facts, the truth, that we wanted in the esolution if it's coming up. mr. morelle: i know it doesn't include conversation about the redacted nature of the documentation which has been submitted nor the fact since 1950 in actually hasn't been a question on the census, is that right, mr. chairman? mr. cummings: this amendment is highly misleading. the citizenship question has not been asked on the short
form of the census, the form that goes to everyone in the united states, in 70 years. mr. morelle: correct. to my point that the short form that's used for every american has not included that for 70 years? mr. cummings: for 70 years. mr. morelle: that's not reflected in any of the amendments i note? mr. cummings: no. mr. morelle: thank you. mr. jordan: it is reflected in the amendments. we say on the census, the decennial census from 1820 to 1950. then we say on other types of censuses that have been done, the long form and the surveys, have been on that form since that time. we say it's exactly been done. mr. hastings: mr. woodall. mr. woodall: i agree with mr. jordan. i was not confused from 1820 to 1950, it appeared from 1970, 1980, the fact he mentioned it there led me believe it was not
included. i had to go to the next best thing, long form, 2000. and the next best thing, the american community survey. i understand that the two of you know this issue as well, but i believe i could go back home to georgia and ask every man, woman on the street about what's going on here in congress today and they would say, oh, it's about whether or not we can include a census question and talks about citizenship and that maybe that's just -- maybe that's unheard of and we shouldn't be involved in that and that's what congress is working on. e value i find in the jordan amendments is that it clarifies what is absolutely confusing to so many of my constituents about the process the house is going through. we just don't do contempt resolutions that often. for folks to have thought the court settled this already and for congress to still be working on it, again, it is
confusing. what is the -- we could -- nobody has offered any amendments, to my knowledge, but we could -- we could add the language, amendment number 4, secretary of commerce has produced over 14,000 documents responsive to the april 2, 2019, meeting including on june some documents were redacted and the administration claimed privilege for those. if the chairman's point is that these amendments are misleading it seems like the -- and if my testimony is that there is misleading information in the public domain needs to be cleared up, it would seem that we could improve these mendments, if that need be
done to address exactly this issue. i could go down and pull the members of the institution. i don't think members of the house floor will know this question was on the short form, the long form after that and the community survey after that. what's the harm, mr. chairman, in including these? if there is an opportunity to mislead folks, we can correct -- we can correct that. mr. hastings: mr. woodall, once again, mr. jordan has testified regarding amendments and we are questioning mr. jordan with reference to his amendment and not the chairman. you'll get an opportunity to ask that same question at some point. mr. woodall: i understand, mr. chairman. i feel a little funny doing it out of deference and a great respect that i have for the chairman of the oversight committee. i ask mr. jordan. why does it that the chairman not support these amendments? if there is a --
mr. jordan: i think the gentleman raises a good point. everything in that amendment is fact. why not include more facts? it will be voted on the floor at some point this week. if i understand this committee will do what i think they will do, it will be on the floor this week. those are key facts. mr. woodall: because it is so confusing, if the administration is refusing to give congress something congress is legally entitled to, i want to fix that too. mr. jordan: sure. mr. woodall: i want to fix that, too. i don't want any administration o tell congress no, when congress is tasked with doing that oversight. candidly, until i find myself with the benefit of all the work you all have been doing i didn't understand the whole depth of this and see the value. did you offer these amendments in committee?
mr. jordan: every single one. mr. woodall: and they were rejected? mr. jordan: they were. mr. woodall: not on a -- in a bipartisan -- was there bipartisan support but you just couldn't get enough? mr. jordan: i think it was straight party line. mr. woodall: straight party line. we're tasked with different rules here, mr. chairman. i will absolutely give you a chance to -- mr. cummings: just make sure when we have bipartisanship we mention it. mr. jordan: mr. amash voted against putting them on the esolution. mr. woodall: mr. chairman, i will yield back. mr. hastings: thank you. ms. shalala. dr. burgess. mr. burgess: i will admit to being a little unclear here. are we talking on the amendments? mr. hastings: amendments. mr. burgess: when are we going to talk about the underlying -- mr. hastings: when they finish
with the questioning with reference to the amendments. mr. burgess: very well. i'll reserve my questions until we talk on the underlying bill. mr. hastings: all right. mr. desauliner. mrs. lesko. mrs. lesko: thank you, mr. chair. i support mr. jordan's amendments and i hope they're ruled in order. mr. hastings: thank you. mrs. torres, you came in a little late. we are in the process of questioning mr. jordan with reference to his amendment. i don't know if you heard them at all. i assume you don't have any questions with reference to his amendments. all right. with that in mind, we will go to the questioning of both of our witnesses, starting with -- >> we are going to leave this portion of the house rules committee meeting on a contempt resolution against attorney general william barr and commerce secretary wilbur ross. the house will take up that measure this afternoon along wan impeachment resolution of president trump -- with a
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