DOJ officials mulled sidestepping confidentiality of census answers: report

The Trump administration reportedly suggested ways to sidestep the confidentiality of responses to census questions, raising concerns those answers could be shared with law enforcement.

Documents filed on Friday in California’s legal challenge to the Trump administration’s attempt to add a citizenship question to the census show the Department of Justice (DOJ) considered getting around the confidentiality of the survey, according to The Washington Post. 

The documents released show that the matter was discussed after Rep. Jimmy Gomez (D-Calif.) brought up whether the census answers could ever be shared with law enforcement agencies in the U.S. 

Gomez was specifically interested in if the DOJ agreed with a 2010 memo that said the Patriot Act could not override the census’ confidentiality. 

The Post reported that DOJ attorney Ben Aguinaga suggested in a June 12 email to acting Assistant Attorney General John Gore that he not say “too much” in regards to the confidentiality to census. 

According to the documents released, Aguinaga’s reasoning was in case the issue “come up later for renewed debate,” which appeared to leave open discussing the topic. 

The DOJ declined to comment to The Washington Post. The Hill has reached out to DOJ for comment.

The Census Act states that data from the decennial census survey cannot be shared by the Commerce Department, the agency that oversees the survey. 

The report comes as the Trump administration faces scrutiny over its attempt to add a citizenship question to the 2020 census. 

Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross announced in March that the administration would be adding the question in an effort to help the DOJ better enforce the Voting Rights Act. 

It has since led to legal challenges. The Supreme Court said earlier this month that it would hear arguments in a dispute over a lower court ruling that said Ross could be questioned under oath about his decision to add the question. 

Tags Jimmy Gomez Wilbur Ross
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