House chairman threatens to find Justice official in contempt of Congress

House Oversight and Reform Committee Chairman Elijah CummingsElijah Eugene CummingsHouse Oversight schedules Thursday vote to hold Kellyanne Conway in contempt Trump tweets, rally chant dominate Sunday shows as president continues attacks Sunday shows - Fallout over Trump tweets MORE (D-Md.) said his committee will consider a Department of Justice official to be in contempt if he does not comply with a subpoena to testify.

Cummings, in a letter sent to Attorney General William BarrWilliam Pelham BarrGraham says he will call Papadopoulos to testify Pelosi, Democrats launch Mueller messaging blitz The Hill's Morning Report — Trump applauds two-year budget deal with 0 billion spending hike MORE on Wednesday, wrote that Barr appears “to be instructing” John Gore, a principal deputy assistant attorney general, “to defy a duly authorized congressional subpoena” requesting his testimony.

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“The Committee expects Mr. Gore to testify in accordance with the Committee's lawful subpoena and the Committee's rules,” the letter reads. “If Mr. Gore fails to comply with the subpoena, the Committee will consider him to be in contempt of Congress.”

The letter is in response to the Department of Justice (DOJ) asserting in a letter sent to Cummings on Tuesday that it would not comply with the committee’s subpoena if Gore was not permitted to have an agency lawyer with him.

Gore is wanted for testimony about a citizenship question added to the 2020 census. The Supreme Court is slated to hear oral arguments about the question later this month. Three federal judges have blocked the question from being added to the 2020 survey.

Gore has already met with the Oversight panel but Cummings has said he refused to answer more than 150 questions. The agency argued that because of the ongoing legal challenges to the question, Gore was not and would not be able to answer certain questions. 

In arguing that a DOJ lawyer should be present for Gore’s testimony, the DOJ argued that there is a precedent for such action and that Gore is acting in his official capacity.

Cummings has offered to allow Justice Department counsel to be in a separate room during Gore’s deposition. He also said Gore would be allowed to consult with the attorney during his testimony if needed.

Gore was scheduled to sit for the deposition Thursday. An Oversight Committee spokesperson told The Hill that the testimony had been postponed, and a rescheduled date would be announced later.

The Department of Commerce announced last year it would add the question on citizenship status on the next census, saying it would help DOJ enforce the Voting Rights Act.

The decision sparked pushback from a number of states, who opted to legally challenge the addition of the question in the courts. Critics of the move have argued it could deter individuals from responding to the census, which could lead to the population being undercounted. The census is used to calculate how federal funding will be allocated.  

In addition to Gore’s testimony, the committee also issued two additional subpoenas. One was to the Justice Department requesting any communications on the census question between DOJ, the White House, the Republican National Committee, the Trump campaign or members of Congress.

And a second was issued to the Department of Commerce calling for unredacted internal communications and documents on the census question from Commerce Secretary Wilbur RossWilbur Louis RossThe Hill's Morning Report — Trump applauds two-year budget deal with 0 billion spending hike House Oversight schedules Thursday vote to hold Kellyanne Conway in contempt Report: Ross 'tends to fall asleep' in Commerce meetings MORE.