Cummings alleges 'growing pattern of obstruction' over DOJ's refusal to comply with subpoena

House Oversight and Reform Committee Chairman Elijah CummingsElijah Eugene CummingsGOP Oversight report says Interior head met with group tied to former clients Nadler asks other House chairs to provide records that would help panel in making impeachment decision Nikki Haley voices 'complete support' for Pence MORE (D-Md.) on Wednesday tore into the Department of Justice (DOJ) over the agency’s refusal to comply with his committee’s subpoena, alleging that the department is engaging in “a massive, unprecedented, and growing pattern of obstruction.”

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“Yesterday, President TrumpDonald John TrumpThe Hill's Campaign Report: Democratic field begins to shrink ahead of critical stretch To ward off recession, Trump should keep his mouth and smartphone shut Trump: 'Who is our bigger enemy,' Fed chief or Chinese leader? MORE declared to the entire country that he would obstruct Congress and order all White House officials to defy lawful subpoenas from Congress,” the powerful Democratic chairman said in a statement.

“Today, the Trump Administration went even further by expanding this policy to employees at federal agencies — even when the subpoenas are bipartisan and supported by Republican Members of Congress.”

Cummings was responding to a DOJ letter saying that agency official John Gore would not testify Thursday about the addition of a citizenship question to the 2020 census as requested in the subpoena.

The Democratic lawmaker stated that neither the DOJ nor the White House had cited any privilege that would prevent Gore from being able to testify as part of the investigation.

Cummings also claimed that President Trump and Attorney General William BarrWilliam Pelham BarrThe road not taken: Another FBI failure involving the Clintons surfaces Correctional officers subpoenaed in Epstein investigation: report Nadler asks other House chairs to provide records that would help panel in making impeachment decision MORE “are now openly ordering federal employees to ignore congressional subpoenas and simply not show up — without any assertion of a valid legal privilege.”

“These employees and their personal attorneys should think very carefully about their own legal interests rather than being swept up in the obstruction schemes of the Trump Administration,” Cummings said.

The statement comes just hours after Trump told reporters that he will "fight all the subpoenas" issued by the House in its myriad of investigations into his administration and private businesses.

The president also filed a lawsuit against Cummings earlier this week to try to block a subpoena issued by the chairman for financial records on Trump and his private businesses.

Cummings's strongly worded statement Wednesday marks the latest escalation in the battle between the DOJ and the House Oversight Committee over the panel's probe into adding a citizenship question to the upcoming census.

The committee earlier this month issued several subpoenas in its investigation over the Trump administration’s efforts to add a citizenship question to the 2020 short-form census.

But the Justice Department has said that Gore, who works in the department’s civil rights division, will not testify without a DOJ attorney present.

The DOJ is arguing that Gore has been allowed to testify with a department lawyer present in the past, and rejected an offer from the committee to let the DOJ attorney be available to Gore in a separate room.

But Cummings has said that it’s a longstanding committee rule not to allow attorneys from the departments under investigation in the room during such depositions.

“As an officer of the court and a senior lawyer in a position of public trust at the Department of Justice, Mr. Gore should be well aware of his constitutional, legal, and ethical obligations to comply with a duly authorized subpoena from Congress,” Cummings said Wednesday. “Those obligations have not been erased by the Attorney General or the President.

“Committee investigators will gather tomorrow morning for this deposition — as scheduled — and we hope Mr. Gore will fulfill his legal and ethical responsibilities and appear as ordered.”

The attempt to add a citizenship question has been the subject of several legal battles, even reaching the Supreme Court, which heard arguments on Tuesday about the question.

The Commerce Department, which administers the census, has said the question is needed to help the Justice Department enforce the Voting Rights Act.

Critics of the question argue that including a question about citizenship status will discourage immigrants from answering the question or prompt them to skip the census altogether, resulting in an inaccurate population count. Census data is used to determine federal funding and representation in the House.