House Oversight Republicans release parts of Kobach, Trump officials' testimony on census citizenship question

Republicans on the House Oversight and Reform Committee on Tuesday released new portions of an interview with former Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach on his role in adding a citizenship question to the 2020 census.

Rep. Jim JordanJames (Jim) Daniel JordanMcCarthy faces pushback from anxious Republicans over interview comments McCarthy: 'I would think I already have the votes' to remain as House GOP leader Jordan vows to back McCarthy as leader even if House loses more GOP seats MORE (R-Ohio), the ranking member of the panel, made the new portions of the interviews with Kobach and other Trump administration officials public in response to the committee’s vote last week to hold Attorney General William BarrBill BarrTrump and advisers considering firing FBI director after election: WaPo Steele dossier source insists he is not Russian agent: 'It's slander' Voting rights group files suit against Trump, administration officials alleging voter intimidation MORE and Commerce Secretary Wilbur RossWilbur Louis RossIt's time to reckon with space junk Census Bureau to hold count through end of October Judge begins contempt proceedings for Wilbur Ross over allegedly defying census order MORE in contempt.


“The contempt citation was premature, unnecessary, and designed to advance a partisan goal of influencing ongoing litigation presently before the Supreme Court of the United States,” the Republican report reads.

Jordan also sought to refute allegations surrounding the role of a late GOP redistricting strategist in getting the citizenship question on the census.

The American Civil Liberties Union filed documents in court last month indicating that GOP strategist Thomas Hofeller, who died last year, had partially ghostwritten a draft of a memo arguing in favor of adding the citizenship question. The evidence also showed that Hofeller had conducted a 2015 study that found a census citizenship question would help Republicans and white communities in redistricting efforts, while hurting Democrats and Hispanic communities.

In the newly released portions of the Kobach interview, Kobach said he didn’t “recall ever meeting or talking with anyone by that name,” in reference to Hofeller.

And Kobach said that he had “never read any such study or heard of any such study” when asked about the 2015 survey conducted by Hofeller, according to the transcript released Tuesday.

House Oversight and Reform Committee Chairman Elijah CummingsElijah Eugene Cummings'Kamala' and 'Kobe' surge in popularity among baby names Women of color flex political might Black GOP candidate accuses Behar of wearing black face in heated interview MORE (D-Md.) first revealed earlier this month that Kobach had interviewed with the committee.

Cummings had also released parts of the Kobach interview. Those portions showed that Kobach discussed the citizenship question with Trump early in his presidency and that he also discussed the question with Trump campaign staff during the 2016 campaign.

In another transcription released Tuesday, former Commerce Department counsel James Uthmeier said that he was never in contact with Hofeller. 

Uthmeier, who worked on the citizenship question and testified to the Oversight Committee, also said he was not familiar with Hofeller’s 2015 study and to his knowledge, had “never seen anything written by him," according to the Republican report.

In another interview segment released on Tuesday, Justice Department official Gene Hamilton said he did not know of Hofeller.

Jordan also said Tuesday that Uthmeier, Hamilton and Justice Department official John Gore each testified to the committee that they had no contact with White House officials about the census citizenship question.

“Rather than attempt to legislate on the citizenship question, the committee is using its oversight authority to create a controversy in the hopes of influencing the Supreme Court’s imminent decision on the issue,” Jordan’s report reads.

“For all the reasons set forth in these minority views, the committee’s contempt citation is unnecessary, premature, and designed merely to advance partisan political goals.”

The Hill has reached out to Oversight Committee for comment.

The committee voted last week to hold Barr and Ross in contempt for failing to comply with congressional subpoenas for documents on the census citizenship question. Rep. Justin AmashJustin AmashOcasio-Cortez draws hundreds of thousands of viewers on Twitch livestream Hillicon Valley: House votes to condemn QAnon | Americans worried about foreign election interference | DHS confirms request to tap protester phones House votes to condemn alleged hysterectomies on migrant women MORE (R-Mich.) was the only Republican on the committee to support the contempt resolution.

Both the Commerce and Justice departments claimed that they have provided thousands of documents to the committee, as well as making agency officials available for interviews.

However, Cummings has maintained that many of the documents provided were heavily redacted, already publicly available and not in line with the subpoenas issued earlier this year.

The Supreme Court is expected to issue a decision by the end of the month on whether the citizenship question should be allowed on the 2020 census.

Opponents of the question argue that asking about citizenship will lead to an inaccurate population count. The Trump administration says the question is needed to enforce the Voting Rights Act.