Democrats accuse Trump of rushing census to influence congressional redistricting

Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) are accusing the Trump administration of rushing the census in order to maintain control of a process that will determine the next round of congressional redistricting.

Pelosi and Schumer say in a letter dated Friday that White House chief of staff Mark Meadows admitted to them in a meeting last month that the Trump administration doesn’t want to let the census be delayed into 2021 because Democrats may control the White House and possibly the Senate, too, next year.

During an Aug. 5 meeting the Democratic leaders say they handed a letter to Meadows and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin recommending the census data delivery date be delayed until 2021 because of the coronavirus pandemic, and Meadows warned that could put Democrats in charge of the count that is used to determine congressional redistricting.

While Mnuchin said he would review the letter, which was signed by former Census Bureau directors, Meadows interjected and said, “the Democrats just want to control the apportionment and we aren’t going to let them do that,” according to Pelosi and Schumer.

“It appears that Mr. Meadows may have made the previously unspoken intentions of President and his Administration clear: the White House was intervening to ensure President Trump would control the apportionment process while in office rather than ensuring an accurate count for the American people as required by the Constitution,” Pelosi and Schumer wrote in a letter Friday to Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross and Census Bureau Director Steven Dillingham.

The Democratic leaders asked Ross and Dillingham to explain why the Census Bureau this summer suddenly reversed its decision made in April to delay census operations until the end of October because of the pandemic.

On July 29, the Census Bureau sped up the end date for the census from Oct. 31 to “as soon as possible.”

The Democratic leaders noted that on Aug. 3, acting on a request from Ross, the Census Bureau announced it would move the end date of census field operations from the end of October to Sept. 30 so that apportionment data could be delivered by Dec. 31. Trump will still be in office, regardless of the outcome of the November election, at that time.

This decision on timing was made despite concerns raised by some Census Bureau officials that the new schedule could reduce the accuracy of the count.

“We have since learned that an internal Census Bureau presentation dated the same day — and not provided to Congress by the administration — outlined the risks of the ‘Highly compressed schedule’ and warned that data products ‘will be negatively impacted under this revised plan,’ ” Pelosi and Schumer wrote.

The internal Census Bureau presentation warned that speeding up the count “creates risk for serious errors not being discovered in the data” and “may not be fixed — due to lack of time to research and understand the root cause or to re-run and re-review one or multiple state files,” according to the Democrats’ letter, which quoted excerpts of it.

Pelosi and Schumer say that when they discussed the topic at an Aug. 3 meeting with senior White House officials during the coronavirus relief negotiations, Meadows assured them that the census would be “99 percent accurate,” citing conversations with Census Bureau staff.  

But the White House chief of staff provided no evidence as to how that would be achieved.

Meadows also said he had not consulted Dillingham directly about plans to move the dates for ending field operations and data processing.

Pelosi and Schumer are now calling on Ross and Dillingham to produce to Congress “all documents and communications” between the Commerce Department and the Census Bureau since June about the schedule for the 2020 census.

They are also asking for records of all discussions about the census among Census Bureau officials or between the Census Bureau and the other administration officials, including officials at the White House and the Office of Management and Budget.

The Democratic leaders say the Commerce Department and Census Bureau should provide records of discussions related to the Aug. 3 announcement that census field operations should end by Sept. 30 and data processing should end by Dec. 31, including records of experts consulted in the process.

Pelosi and Schumer say the administration should provide “risk assessments, analyses, and operational plan alternatives” provided by career staff to Census Bureau leaders related to speeding up field operations and processing so apportionment data can be delivered by Dec. 31.

“Congress and the American people deserve answers on the reasons for this Administration’s sudden reversal on delaying Census operations during a pandemic to ensure the completeness and accuracy of the 2020 Census,” the Democratic leaders wrote. 

Tags Census Charles Schumer Coronavirus COVID-19 Donald Trump Mark Meadows Nancy Pelosi Steven Mnuchin Wilbur Ross

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