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DOJ says it won't prosecute Barr, Ross after criminal contempt vote

The Department of Justice (DOJ) said Wednesday that federal prosecutors will not prosecute Attorney General William BarrBill BarrClyburn: Biden falling short on naming Black figures to top posts Five federal inmates scheduled for execution before Inauguration Day Redeeming justice: the next attorney general MORE and Commerce Secretary Wilbur RossWilbur Louis RossCentral Asia is changing: the Biden administration should pay close attention Census Bureau can't meet Trump's deadline for data on undocumented immigrants: report On The Money: Trump makes a late pitch on the economy | US economy records record GDP gains after historic COVID-19 drop | Pelosi eyes big COVID-19 deal in lame duck MORE following a House vote to hold the officials in contempt for failing to comply with congressional subpoenas.

“The Department of Justice’s long-standing position is that we will not prosecute an official for contempt of Congress for declining to provide information subject to a presidential assertion of executive privilege,” Deputy Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen wrote in a letter to Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiGovernors take heat for violating their own coronavirus restrictions Spending deal clears obstacle in shutdown fight Ocasio-Cortez, Cruz trade jabs over COVID-19 relief: People 'going hungry as you tweet from' vacation MORE (D-Calif.).

The House had rebuked the Trump Cabinet members by passing a criminal contempt resolution earlier this month, largely along party lines. However, it was widely presumed that the Justice Department would not pursue a criminal referral against the top DOJ official.

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The full House vote came after the House Oversight and Reform Committee subpoenaed the Commerce and Justice departments earlier this year for documents relating to since-abandoned efforts to put a citizenship question on the 2020 census.

The panel voted largely along party lines last month to hold Barr and Ross in contempt for failing to comply with those subpoenas. The agencies told lawmakers shortly before the vote was scheduled to be held that President TrumpDonald John TrumpVenezuela judge orders prison time for 6 American oil executives Trump says he'll leave White House if Biden declared winner of Electoral College The Memo: Biden faces tough road on pledge to heal nation MORE had asserted executive privilege over the requested documents.

Rosen pointed to Trump's assertion of executive privilege in his letter to Pelosi on Wednesday. And he highlighted DOJ declining to prosecute officials during previous administrations, such as former Attorney General Eric HolderEric Himpton HolderEx-AG Holder urges GOP to speak against Trump efforts to 'subvert' election results Tyson Foods suspends Iowa plant officials amid coronavirus scandal Money can't buy the Senate MORE after the House voted to hold him in contempt in 2012.

“Consistent with this long-standing position and uniform practice, the Department has determined that the responses by the Attorney General and the Secretary of Commerce to the subpoenas issued by the Committee on Oversight and Reform did not constitute a crime, and accordingly the Department will not bring the congressional contempt citations before a grand jury or take any other action to prosecute the Attorney General or the Secretary,” Rosen wrote.

The Hill has reached out to the offices of 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.) and Pelosi for comment.

The announcement came on a busy news day, shortly after former special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) MuellerCNN's Toobin warns McCabe is in 'perilous condition' with emboldened Trump CNN anchor rips Trump over Stone while evoking Clinton-Lynch tarmac meeting The Hill's 12:30 Report: New Hampshire fallout MORE wrapped up his highly anticipated testimony before a pair of House panels on Capitol Hill.

The Trump administration's efforts to add a citizenship question to the 2020 census were long challenged by Democrats and advocacy groups, who argued that the question's addition would lead to an undercount of the population, particularly for immigrant and minority communities.

The matter was challenged in several federal courts, and the Supreme Court ruled 5-4 last month that the question couldn’t be added to the census under the administration's rationale that it would help to enforce the Voting Rights Act, reasoning the high court called "contrived."

While Trump initially signaled that he would still try to get the question on next year’s census, he ultimately gave up the effort. He instead announced an executive order directing federal agencies to provide information on citizenship to the Commerce Department.