Administration

Gowdy threatens to subpoena DOJ official for census testimony

Greg Nash

Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.), the chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, on Tuesday floated a subpoena for a Justice Department official who did not show up for a hearing on the 2020 census. 

Lawmakers had hoped to grill John Gore, the acting assistant attorney general for the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, about a controversial citizenship question the administration plans to put on the 2020 census. But Gore was a no-show.

{mosads}“Congress and more importantly, the people present, would benefit from his testimony and appearance, but he isn’t here, which is disappointing to say the least,” Gowdy said.

“Should he decide to show up, there is a seat waiting for him. If he does not decide to show up, we will have another opportunity to quiz him about some of the issues that have already been raised.”

Gowdy then recessed the committee hearing so members could attend afternoon votes. 

After returning from votes, Gowdy said he is willing to subpoena Gore for his testimony if necessary.

“He’s coming at some point to talk whether he wants to or not,” he said. “I don’t think it’s fair to the folks who did show up to focus on one that did not show up. I am happy to issue a subpoena.” 

Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) said she was up all night preparing questions for Gore because the idea of adding a citizenship question to the census did not come from the professional, career employees in the Department of Justice.

“It came from a partisan, political operative, John Gore,” she said.

Maloney said she was planning to motion the committee to subpoena Gore and is pleasantly surprised Gowdy is on board, but said she’s worried about timing.

Gowdy told Maloney she has his guarantee that he will bring Gore before the committee “by legal compulsory if necessary.”

House Democrats demanded last month that the Justice Department turn over documents detailing its rationale for the citizenship question on the census, but have not received a response.

The department has said it needs the citizenship data to better enforce the Voting Rights Act.

In his opening statement, Rep. Elijah Cummings (Md.), the top Democrat on the panel, called that claim difficult to believe.

“During the entire tenure of the Trump administration, the Justice Department has not filed a single new voting rights action,” he said. 

“In fact, Attorney General Jeff Sessions has criticized the Voting Rights Act as ‘intrusive,’ and the department revised the U.S. Attorney’s Manual to remove references to racial gerrymandering.”

Opponents of the citizenship question fear it will frighten people in immigrant communities away from responding to the census, resulting in an inaccurate count.

Tags Carolyn Maloney Elijah Cummings Jeff Sessions Trey Gowdy

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