House Oversight Committee Chairman Elijah Cummings (D-MD) has continually pushed the notion that there's a right-wing conspiracy to get the citizenship question reinstated on the 2020 Census. The Committee's Ranking Member, Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH), on Tuesday released a report with witness testimony proving this wasn't a coordinated effort and Cummings' moves were designed to influence the Supreme Court's decision.
According to Jordan, Cummings jumped the gun by moving to hold Attorney General William Barr and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross in contempt for supposedly failing to cooperate with Committee subpoenas relating to the issue. In reality, the Trump administration produced more than 31,000 documents based on the Committee's requests, Ross testified for more than six hours in a public hearing and four additional witnesses were made available for day-long interviews.
"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. Both the Department of Justice and the Department of Commerce have cooperated extensively with Chairman Cummings’s investigation into the Trump Administration’s decision to reinstitute a citizenship question on the Census," the report said.
Having a citizenship question on the Census is nothing new yet Democrats continually made it sound like this was a new phenomenon suddenly being pushed by Republicans.
"A question soliciting citizenship information appeared on the Census in one form or another from 1820 to 2000 and has been asked annually on the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey since 2005," the report said. "Other nations request citizenship information as part of their population surveys, which the United Nations recommends as a best practice."
Cummings's coordinated effort to play partisan theatrics began the moment he took reign of the Committee in January.
One timeline shows the course of the citizenship investigation.
Another table shows when the Department of Commerce and the Department of Justice's produced documents.
Cummings threatened to hold Barr and Ross in contempt yet the Committee clearly received documents over the course of time.
"The contempt citation is the culmination of the Committee’s effort to use its oversight authority to influence the Supreme Court—first by gathering information the 'courts can use' and then by picking a public fight with the Administration to generate controversy around the issue," the report said. "Meanwhile, the Committee has eschewed and abandoned its legislative function in this area, and instead chosen the path of publicity. By not considering any legislative proposals aimed at the propriety of the citizenship question, the Committee is misusing its oversight authority."
Despite framing this as a right-wing conspiracy to use the Census for political gain, four witnesses' testimony prove otherwise. Specifically, the Democrats cited a redistricting study conducted by Thomas Hofeller back in 2015. It was argued that the study was utilized as a means for justifying the Census question. They say Secretary Ross and others at the DOC had knowledge of the study.
Hofeller's study asserts that:
• A shift from a redistricting determined using total population to adult population is a radical departure from the federal ‘one person, one vote’ rule presenting used in the United States.
• Without a question on citizenship being included on the 2020 decennial census questionnaire, the use of citizen voting age population is functionally unworkable.
• The Obama Administration and congressional Democrats would probably be extremely hostile to the addition of a citizenship question on the 2020 Decennial questionnaire.
• The chances of the U.S. Supreme Court mandating the addition of a citizenship question to the 2020 decennial census are not high.
• A switch to the use of citizen voting age population as the population base for redistricting would be advantageous to Republicans and Hon-Hispanic Whites.
• A proposal to use citizen voting age population can be expected to provoke a high degree of resistance.
The Committee interviewed James Uthmeier, a former Senior Counsel at DOC, who worked closely with Secretary Ross on the citizenship question on June 11.
Q. Mr. Uthmeier, do you know who Thomas Hofeller is? Or Hoffler
A. I am familiar with the name. But I do not know this individual, no.
Q. Did you ever speak or communicate with him during the transition,
or any other time?
A. I did not.
Q. Have you ever read anything or seen anything written by him?
A. No. To my knowledge, no, I have never seen anything written by
Q. Have you ever discussed him with anyone?
A. I discussed him with counsel in preparation for this interview.
However, I had no other discussions. I was present for the deposition
of Mark Newman, where I also would have heard the name
Q. Are you familiar with his 2015 study or report?
A. I am not.
Gene Hamilton, a senior administration official working on immigration issues at the Department of Justice, had direct knowledge about aspects of the decision-making process that led to the DOJ’s request. Hamilton said he had no idea who Hofeller was.
Q. Did you ever hear of – did you ever speak to or hear of anyone
speaking to Thomas Hofeller?
Q. Also a member of the transition team.
Q. Doesn't ring a bell?
Q. That's H-o-f-e-l-l-e-r.
A. He could spell it H-o-e-f-f-l-e-r, and I have no ideas [sic] who he is.
The Committee interviewed Kris Kobach, the former Kansas Secretary of State who also had no idea who Hofeller was or what the study entailed.
Q. Mr. Kobach, during the campaign or transition, did you ever discuss adding a citizenship question to the 2020 census with Thomas Hofeller?
A. I don't recall ever meeting or talking with anyone by that name. I just read an article yesterday about I think it was that – but – and my recollection upon reading the article was that I've never heard of this guy.15
Q. Mr. Kobach, were you aware of a 2015 study that Mr. Hofeller wrote about the citizenship question?
A. No, I've never read any such study or heard of any such study. As I said, there was an article about that gentleman, I think I saw it yesterday, that alluded to a study, but I'd never heard of it until I read that article.
Kobach also told the Committee he didn't agree with Hofeller's assumptions.
“I don't agree with his assumption that when you count – when you count accurately the number of citizens, that that necessarily helps one party or another party. We don't know," Kobach said.
The Committee interviewed Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General John Gore in March of 2019, although Hofeller's study was not publicly known. Once again, Gore's testimony show the Census question wasn't being considered because of this so-called conspiracy.
Q. Can you help us understand how the lack of data prior to, I guess, the current situation impacts the prosecution of Voting Rights Act cases?
A. So, as I've explained, we've been making do with the ACS [American Community Survey] data –
A. -- and extrapolating the ACS block group level estimates down to the block level to identify potential investigations and enforcement actions.
A. There's, I think, an acknowledgment that the ACS data is an estimate. The Census Bureau puts confidence intervals and margins of error around it. And we don't bring cases unless we can win them. So we've been able to file cases and litigate them under -- using the ACS data.
We would like to get an additional source of data because there may be districts or cases out there where that data provides a clearer picture of what's going on at the block level and within a particular district or redistricting plan, and we might be able to identify additional cases for investigation and potential prosecution.
The Democrats have also pushed the idea that the White House was in cahoots with the DOJ and DOC to get the citizenship added to the Census. Gore's testimony, once again, show that wasn't the case.
Q. Were you aware of any conversations between Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Steve Bannon about the addition of a citizenship question?
Q. Were you aware of any conversations with anyone else at the Department of Justice and Kris Kobach about an addition of a citizenship question?
Q. Were you aware of any conversations between anyone at the Department of Justice and Steve Bannon about an addition of a citizenship question?
Q. Did you ever speak with a little known official named Steve Bannon?
A. I have never spoken to Mr. Bannon in my life.23
Q. Have you ever had any discussions with Stephen Miller at the White House?
A. No, I have not.
Q. There's a fellow by the name of Thomas Brunell?
A. No, I have not, not on this issue.
Q. But on different issues?
A. Yes. I believe when I was in private practice, I had conversations with Mr. Brunell connected to a voting rights case, but it had nothing to do with the census or with the Department's request to reinstate a citizenship question on the census questionnaire.
Hamilton also reaffirmed he had no communications with the White House about adding the citizenship question.
Q. Aside from the communications we just talked about, are you aware of any communications with anybody at the White House that related to the census citizenship question?
A. Between whom?
Q. Between the White House and any agency. Are you aware of any conversations involving the White House? I think we've talked about a handful of conversations with John Zadrozny. Aside from those, are you aware of any conversations?
A. No, I don't think so.
Q. What about Steve Bannon when he was at the White House?
Q. Have you ever had any conversations with Stephen Miller about census or citizenship question?
A. I think I answered that earlier.
Q. Just --
A. I don't remember having any conversation with Stephen.
Q. Did you ever become aware of him having conversations with anyone else about census or a citizenship question?
A. I couldn't tell you.
Q. Did you have any cause to or had you ever had any other discussions with James Uthmeier about other topics or about topics in general?
A. No. I don't recall having any discussions with James Uthmeier or Brian Lenihan. I couldn't pick them out of a lineup.
Q. Have you ever had discussions with Peter Davidson from the Department of Commerce?
A. I don't think – I don't think so. I don't recall.
Q. Did you ever have any conversations with someone named Mark Neuman about the citizenship question?
A. What was the name?
Q. Mark Neuman.
Q. Do you know who that is, N-e-u-m-a-n, Mark Neuman?
Q. He's a member of the President's transition team?
A. Mark Neuman? No.
Q. He also apparently served as some kind of outside adviser to the Department of Commerce on the issue of the citizenship question?
A. I have no idea who he is.
Q. Do you remember ever hearing that there were – that there was more outside advisers providing advice or guidance to the Department of Commerce or to the Department of Justice —
Q. — relating to the citizenship question?
A. Huh uh, no.
Q. [S]o you mentioned that you had a discussion with Mr. Kobach during the transition about the citizenship question, correct, or you got an email from him?
A. I got an unsolicited email from him.
Q. Did you have any further conversations with him after the transition about this topic?
Klobach testified he had no contact with individuals the Democrats say he did. Democrats have pushed the idea that Klobach talked with the Republican National Committee, which, turning testimony, he said didn't take place.
Q. Did you ever speak with Earl Comstock at the Department of Commerce?
A. What was the first name?
Q. Earl, and his last name is Comstock.
A. I don't recall ever speaking to that person. The name doesn't sound familiar.
Q. Did you ever speak with Peter Davidson, the general counsel at the Department of Commerce?
A. I don't specifically recall, but as I mentioned earlier, there was one – there was one individual, a male, who informed me about the notice and comment period, that if I wanted to send an official letter, I could, and I don't remember that person's name.
Q. Okay. Did you ever speak with James Uthmeier at the Department of Commerce, the Deputy General Counsel?
A. I don't remember that name. It is certainly possible that one of those people was the one I spoke to on the phone, but I don't remember those names specifically.
Q. During the campaign or transition, did you ever discuss adding a citizenship question to the 2020 census with a transition official named Mark Neuman, and I'm happy to spell that if that's helpful.
A. I don't recall anybody named Mark Neuman. It's possible I met him and forgot him, but that name does not ring a bell at this time.
Q. Have you ever had any conversations regarding the citizenship question with anybody at the Republican National Committee?
The citizenship question being added back to the Census wasn't a coordinate Republican effort. How much more proof does Cummings and his Democratic colleagues need before they realize this?