Rep. Lacy Clay (D-MI) told Commerce Sec. Wilbur Ross Thursday that he has “zero credibility” and that he should resign. Ross wanted to delay the March 14 hearing with House members, but the House Oversight Committee kept to the original schedule, despite the secretary’s wishes. The hearing was held a month before the Supreme Court will listen to arguments about the addition of a question of citizenship to the census.
Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC) and Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) suggested that the hearing was set up only for political reasons.
“I mean, for the life of me, I do not know why the Democrats don’t want to know how many citizens are in the United States of America," Jordan said. “But for some reason, they are focused on this question. Maybe it’s politics. It seems clear to me we are having the hearing today for that reason. The majority insists on politicizing the 2020 census.”
Meadows added, “Many of the questions that you will receive today have nothing to do with accurately counting the number of people that are here in the United States of America. It has everything to do with politics. And everything to do with trying to make sure that one particular message comes across.”
Rep. Kelly Armstrong (R-ND) said that any oral statements under oath made in the hearing would be fair game for the upcoming Supreme Court arguments, despite D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton (D) stating otherwise.
House Committee Chairman Elijah Cummings asked Ross whether or not he would withdraw his three prior testimonies stating that he pursued adding a question of citizenship to the 2020 census solely due to a request from the DOJ. NBC reported that new evidence emerged from a, “multi-state lawsuit against Ross,” that Ross was interested in adding a citizenship question earlier than he claimed.
“I answered truthfully to the best of my ability,” Ross told Cummings.
Ross doubled down on his statement that his motivations to push a citizenship question in the census were only based on a request from the justice department.
“I instructed staff to follow up with DOJ for a written statement confirming whether or not DOJ was going to ask for reinstatement of the question," Ross said. "I wanted to make sure that we had enough time to adequately consider any formal request that DOJ might make.”
Cummings released a memo on the day of the hearing, summarizing an interview between staff members of the Committee on Oversight and Reform and John Gore, the Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General in the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice.
“In his prepared remarks,” CBS reported. “Chairman Cummings revealed that John Gore, a Justice Department official, admitted he was provided a draft of the agency's request to the Commerce Department for the inclusion of a citizenship question on the 2020 Census by an unidentified member of Mr. Trump's transition team.”
“The memo explains,” a press release from the Oversight Committee reads. “That Mr. Gore—at the direction of Department of Justice lawyers—declined more than 150 times to answer questions from both Democratic and Republican staff that are central to the Committee’s investigation.”
Before the House committee went to a second recess requested by Ross, Clay made accusations about Ross’s credibility.
“You lied to Congress, you misled the American people and you are complicit in the Trump administration’s intent to suppress the growing political power of the non-white population,” Clay said. “You have zero credibility and you should in my opinion resign.”