House Supervisory Committee voted on party lines Wednesday to hold Minister of Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and Attorney General William Barr disdain for Congress for their failure to respond to applications for the addition of a citizenship issue to the census.
That action comes one day after Parliament has empowered the Justice Committee to sue Barr and former White House Counsel Don McGahn in federal courts to force them to comply with their daily allowances and testify to the committee on the Mueller report.
Trump officials have detained so many documents in the two surveys that the late Republican operative Thomas Hofeller has been more advanced than the current administration.
Two weeks ago, in memoirs on Hofeller's hard drive revealed that the true purpose of the citizenship issue was to change the congressional districts for the benefit of "non-Spanish whites." This revelation directly opposed Trump's administration requirements that the issue should help enforce the law on voting rights. In fact, the intention turned out to be the opposite.
The Supreme Court is ready to rule over the citizenship problem for the next two weeks.
While the census and Russia scandals come from different sources, they are now more alike than different.
We are no longer talking about how a citizenship issue will reduce the Spanish responses to the Senate, or whether Donald Trump prevented justice by shooting James Comey. We are talking about Trump administration officials covering up evidence and denying congressional judgment day.
In the case of the census, Trump administration officials may have violated the Administrative Procedure Act (APA), and perhaps even the Constitution. But in contradictory torture on congressional judges, they have confused the principle of self-government, not to mention the constitutional powers of Congress.
In some ways, the cover is even worse than the crime.
"We would be committing legal malpractice if we did not do our work," said chairman of the Supervisory Committee, Elijah Cummings, at the beginning of Wednesday's often rancorous hearings.
" During the obstruction and contempt there are a number of decisions that the Republicans prefer to keep secret. "
In fact, while several Republican members of the committee attempted to investigate something else ̵
Rep. William Lacy Clay (D-MO) noted that Ross and Barr refused to answer over 100 questions. And while the Republicans pointed out that Ross spent seven hours witnessing to Congress, Rep. Stephen Lynch (D-MA) said that "any response he gave was designed to produce pain and consume time."
Surely no action was a full voice on contempt of congress. Wednesday's vote was only at committee level, and Parliament did not choose to find Barr and McGahn in contempt of Congress, apparently hoping that an agreement could still be drafted with them.
But during obstruction and contempt there are a number of decisions that the Republicans prefer to keep secret.
For example, as we noted last October, it was clear that Ross was obeying the congress. As a rope. Jamie Raskin (D-MD) pointed out in today's hearing, Ross said he only added the citizenship issue in December 2017 following a request from the Ministry of Justice and a public comment period.
But a letter Ross wrote seven months earlier, in May 2017, said he had already asked to be added to the question. It makes the whole public process a shame, and means that Ross's underling violated the APA by forging the post.
And there are many other examples. Ross lied under oath about his meetings with White House advisers, Steve Bannon and Kris Kobach, both great nationalists. DOJ officials lied about Hofeller's influence, covered their conversations about changing census confidentiality rules to share data with ICE and lied about the event chain that led to the proposed change.
Most importantly, it is now clear that the justification for the question – to help enforce the law on voting rights – is purely pretext. (Otherwise, it's pretty bizarre that officials who have opposed the VRA are now so obliged to enforce it.) The true justification is right there in the Hofeller notes: diluting the power in non-whites society by omitting non-citizens from congressional district distribution.
It would fly in the light of the 230-year-old American tradition (after all, women were spoken before they could vote and children are still counted today). And that would be in favor of "non-Spanish whites."
The fact that the citizenship problem would scare Hispanics is just the ice on the cake.
What happens now?
First, it is unlikely that, despite Republican protests, the contempt vote – even though it passes the whole Parliament – will affect the Supreme Court. They are separate procedures, different facts and different legal standards. (In fact, contempt of the congress, as contempt of the court, is so unclear that it has virtually no standard.) Although the Court of First Instance may make an official statement of the contemptuous finding, it has no legal relevance to the case.
Second, the White House's eleventh-hour attempt to protect those documents under the banner of executive privilege is also unlikely to have great influence. The documents were not privileged during the months Ross and Barr refused to turn over, which, according to the committee, was contemptuous by the congress.
Nor is the requirement of privilege likely to survive judicial control. The statement was a transparent attempt to protect embarrassing or incriminating documents from Congress. There is no probable reason why they should be subject to executive privilege. If anything, the tactics just talk about, in Rep. Cumming's words, "What do they hide?"
So the next move lies with the Parliament as a whole.
Perhaps, as in the Mueller case, housekeepers could use the contempt resolution as a lever to force Ross and Barr to comply with the Supervisory Committee's applications.
Or if such compliance is not forthcoming, Parliament could find the two contempt. Doing so is not unprecedented, or even unusual; Attorney General Eric Holder was found contempt of Congress in 2016 in connection with studies of DOJ's "Fast and Furious" program. And Bush White House Counsel Harriet Miers was found in contempt for Congress in 2007 in connection with the administration's mass firing of US lawyers.
None of these votes resulted in the waiver of the officials involved, let alone presidents Obama or Bush. But they move on both studies. It may be that if two Trump Cabinet secretaries are disdained by the congress, the same can happen here.
Who knows, maybe the government will even catch up with the dead guy.