The Trump administration left behind a long paper trail as it pushed to get a citizenship question on the 2020 census.
Many of those internal emails and memos became public as part of the lawsuits over the addition of the question, “Is this person a citizen of the United States?” They revealed that the Justice Department did not initiate the request for the question to better enforce the Voting Rights Act, as Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross — who oversees the Census Bureau — testified to Congress. Instead, Ross pressured Commerce staff to get the question added for reasons that a federal judge in Maryland has called “mysterious.”
Portions of the documents are blacked out with redactions by the Trump administration. Attorneys at the Justice Department, which is representing the administration in the lawsuits, cited privileges, including ones that prevent attorney-client communications and certain decision-making discussions between government officials from becoming public. The lawsuits’ plaintiffs have tried to get some of those protections lifted, but the courts have generally sided with the administration.
Lawmakers on the House Oversight and Reform Committee, however, have been in a months-long battle for the full release of these emails and memos, as well as other unreleased documents, as part of their congressional investigation into why the administration wants the citizenship question.
This week, President Trump claimed executive privilege over the requested documents, shortly before the committee’s Democrats and Rep. Justin Amash, a Republican from Michigan, voted to hold Ross and U.S. Attorney General William Barr in contempt of Congress for refusing to comply with subpoenas for the documents.
Here are some of the emails that could spark another court battle over the citizenship question:
Email sent to Ross by Comstock on Aug. 11, 2017 (The House oversight committee has asked the administration to release the memo that was attached to this unredacted email.)