The Trump-selected Justice Department official who pushed for the addition of a citizenship question to the 2020 Census was a no-show at the start of a congressional hearing on the state of Census prep, prompting House Oversight Chairman Trey Gowdy (R-SC) to suggest he would subpoena the official.
Justice Department Civil Rights Division acting head John Gore was scheduled to be one of the House Oversight hearing’s witnesses, but he was not present when Gowdy introduced the panelists.
“Congress, and more importantly the people we represent, would benefit from his testimony and appearance,” Gowdy said. “But he isn’t here, which is disappointing, to say the least. Should he decide to show up, there is a seat waiting for him. If he does not decide to show up, then we will have another opportunity to quiz him about some of the issues that have already been raised.”
After the committee took a break for a floor vote, Gowdy indicated that he was willing to subpoena Gore.
“As I said in my opening, he is coming to talk whether he wants to or not,” Gowdy said, as committee Democrats sought to make an issue of Gore’s absence.
Gowdy said the committee staff would begin working on a date for which it would legally compel Gore to appear in front of the committee, but Gowdy added that he wanted to move on with the rest of the hearing.
“I am happy to issue a subpoena,” he said.
The Justice Department referred TPM’s inquiry about Gore’s absence to the Oversight Committee. Amanda Gonzalez, a House Oversight spokeswoman, told TPM that the committee had “clearly communicated to DOJ that we fully expected Mr. Gore to testify at today’s Census hearing.”
The Justice Department in December requested that the Census add a citizenship question, ostensibly for enforcement of the Voting Rights Act. Emails obtained by ProPublica revealed that Gore spearheaded the request. Before coming to the Trump administration, Gore represented Republicans in a number of redistricting cases.
The move to add a Census question was opposed by former top Census officials who worked under both Democratic and Republican administrations. It is feared that the question’s presence will discourage immigrants and their communities from participating in the survey, shifting political power and federal funding to more rural, Republican areas.