A Trump-appointed Justice Department official, who acted as its point person in the administration’s push to add a citizenship question to census, will not comply with a House subpoena for his testimony, the department informed the House Oversight Committee Wednesday.
The Justice Department is objecting to the committee’s refusal to let a DOJ attorney sit in for the committee’s deposition of John Gore. The deposition was scheduled for Thursday.
According to a letter from the department’s congressional liaison, the committee had agreed only to let the attorney sit in a separate room near Gore’s deposition.
The department had sought the attorney’s presence so that the attorney could advise Gore “in connection with maintaining the confidentiality interest of the Executive Branch,” assistant attorney general Stephen Boyd said in the letter.
“We are disappointed that the Committee remains unwilling to permit Department counsel to represent the interests of the Executive Branch in the deposition of a senior Department official,” Boyd said.
While serving as the acting of the DOJ civil rights division, Gore drafted the December 2017 Justice Department request — which was ultimately signed by a career official — that the Census Bureau add a citizenship question to the 2020 survey. The litigation over the move to add the question revealed that aides to Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, who oversees the census, had to prod the Justice Department into making the request. Ross himself had to call then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions to intervene.
Gore, in his deposition for the legal case against the question, testified that when he came on as acting head of the civil rights division in September 2017, staff at the department were resistant to requesting the citizenship question.
The Supreme Court heard arguments in the case on Tuesday, after several courts ruled that the way in which the administration went about adding the question violated administrative law.
The Justice Department’s refusal to let Gore’s House Oversight Committee deposition go forward is the latest shot in an escalating battle between the executive branch and Congress over the House’s investigations into the Trump administration. Other officials who have been subpoenaed by House Democrats have also been ordered to defy those subpoenas.
Even before Democrats won the House gavel — and with it, subpoena power — this year, Trump administration officials stonewalled lawmakers’ grilling at hearings by claiming they had the right to preserve the confidentiality of certain conversations in case President Trump sought to exert executive privilege in the future.
Representatives for the House Oversight Committee majority did not respond to TPM’s inquiry about the Gore letter.
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