Justice Department official John Gore — a Trump-appointee who played a pivotal role in the administration’s failed attempt to add a citizenship question to the 2020 census — is departing the administration Friday.
A person familiar with the circumstances of Gore’s exit told TPM that it was “long planned” that he would leave this summer and that the departure “had nothing to do with the census litigation.”
A motion for judicial sanctions is pending based on claims Gore and others provided misleading testimony in the case. The Justice Department has denied those allegations.
The person said that Gore’s move to leave the Department was “completely voluntary,“ while noting that Gore’s tenure in the administration had exceed the two-year average political appointees typically spend in the government.
The person said Gore will return to the law firm Jones Day, where he was a partner before joining the administration.
Gore joined the administration from its beginning and in the summer of 2017 became the acting head of the Department’s civil rights division. The appointment was controversial from the start given Gore’s record at Jones Day, where he defended a voter purge in Florida that was ultimately ruled illegal by the courts.
In that role, he became the point person at the Justice Department for the Commerce Department as it pushed for a request that a citizenship question be added to the 2020 census.
Gore wrote the letter claiming that the citizenship question would enhance DOJ’s enforcement of the Voting Rights Act. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross used Gore’s letter to justify including the question on the census, but records released in the litigation revealed Ross was pushing for the question well before Gore — or even the Justice Department — got involved. The Supreme Court ruled that the Voting Rights Act was pretextual.
The ACLU is seeking sanctions in the census citizenship case brought in New York because it says that Gore and others obscured the involvement of a now-deceased GOP gerrymandering expert in the push to add the question. The expert, Thomas Hofeller appears to have written part of a draft request for the question that was given to Gore by an outside advisor. The Justice Department said there is “no basis” for “speculation” that Gore relied on the Hofeller ghost-written draft and denied claims that he was misleading in his testimony.
Later Friday, the ACLU will submit another filing in the sanctions dispute.