Trump asserts executive privilege over census info

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump on Wednesday asserted executive privilege over information related to his administration's decision to add a citizenship question to the 2020 census as the House Oversight Committee prepared to hold two of his Cabinet members in contempt for defying its subpoenas on the issue.

Trump's move, which the Justice Department announced in a letter to the committee's chairman, Elijah Cummings, came as the panel began a meeting to vote on a resolution to hold Attorney General William Barr and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross in contempt of Congress for withholding documents on the decision to add the question to the census.

The resolution would allow Democrats to pursue both civil and criminal contempt of both Cabinet officials for defying subpoenas issued by Cummings, D-Md., on April 2 to produce the documents. Democratic leadership would then decide which avenue to pursue.

To take action in criminal contempt, the House would need to hold a full floor vote. For civil contempt, Democrats would seek authorization from a bipartisan group of House leaders, in which Democrats hold the majority, to file a lawsuit to enforce the committee’s subpoenas.

The Justice Department had warned Cummings in a letter Tuesday that it would recommend the president assert executive privilege if the House voted to hold the officials in contempt of Congress.

Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, the top Republican on the Committee, also sent a letter to Cummings Tuesday charging that the chairman had rushed to hold a contempt of Congress vote, and had violated committee rules in scheduling the vote. He argued that “both Attorney General Barr and Secretary Ross have cooperated — and continue to cooperate — with your investigation.”

The planned committee vote comes a day after the House approved a resolution to authorize the House Judiciary Committee and other panels to go to court to enforce their subpoenas of the Trump administration.

That measure, which was adopted 229-191 along party lines, allows the Judiciary Committee to sue Barr and former White House counsel Don McGahn for refusing to comply with its subpoenas related to former special counsel Robert Mueller’s report on Russia's efforts to influence the 2016 election and possible obstruction of justice by Trump.

The Judiciary Committee voted in May to advance a measure to hold Barr in criminal contempt of Congress, but Chairman Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., said Monday that he would hold off on that threat after reaching an agreement with the Justice Department to obtain some underlying evidence from the Mueller report related to possible obstruction of justice by Trump.

Cummings said the House vote Tuesday "marks a pivotal moment for Congress in our ability to conduct oversight as an independent branch of government.”

The White House, Cummings said, has “not turned over one single shred of paper in response to any of our requests” about such things as the response to Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico; executive branch security clearance concerns; efforts to transfer nuclear technology to Saudi Arabia; and hush money payments that the president's former longtime lawyer, Michael Cohen, made to women who allege past affairs with Trump, which he has denied.

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Melania Trump attends D-Day commemoration
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Melania Trump attends D-Day commemoration
US President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump walk from Marine One to board Air Force One before departing from Southampton Airport, in Southampton, southern England on June 5, 2019, after attending an event to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the D-Day landings. - US President Donald Trump, Queen Elizabeth II and 300 veterans are to gather on the south coast of England on Wednesday for a poignant ceremony marking the 75th anniversary of D-Day. Other world leaders will join them in Portsmouth for Britain's national event to commemorate the Allied invasion of the Normandy beaches in France -- one of the turning points of World War II. (Photo by MANDEL NGAN / AFP) (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)
US President Donald Trump (L) gestures as he and First Lady Melania Trump (R) walk off of Marine One to board Air Force One before departing from Southampton Airport, in Southampton, southern England on June 5, 2019, after attending an event to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the D-Day landings. - US President Donald Trump, Queen Elizabeth II and 300 veterans are to gather on the south coast of England on Wednesday for a poignant ceremony marking the 75th anniversary of D-Day. Other world leaders will join them in Portsmouth for Britain's national event to commemorate the Allied invasion of the Normandy beaches in France -- one of the turning points of World War II. (Photo by MANDEL NGAN / AFP) (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)
PORTSMOUTH, ENGLAND - JUNE 05: Philip May and US First Lady Melania Trump attend the D-Day75 National Commemorative Event to mark the 75th Anniversary of the D-Day Landings at Southsea Common on June 05, 2019 in Portsmouth, England. (Photo by Karwai Tang/WireImage)
PORTSMOUTH, ENGLAND - JUNE 05: French President Emmanuel Macron, British Prime Minister Theresa May, Prince Charles, Prince of Wales, Queen Elizabeth II, US President Donald Trump and US First Lady Melania Trump attend the D-Day75 National Commemorative Event to mark the 75th Anniversary of the D-Day Landings at Southsea Common on June 05, 2019 in Portsmouth, England. (Photo by Karwai Tang/WireImage)
PORTSMOUTH, ENGLAND - JUNE 05: US First Lady Melania Trump attends the D-Day75 National Commemorative Event to mark the 75th Anniversary of the D-Day Landings at Southsea Common on June 05, 2019 in Portsmouth, England. (Photo by Karwai Tang/WireImage)
PORTSMOUTH, ENGLAND - JUNE 05: US President Donald Trump and US First Lady Melania Trump attend the D-Day75 National Commemorative Event to mark the 75th Anniversary of the D-Day Landings at Southsea Common on June 05, 2019 in Portsmouth, England. (Photo by Karwai Tang/WireImage)
PORTSMOUTH, ENGLAND - JUNE 05: US President Donald Trump and US First Lady Melania Trump attend the D-Day75 National Commemorative Event to mark the 75th Anniversary of the D-Day Landings at Southsea Common on June 05, 2019 in Portsmouth, England. (Photo by Karwai Tang/WireImage)
US President Donald Trump (L), US First Lady Melania Trump (C) and Greek President Prokopis Pavlopoulos attend an event to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the D-Day landings, in Portsmouth, southern England, on June 5, 2019. - US President Donald Trump, Queen Elizabeth II and 300 veterans are to gather on the south coast of England on Wednesday for a poignant ceremony marking the 75th anniversary of D-Day. Other world leaders will join them in Portsmouth for Britain's national event to commemorate the Allied invasion of the Normandy beaches in France -- one of the turning points of World War II. (Photo by Chris Jackson / POOL / AFP) (Photo credit should read CHRIS JACKSON/AFP/Getty Images)
Britain's Prince Charles, Prince of Wales (2L) walks with US President Donald Trump (C) and US First Lady Melania Trump (3R) during an event to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the D-Day landings, in Portsmouth, southern England, on June 5, 2019. - US President Donald Trump, Queen Elizabeth II and 300 veterans are to gather on the south coast of England on Wednesday for a poignant ceremony marking the 75th anniversary of D-Day. Other world leaders will join them in Portsmouth for Britain's national event to commemorate the Allied invasion of the Normandy beaches in France -- one of the turning points of World War II. (Photo by Jeff J Mitchell / POOL / AFP) (Photo credit should read JEFF J MITCHELL/AFP/Getty Images)
Melania Trump and US President Donald Trump meet veteran Thomas Cuthbert during commemorations for the 75th Anniversary of the D-Day landings at Southsea Common, Portsmouth. (Photo by Ben Mitchell/PA Images via Getty Images)
Britain's Queen Elizabeth II (2R), Britain's Prince Charles, Prince of Wales (R), and US President Donald Trump (2L) and US First Lady Melania Trump prepare to meet veterans during an event to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the D-Day landings, in Portsmouth, southern England, on June 5, 2019. - US President Donald Trump, Queen Elizabeth II and 300 veterans are to gather on the south coast of England on Wednesday for a poignant ceremony marking the 75th anniversary of D-Day. Other world leaders will join them in Portsmouth for Britain's national event to commemorate the Allied invasion of the Normandy beaches in France -- one of the turning points of World War II. (Photo by Jeff J Mitchell / POOL / AFP) (Photo credit should read JEFF J MITCHELL/AFP/Getty Images)
Britain's Queen Elizabeth II (2R), Britain's Prince Charles, Prince of Wales (R), and US President Donald Trump (2L) and US First Lady Melania Trump prepare to meet veterans during an event to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the D-Day landings, in Portsmouth, southern England, on June 5, 2019. - US President Donald Trump, Queen Elizabeth II and 300 veterans are to gather on the south coast of England on Wednesday for a poignant ceremony marking the 75th anniversary of D-Day. Other world leaders will join them in Portsmouth for Britain's national event to commemorate the Allied invasion of the Normandy beaches in France -- one of the turning points of World War II. (Photo by Jeff J Mitchell / POOL / AFP) (Photo credit should read JEFF J MITCHELL/AFP/Getty Images)
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