"These documents showed that he was not merely responding to requests from another agency. To the contrary, he was choreographing these efforts behind the scenes. He became impatient when his demands were not being met. And he was working directly with officials at the highest levels of the Trump administration to force this issue through including Steve Bannon and Jeff Sessions. These are the facts. They are not in dispute."
"Mr. Secretary, let me ask you here today in light of all of these documents that have come to light do you wish to withdraw your previous testimony to Congress that your decision to add the citizenship question was based and I underline solely, solely on the requests from the Department of Justice?"
3. SOUNDBITE (English) Wilbur Ross, Secretary of Commerce:
"My reasons for adding the citizenship question are described in detail in the March 26 2018 decision memo. After we received the Department of Justice letter on December 12th 2017 we -- namely Commerce Department, myself and the Census Bureau initiated a very detailed, very thorough process to consider that request. That's what we were responding to. I had been told that's what I would say at this stage. If you have detailed questions about the testimony we can get into them later on."
"Mr. Secretary you lied to Congress. You misled the American people and you are complicit in the Trump administration's intent to suppress the growing political power of the non-white population. You have already done great harm to the Census 2020 and you have zero credibility and you should in my opinion resign."
7. SOUNDBITE (English) Wilbur Ross, Secretary of Commerce:
The chairman of a House oversight panel questioned whether Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross was "truthful" when testifying last year about his decision to add a citizenship question to the 2020 census.
Democratic Rep. Elijah Cummings of Maryland said documents show Ross engaged in a secret campaign to add the question from the first days he joined the Commerce Department.
"These documents showed that he was not merely responding to a request from another agency," Cummings said. "To the contrary, he was choreographing these efforts behind the scenes, he became impatient when his demands were not being met, and he was working directly with officials at the highest levels of the Trump administration to force this issue through."
Ross testified Thursday before the House Oversight and Reform Committee. He stuck with his explanation that Justice Department officials made a formal request to include the citizenship question to help it enforce the 1965 Voting Rights Act. The Census Bureau initiated a legal and policy review to consider alternatives to DOJ's request.
Some 18 states, 15 big cities or counties, and immigrants' rights groups have sued the Commerce Department, claiming it failed to properly analyze the effect of the question on households with immigrants. Two federal judges have declared the move illegal. A federal judge in New York had previously blocked the administration from adding the question to the population count that occurs every 10 years, and the U.S. Supreme Court last month agreed to review that decision.
Democratic lawmakers accused Ross of misleading Congress in earlier testimony about the issue because he said "we are responding solely to the Department of Justice's request." The most withering criticism came from Rep. Lacy Clay, D-Missouri, who said Ross withheld critical information from Congress about what led up to the decision. He read an email from Ross that came months before the DOJ's request stating: "I am mystified why nothing have been done in response to my months old request that we include the citizenship question. Why not?"
Clay said Ross failed to mention the memo when testifying to Congress previously and asked him whether he wanted to "take responsibility today for misleading Congress, whether intentionally or not about the process you followed to add the citizenship question to the 2020 census."
"I have never intentionally misled Congress or intentionally said anything incorrect under oath," Ross said.
Clay refused to accept that answer and accused Ross of being "complicit in the Trump's administration's intent to suppress the growing political power of the non-white population."