House Oversight Republicans release parts of Kobach, Trump officials' testimony on census citizenship question

Republicans on the House Oversight and Reform Committee on Tuesday released new portions of an interview with former Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach on his role in adding a citizenship question to the 2020 census.

Rep. Jim JordanJames (Jim) Daniel JordanRep. Amash stokes talk of campaign against Trump Rep. Amash stokes talk of campaign against Trump House panel advances bill to create cybersecurity standards for government IT devices MORE (R-Ohio), the ranking member of the panel, made the new portions of the interviews with Kobach and other Trump administration officials public in response to the committee’s vote last week to hold Attorney General William BarrWilliam Pelham BarrForeign interference is a threat to the 2020 elections — presidential interference is, too Foreign interference is a threat to the 2020 elections — presidential interference is, too America’s crisis of compassion is a Constitutional crisis, too MORE and Commerce Secretary Wilbur RossWilbur Louis RossCompanies line up to weigh in on proposed 0B China tariffs during hearings Companies line up to weigh in on proposed 0B China tariffs during hearings Trump ‘perfectly happy’ to slap more tariffs on China if no deal is made: Commerce secretary MORE in contempt.

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“The contempt citation was premature, unnecessary, and designed to advance a partisan goal of influencing ongoing litigation presently before the Supreme Court of the United States,” the Republican report reads.

Jordan also sought to refute allegations surrounding the role of a late GOP redistricting strategist in getting the citizenship question on the census.

The American Civil Liberties Union filed documents in court last month indicating that GOP strategist Thomas Hofeller, who died last year, had partially ghostwritten a draft of a memo arguing in favor of adding the citizenship question. The evidence also showed that Hofeller had conducted a 2015 study that found a census citizenship question would help Republicans and white communities in redistricting efforts, while hurting Democrats and Hispanic communities.

In the newly released portions of the Kobach interview, Kobach said he didn’t “recall ever meeting or talking with anyone by that name,” in reference to Hofeller.

And Kobach said that he had “never read any such study or heard of any such study” when asked about the 2015 survey conducted by Hofeller, according to the transcript released Tuesday.

House Oversight and Reform Committee Chairman Elijah CummingsElijah Eugene CummingsHouse Democrats question DHS over using facial recognition tech on US citizens House Democrats question DHS over using facial recognition tech on US citizens Democrats lash out at Trump’s bombshell remarks MORE (D-Md.) first revealed earlier this month that Kobach had interviewed with the committee.

Cummings had also released parts of the Kobach interview. Those portions showed that Kobach discussed the citizenship question with Trump early in his presidency and that he also discussed the question with Trump campaign staff during the 2016 campaign.

In another transcription released Tuesday, former Commerce Department counsel James Uthmeier said that he was never in contact with Hofeller. 

Uthmeier, who worked on the citizenship question and testified to the Oversight Committee, also said he was not familiar with Hofeller’s 2015 study and to his knowledge, had “never seen anything written by him,” according to the Republican report.

In another interview segment released on Tuesday, Justice Department official Gene Hamilton said he did not know of Hofeller.

Jordan also said Tuesday that Uthmeier, Hamilton and Justice Department official John Gore each testified to the committee that they had no contact with White House officials about the census citizenship question.

“Rather than attempt to legislate on the citizenship question, the committee is using its oversight authority to create a controversy in the hopes of influencing the Supreme Court’s imminent decision on the issue,” Jordan’s report reads.

“For all the reasons set forth in these minority views, the committee’s contempt citation is unnecessary, premature, and designed merely to advance partisan political goals.”

The Hill has reached out to Oversight Committee for comment.

The committee voted last week to hold Barr and Ross in contempt for failing to comply with congressional subpoenas for documents on the census citizenship question. Rep. Justin AmashJustin AmashJohn Oliver advocates Trump impeachment inquiry for ‘high crimes and misdemeanors’ John Oliver advocates Trump impeachment inquiry for ‘high crimes and misdemeanors’ The Hill’s Morning Report – Is US weighing military action against Iran? MORE (R-Mich.) was the only Republican on the committee to support the contempt resolution.

Both the Commerce and Justice departments claimed that they have provided thousands of documents to the committee, as well as making agency officials available for interviews.

However, Cummings has maintained that many of the documents provided were heavily redacted, already publicly available and not in line with the subpoenas issued earlier this year.

The Supreme Court is expected to issue a decision by the end of the month on whether the citizenship question should be allowed on the 2020 census.

Opponents of the question argue that asking about citizenship will lead to an inaccurate population count. The Trump administration says the question is needed to enforce the Voting Rights Act.

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