Losing our census: By asserting executive privilege, President Trump is covering up the roots of census change


The Trump administration is engaged in a government-wide coverup of an urgent investigation into the abuse of foundational policy designed to ensure fair federal representation and provision of services: the national Census, the once-a-decade count of, as the Constitution puts it, "the whole Number of free Persons" in the nation. 

Wednesday, President Trump, with an assist from Attorney General Bill Barr, asserted executive privilege to block congressional requests for Commerce Department documents related to including a citizenship question on next year's Census form. The question seems designed to intimidate immigrants, regardless of their status, into declining to respond, thus causing undercounts in states like New York and California.

Last year, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross lied under oath in testimony before Congress, claiming the question was required by the Justice Department, to ensure compliance with the Voting Rights Act. His own staff contradicted him.

House Democrats increased their pursuit in the last two weeks on the revelation that a recently deceased Republican redistricting expert shared research with high-ranking Trump officials that the citizenship question would reduce Latino numbers and enhance the electoral advantage of "Republicans and Non-Hispanic Whites."

There's no question that oversight is within Congress' purview. Executive privilege is supposed to cover sensitive counsel to a president in confidence. It can't be a random shield to prevent the release of documents that may expose a cynical ploy to undermine a constitutional imperative.

Jerry Nadler's House Oversight Committee is right to hold both Ross and Barr in contempt over their devious, dishonest attempts to dodge accountability.

— Reprinted with permission