New findings detail Trump’s plan to use census for partisan gain

A House committee report concluded on Wednesday that a new batch of documents obtained by Congress confirmed that the Trump administration lobbied to add a sexual issue to the census to help Republicans win elections, not to protect people’s voting rights.

The report from the Oversight and Reform Commission, the culmination of a year-long investigation, detailed the new findings based on draft internal memos and confidential email communications between political appointees at the Commerce Department, which oversees the Census Bureau, and their counterparts at the Department of Justice. .

The report concluded that the documents provided the most accurate evidence yet that the Trump administration was in the process of excluding non-citizens from the charges to influence congressional distribution that would benefit the Republican Party, and that senior officials used a false pretense to build a legal case to demand everyone else. Residents of the United States are either US citizens.

Former Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said in Congressional testimony that the government decided to add the question because it required more accurate data on citizenship to enforce the Voting Rights Act of 1965. But the Supreme Court in June 2019 ruled that the rationale “appears to have been fabricated,” and a week later The Trump administration has abandoned its quest to ask about citizenship in the 2020 census.

However, a drawn-out fight between the House committee and former President Donald J. Trump over the release of a raft of documents that might shed light on the matter has stretched to the end of his term. after mr. Trump left office, and the commission entered into an agreement with the Departments of Commerce and Justice to obtain the previously withheld documents.

“For years, the Trump administration has delayed and obstructed the Oversight Committee’s investigation into the real reason for adding a question about citizenship to the 2020 census, even after the Supreme Court ruled that the administration’s efforts were illegal,” Representative Carolyn Maloney of New York said. Committee Chair.

“Today’s commission memo unveils this disgraceful behavior and clearly demonstrates how the Trump administration secretly attempted to manipulate the census for political gain while lying to the public and Congress about their goals,” she said.

“Executive branch officials discussed important issues before formulating policy is evidence of good governance,” department spokesman Kevin Manning said at the time.

On Wednesday, the commission was expected to draft a bill to strengthen the institutional independence of the statistics office in order to prevent political interference in the agency.

Wednesday’s report cites multiple drafts of an August 2017 memo on the citizenship question prepared by James Otmeyer, the political appointee and attorney at the Commerce Department, which shows he initially expressed skepticism and eventually strongly supported the inclusion of the question.

“More than two hundred years of precedent, along with largely compelling historical and textual arguments, suggest that it is likely that citizenship data cannot be used for purposes of distributing representatives.” Osman said in an early note.

In subsequent drafts, Mr. Investigators found that Uthmeier and another political appointee, the Earl of Comstock, had changed or removed language that said adding the citizenship question was potentially illegal and unconstitutional.

“Ultimately, we don’t make decisions about how we use data for distribution, and that’s something that Congress (or perhaps the president) decides.” Uthmeier said in a later email to Mr. Comstock, to which a revised note is attached.

“I think that’s our plans here,” he wrote.

Officials also added language to emphasize the Commerce Secretary’s appreciation for adding the citizenship question.

The final memorandum reached the opposite conclusion of the initial draft, asserting that “there is nothing illegal or unconstitutional in the addition of the citizenship question” and claims, “there are grounds for the legal arguments intended by the Founding Fathers that the calculating of the distribution should be based on lawful residents.”

handwritten note from mr. Othemer explained to John Gore, a political appointee at the Justice Department, that political appointees directed the Department of Justice to ask the Commerce Department to add the citizenship question, according to the report.

The Department of Justice eventually sent a formal request in December 2017 to the Commerce Department requesting access to “critical” information from the families. the master. Ross later stated that by adding the question to the 2020 census, the agency was fulfilling that request.

Every 10 years, the federal government conducts a census to count all the people in the country. Everyone is counted without exception, whether they are adults or children, citizens or non-citizens.

The count is used to allocate money to federal programs. It also has a great influence on a nation’s politics, as it is used to distribute representation in Congress, the Electoral College, and within state legislatures.

Adding a nationality question means asking every member of every family in the country about their nationality status.

The United States is home to about 22 million people who are not citizens but reside in the country legally. They include green card holders, work visa specialists and foreign students. About 11 million are undocumented.

Experts predicted that the question of citizenship would have frightened immigrants — both legal and undocumented — into avoiding the census, resulting in a population of several million less likely to undermine Democrats, by shifting political power from diverse urban areas to rural areas.

Evidence in lawsuits against the addition of the citizenship question indicates that partisan gain was at least a factor, and most likely its main objective. The new findings seem to confirm this is the case.

In the April 2019 Supreme Court debates about the legality of the question’s inclusion, the Trump administration argued that the benefits of more accurate gender data offset any harm caused by a potentially weak census response.

It rejected accusations that the Ministry of Commerce created justifications for adding the question to the census.

During the investigation, the House committee found that as early as 2015, members of Mr. Trump’s inner circle, including Steve Bannon, has begun discussing the possibility of adding a question about citizenship to the census. It later emerged that Thomas B. Hoeffler, a strategist and expert on electoral manipulation who died in 2018, had played a role in the decision to add the question.

the master. Ross, the billionaire businessman appointed by Mr. Trump led efforts to head the Commerce Department. In announcing his decision to add the question in March 2018, he portrayed it as based on months of research by the Census Bureau and advice from members of Congress, companies and groups with an interest in an accurate count.

The commission’s report said the documents portrayed it differently.

“The documents released today show the depth with which political actors have sought to subvert a fundamental function mentioned in the Constitution: counting everyone in America every 10 years,” said John C. Yang, executive director of the Asian American Justice Center. A civil rights organization was among the opponents on the nationality issue.

“Secretary Ross has chosen to pursue his political goals through any means available,” Mr. Yang said.

The Act to Ensure Fair and Accurate Census, drafted by Mrs. A. Maloney will seek to insulate the agency from political pressure by limiting the number of political appointees allowed in the Census Bureau to three, including the agency’s director.

Only the director can make operational, statistical or technical decisions for decimal counting, according to the bill, and only one person can be appointed as a deputy by the director and that person must be a professional civil servant.

Terry Ann Rosenthal, a census counselor for civil rights groups, said the legislation is vital to protecting the agency and restoring public confidence in its integrity.

“There is nothing more important to a democratic government than objective and trustworthy statistics,” she said. Political interference undermines the office’s ability to carry out this mission. Our democracy is on the census at its core.”

Leave a Comment