Sen. Schatz Calls for Investigation Into Trump’s Efforts to Politicize Census

May 31, 2019, 9:38 AM HST (Updated May 31, 2019, 9:38 AM)
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U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawai‘i) led a group of 13 senators on May 31, 2019, in calling for the Departments of Justice and Commerce to launch internal investigations after new evidence came to light revealing deeply partisan and undemocratic motives behind the addition of a citizenship question to the 2020 Census.

In a letter to the inspectors general of each department, the senators raised concerns that government officials had concealed the role of a partisan political operative who pushed the Trump Administration to add the citizenship question so that immigrants and people of color living in the United States would be undercounted.

“[T]his new evidence not only contradicts [Commerce Secretary Wilbur] Ross’s assertion that the addition of the citizenship question would assist in Voting Rights Act enforcement, but also implicates officials in the Justice and Commerce Departments in an effort to hide from the Congress and the public the true rationale for this question,” the senators wrote. “This reported misconduct warrants an immediate review by your offices.”

In addition to Schatz, the letter is signed by U.S. Sens. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), Jack Reed (D-R.I.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.).

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This letter follows previous efforts, led by Sen. Schatz, to push back against Secretary Ross’s decision to add the citizenship question to the Census. Schatz had previously led a group of 20 senators in writing to the Commerce Department’s inspector general asking for a review of the last-minute addition of the question. He also led a bicameral group of over 30 current and former members of Congress on an amicus brief to Supreme Court supporting a lawsuit to stop the question from being added.

The full text of the letter is below:

Dear Inspectors General Gustafson and Horowitz:

We write to urge you to review the actions taken by both the Departments of Justice and Commerce to hide the contribution of a deeply partisan political operative in the addition of a citizenship question to the 2020 Census, as reported in the press. Specifically, we urge you to review the following:

(a) In depositions and congressional interviews, Justice and Commerce Department officials failed to disclose the substantive public policy role of a political operative, Dr. Thomas Hofeller, in adding the citizenship question to the 2020 Census; and

(b) In concealing the contribution of Dr. Hofeller, Justice and Commerce Department officials purposely obscured the impermissible racial and partisan motivations for adding a citizenship question—to be “advantageous to Republicans and Non-Hispanic Whites” and to “clearly be a disadvantage to the Democrats”—in both the Justice Department’s December 2017 letter requesting the citizenship question and the Commerce Department’s March 2018 memorandum adding the question.

Taken together this new evidence not only contradicts Secretary Ross’s assertion that the addition of the citizenship question would assist in Voting Rights Act enforcement, but also implicates officials in the Justice and Commerce Departments in an effort to hide from the Congress and the public the true rationale for this question. This reported misconduct warrants an immediate review by your offices.

We appreciate your attention to this matter, and we look forward to your response.

Sincerely,

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