Rep. Grace Meng, D-N.Y., is demanding the Justice Department investigate Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross for lying to Congress during a hearing that addressed the upcoming U.S. Census.
It was revealed this weekend that former White House aide asked Ross to add a question to the census about the citizenship status of the person answering the question. The idea reportedly came from Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, R-Ks., who’s in a tight race for governor against Sen. Laura Kelly, D-Ks.
While under oath, Meng asked Ross where the question came from and he lied, saying he wasn’t sure but that it wasn’t him or the White House that was involved. Emails show former White House aide Steve Bannon asked Ross to do it while he was still at the White House.
“I’m upset,” Meng told CNN’s Fredricka Whitfield. “He lied to my face and made multiple statements about the request being originated from the Justice Department about the Voting Rights Act. It is clear now that this was a political move as we have seen multiple pieces of evidence and he lied to my face when I asked him about that question.”
A spokesperson for Ross said that Ross answered truthfully and that the question was about an email not about the direct citizenship question on the census form. Meng called the excuse nonsense.
“They are wrong,” she said. “If you look at the transcript of the hearing, if you look at the video, which was just shown, I specifically referenced the additional citizenship question being add and that’s what we were discussing.”
The census is required by every person in the United States whether the person is a citizen or not. The Constitution instructs the government to count accurately to determine the number of people in a voting district and draw legislative boundaries. If those fearful about the citizenship question don’t fill out the census, the fear is that districts will under-count people and draw legislative districts that favor Republican officials.
Ross said that the issue is about enforcing the Voting Rights Act, despite a key portion of the law being undermined by a recent Supreme Court decision. Meng called the excuse surprising since the administration has never shown any interest in restoring the Voting Rights Act before.
“I’m perplexed and surprised that of the sudden concern over the Voting Rights Academy. We have legislation in Congress that we can work on together if they are concerned about the Voting Rights Act,” Meng said. “The Trump campaign, in my previous unrelated question, was about the Trump campaign sending out a campaign email asking about how people felt about the inclusion of this new citizenship question. So, they are, indeed, politicizing the census.”
Non-citizens, or citizens with non-citizens living in their home, are fearful President Donald Trump government will use the information to send Border Patrol agents to arrest them. There is a movement among Democrats to refuse to answer the question or refusing to fill out the census. States have sued to block the question.