WASHINGTON, July 19 (Reuters) – A watchdog has found former Commerce Department secretary Wilbur Ross misrepresented his reasons for wanting to add a citizenship question to the 2020 census, and the Trump administration refused to prosecute him, an investigation revealed on Monday.
In a letter dated Friday, Commerce Department Inspector General Peggy Gustafson said Ross’s testimony to Congress in March 2018 “distorted the full rationale” for the question when he said it was substantiated. by a request from the Ministry of Justice to assist in the enforcement of the Law on Voting Rights.
A spokesperson for Gustafson’s office said the Justice Department made its decision to deny the prosecution of Ross in January 2020, when Donald Trump was president. A spokesperson for the Justice Department declined to comment when asked on Monday whether he would reconsider the decision.
Ross, a Trump-appointed Republican, could not be reached immediately for comment. The Commerce Department declined to comment.
The Inspector General’s investigation found that months before Justice’s request in December 2017, Ross, his staff and other government officials had discussed the issue of citizenship, the Inspector General said.
In June 2019, the United States Supreme Court barred the Trump administration from asking whether census respondents were citizens because officials gave an “artificial” justification.
Census results influence how government works, such as where funding is allocated and how many seats in the House of Representatives each state gets.
Census Bureau experts estimated that households corresponding to 6.5 million people would not respond to the census if the citizenship question were asked. Immigrants have historically been part of the Democratic Party’s base of support.
House Supervisory and Reform Speaker Carolyn Maloney said the review confirmed the Trump administration’s efforts were illegal.
Citizenship has not been requested from all households since the 1950 census.
Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Aurora Ellis and Cynthia Osterman
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