The DOJ has failed to release any records regarding Wilbur Ross’s misrepresentation of the addition of a citizenship question to the 2020 Decennial Census. This lack of transparency by the DOJ is indefensible considering an OIG investigation found that Ross provided false or misleading testimony before Congress in March 2018. Following the department’s failure to respond to our FOIA request, CREW is suing the DOJ for the complete, unredacted version of the investigation report referenced in Inspector General Peggy Gustafson’s letter to Congress. This letter details the OIG’s findings that Ross “misrepresented the full rationale for the reinstatement of the citizenship question” in the 2020 Census during his testimony before Congress. CREW is also suing for all records relating to the DOJ’s decision to decline prosecution of Ross following the Commerce OIG’s referral.
Despite testifying twice before Congress that the citizenship question was included at DOJ’s request, OIG’s investigation found that Ross and other Commerce officials played a “substantive role” in the addition of the question. OIG also found “significant communications related to the citizenship question among the then-Secretary, his staff, and other government officials” before DOJ’s request, suggesting the Department of Commerce “requested and played a part in drafting the DOJ memorandum.”
In politicizing the 2020 Census, the Trump administration hindered the ability of Census officials to conduct a proper count by potentially discouraging non-citizens from participating. Even more troubling is the fact that Wilbur Ross appears to have knowingly misled Congress by lying under oath. The DOJ should at the very least provide the public with the thinking behind their decision not to prosecute, especially with the abundance of evidence of wrongdoing by Ross.
February 1, 2022