Wilbur Ross Says He Did Not 'Intentionally' Mislead Congress About the Census

The commerce secretary falsely portrayed the decision to include a citizenship question as a response to a Justice Department request.



"I have never intentionally misled Congress or intentionally said anything incorrect under oath," Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross insisted yesterday while testifying before a congressional committee about his decision to include a citizenship question in the 2020 census. Mind you, Ross definitely misled Congress, and he definitely said things that were incorrect under oath, while responding to inquiries about the citizenship question. But Ross wants us to believe he was merely confused, forgetful, or imprecise, because if he did those things "knowingly and willfully," he would be guilty of a felony punishable by up to five years in prison. His defense might suffice in criminal court, where the standard is proof beyond a reasonable doubt, but outside of that context it is hard to escape the conclusion that Wilbur Ross is a big fat liar.

It is clear that Ross decided to add a citizenship question very early in his tenure, as U.S. District Judge Jesse Furman showed in a 277-page ruling last January. On May 2, 2017, two months after he took office, Ross emailed his deputy chief of staff, Earl Comstock, to express his dismay at the lack of progress in implementing that decision. Ross said he was "mystified why nothing ha[s] been done in response to my months old request that we include the citizenship question." The motivation for Ross' "request" remains unclear, although it might have had something to do with the political disadvantage that Democrats would suffer if the question led to undercounting of households that include illegal immigrants, as it was expected to do. Comstock testified that he never asked Ross what his "rationale might be, because it may or may not be one that is…legally valid."

Searching for a legally valid rationale, Ross' staff approached the Justice Department, which suggested they try the Department of Homeland Security, which sent them back to the Justice Department. After months of bureaucratic wrangling that culminated in an appeal to then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Ross finally obtained a letter from the Justice Department, dated December 12, 2017, that claimed the citizenship question was needed to help enforce the Voting Rights Act. Ross then falsely portrayed that letter as the impetus for a decision he had already made.

"The Department of Justice…requested that the Census Bureau reinstate a citizenship question on the decennial census," Ross said in his March 26, 2018, memo announcing the decision. "Following receipt of the DOJ request, I set out to take a hard look at the request and ensure that I considered all facts and data relevant to the question so that I could make an informed decision on how to respond."

Testifying before the House Appropriations Committee on March 20, 2018, Ross said he was "responding solely to Department of Justice's request." Asked if he had discussed the matter with "anyone in the White House," Ross replied, "I am not aware of any such." Ross had in fact discussed the citizenship question with presidential adviser Steve Bannon, who put him in touch with Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach. Kobach thinks unauthorized residents should not be counted for purposes of apportioning legislative seats, notwithstanding what the Constitution says on the subject. In a July 2017 email, Kobach told Ross the lack of a citizenship question "leads to the problem that aliens who do not actually 'reside' in the United States are still counted for congressional apportionment purposes."

On March 22, 2018, Ross told the House Ways and Means Committee the Justice Department "initiated the request for inclusion of the citizenship question." On May 10, 2018, Ross likewise told a Senate subcommittee "the Justice Department is the one who made the request of us," when in fact it was the other way around: The Commerce Department had pressed the Justice Department for a request it otherwise would not have made.

About a month later, the Commerce Department published a "supplemental memorandum" in which Ross revised his story. He admitted that he was talking about adding the citizenship question "soon after" he was appointed secretary of commerce and that "other senior Administration officials had previously raised" the issue. "My staff and I thought reinstating a citizenship question could be warranted, and we had various discussions with other governmental officials about reinstating a citizenship question to the Census," he wrote. "As part of that deliberative process, my staff and I…inquired whether the Department of Justice…would support, and if so would request, inclusion of a citizenship question as consistent with and useful for enforcement of the Voting Rights Act."

Ross told basically the same story in his prepared testimony yesterday before the House Committee on Oversight and Reform. "In 2017, my staff and I also began considering the content of the decennial census questionnaire—considerations that included whether to reinstate a citizenship question," he said. "We also asked the Department of Justice (DOJ) whether it would have interest in obtaining more granular citizenship data….I instructed staff to follow up with DOJ for a written statement confirming its views, one way or the other, in time to adequately consider any formal request DOJ might make."

Not surprisingly, the Democrats on the committee were not buying it. Noting Ross' claim in a letter to the committee that his efforts to add a citizenship question prior to the DOJ letter amounted to nothing more than "informal and hypothetical discussions," Rep. William Clay (D-Mo.) said "that explanation does not pass the laugh test." Clay added that "you testified three times, and each time you withheld critical information that Congress needed to oversee preparations for the 2020 census."

Rep. Jimmy Gomez (D-Calif.) noted that "you have portrayed your decision to add the citizenship question as a response to DOJ's request in December of 2017, but the evidence shows that you and your staff had been trying for months to find an agency, any agency, willing to make this request." In light of those efforts, Gomez said, "this whole charade doesn't make sense; it doesn't pass the smell test."

The committee's chairman, Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), gave Ross an opportunity to rebut Gomez's characterization. This was Ross' reply: "I don't think there's any need to respond."

Ross has broad discretion to change the questions on the census, but it is not unfettered. Judge Furman concluded that the pretextual, haphazard, fuzzily reasoned process that Ross followed violated the Administrative Procedure Act in half a dozen ways. Even if you disagree with Furman's legal conclusions, the chronology he lays out demonstrates that Ross has repeatedly misled Congress and the public about a decision that affects the accuracy of the census and the apportionment based on it. His only defense is that he did it by accident.

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  1. Now since Trump is President Reason expects me to believe they care when government officials lie to Congress. Where where these articles during your buddy Obama’s reign, Reason?

    Another classic case of TDS.

    1. Quit whining.

      1. You first Arty.

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  2. The perils of middle management.

  3. Apparently this dude helped Trump out of a casino bankruptcy years ago. I guess that’s how he got the appointment.

    1. What the name of the Bankruptcy judge that helped Trump out of that casino bankruptcy years ago?

      Ordinary thinks political appointments are not done under subjective circumstances.

  4. It sounds like his defence is I intended to deceive you better.

    1. Which sounds more like a confession.

      1. So does saying I gave you the least dishonest answer I could. We didn’t prosecute that guy.

  5. Ross isn’t very good at containing the Hulk, either.

    1. He made a reasonable Red Hulk though.

  6. RBG gets to use the senility defense. This guy is probably in the same boat.

  7. Wait until that citizenship question gets onto the 2020 Census.

    The Lefties are going to howl.

    Even funnier will be when Blue states like Commifornia lose Congressional districts to Red states like Georgia. Thanks 2020 Census.

  8. “Legally valid rationale”?

    What counts, under which laws?

    (The Constitution only wants a headcount.

    The full-form census has a lot more, with no obvious enumerated power.

    But try and tell me that citizenship is specially not “legally valid” there, go on.

    I’m not sure I buy the validity of any law that says they can’t ask that, and note that I am at best ambivalent about the fact of them doing so; I just don’t see any obvious reason it should or can be forbidden, at least in the circumstances we find ourselves in, where “there’s no enumerated power than says they can” isn’t sufficient.)

    1. (“Illegals might not fill out the census” might – might – be a good practical argument that it’s bad policy.

      But it’s not a compelling legal or moral argument that the question therefore cannot be asked.)

    2. Art.1, Sec. 2 requires a count of “the whole Number of free Persons.” Has any court ever defined such Persons?
      Would it include citizens of another country – workers, tourists, students, illegals, diplomats – who were in the U.S. when the census taker came around? If it doesn’t, then the census form needs to ask the question. Maybe, in the past, the census taker going door to door would simply ask “are you a U.S. citizen?” and not put them on the list? With mail-in census forms, there is no official to ask the question, so the respondent needs to self report on penalty of perjury.

      1. Either way, Census 2020 is gonna be a fight.

        Lefties know or should know that Blue states like Commifornia are losing Congressmen to Red states like Georgia. There is no way in hell that Lefties are not going down without a fight with the Census, Election 2020, and massive Congressional redistricting impacting some House seats that Democrats might win in 2020.

        1. We better not be counting illegals for dosctrixitng purposes. I would rather put CA under martial law than do that.

      2. Actually, SCOTUS did a very nice job of answering your question in United States v. Verdugo-Urquidez, 494 U.S. 259 (1990). There are distinct differences, in the Constitution, between an individual defined as a “person,” and those defined as part of “the people.” And yes, a “person” would include tourists, students, etc.

    3. Check 14th Amendment, Section 2. The first part eliminates the 3/5 compromise in Article I, Section 2. The second part deals with the voting rights of citizens eligible to vote (21 year-old males in 1868). If a state denies or in any way abridges the rights of citizens to vote in “any election for the choice of electors for President and Vice-President of the United States, Representatives in Congress, the Executive and Judicial officers of a State, or the members of the Legislature thereof…the basis of representation therein shall be reduced in the proportion which the number of such male citizens shall bear to the whole number of male citizens twenty-one years of age in such State.”

      Enforcing Section 2 requires a censorship question. If non-citizens vote, it effectively dilutes the votes of citizens. Neither Ross nor anyone at Commerce bothered to read the Constitution.

      1. “any of the male inhabitants of such State, being twenty-one years of age, and citizens of the United States, or in any way abridged, except for participation in rebellion, or other crime, the basis of representation therein shall be reduced in the proportion which the number of such male citizens shall bear to the whole number of male citizens twenty-one years of age in such State.”

        This section is saying that you lose representatives based on a formula if your states passes laws that disenfranchise votes.(explicitly not allowing black people to vote, for example)
        But, because of the Voting Rights Act, it is illegal to disenfranchise voters.

        Are we currently planning on punishing any states?

  9. I can’t wait for the census so I can tell government I identity as a gay transgender bi-sexual lesbian hermaphrodite.

    1. A friend of mine said he was going to start identifying as a 12 year old girl, and demand enrollment at the grade school down the street. We wondered what they would do then?

    2. intentional misrepresentation might qualify for 10 years in federal penitentary, in our process crime era. at that point, your defense attorney might suggest a few snips and cuts here and there to back your claims

      1. If you’re Hillary Clinton they make you SoS.

  10. They used to ask useful questions on the census.

    Here is a list of all the years and the forms they used back then.
    1790 census was rather short, dwelling almost entirely on whether you were a slave or not.
    In 1820 they start asking if you are a “foreigner not naturalized”.

    1. +1

  11. By accident: Oops I did it again.

  12. Wilbur Ross deserves to spend the rest of his life in a small cell in a piss stained onsie…what a filthy old codger criminal like the rest of them. Traitors & criminals…

  13. I get paid over $180 per hour working from home with 2 kids at home. I just got paid $ 8550 in my previous month It Sounds unbelievable but you wont forgive yourself if you don’t check it.
    ?????AND GOOD LUCK????? http://www.Aprocoin.com

  14. Interesting case —

    Judge Jesse Furman claimed Non-Citizenship requires voting power “even if it did not violate the Constitution itself” BECAUSE of [[Illegal Immigrant Funding]] in Head Start and Public Schools” and deemed it “harmful” because a loss of count of illegal immigrants might cause lack of funding for [[socialist systems]] AND lost U.S. House of Representative Seats for CA, NY, IL (ALL BLUE STATES).

    This judge basically states that Voter Fraud, Welfare Fraud, Congressional Fraud and NOT funding Socialist System is ILLEGAL because he deems them “harmful”.

    Good grief – sounds just like the leftists who post comments. Law? What Law? We’re all about our own “feelings” and making sure the INVADERS take over this country because its the “humane” and “kind” thing to do.

    Your self-claimed “kindness” tactics belongs in PRISON!

  15. Woops; “This judge basically states that Voter Fraud, Welfare Fraud, Congressional Fraud and Social System Fraud is LEGAL because having them ILLEGAL he deems is “harmful”.

    1. are there no checks and balances on judicial opinions that don’t require years of appeals, this seems nuts

      1. Well the judges are appointed by the Presidential Administration and Confirmed by Congress. Judge Jesse Furman was Appointed by the Obama Administration with a Democratic Majority in Congress.

        That’s suppose to be the “checks and balances” on the judicial department – thus a corrupted presidency with corrupted congress actually creates a corrupted justice department. A SWORN OATH? What Sworn Oath they say under their deceitful breaths.

        Republicans did fight hard to stop this nominee though – eventually lost.

        https://www.law360.com/ articles/311194/ senate-approves-sdny- judge-after-5-month-filibuster

      2. The check is for a President to grow a pair and tell the judicial authoritarians to go fuck themselves.

      3. Sure.

        First, there’s how someone becomes a judge. Depending on what court they’re a judge of that can range from “nominated by the president and confirmed by the senate” to “ran and won a local election.

        Then there’s term length. That ranges from “a few years” to “till death or resignation”.

        The legislative branch (and jurisdiction) has further checks and balances in that if they really don’t like how judges are interprettign some law, they can amend, repeal, replace, or pass a new law that nullifies that interpretation.

        The executive branch (and jurisdiction) can’t change the law like the legislative can, but it’s the executive branch that chooses what to prosecute (when applicable), that chooses what to defend (when applicable), and so-on.

        So there’s plenty of checks and balances. You just don’t like that the people in place don’t choose to use them.

  16. So I guess the census takers are obliged to count every tourist in Disneyworld, regardless if they are from another state or country. After all, they are presumably “free persons” per the constitution and questions about their citizenship or place of origin are not allowed, per the left.

    1. It will all even out when all tourists in Yellowstone are counted toward Wyoming and Montana’s census numbers.

      1. Either way, commifornia and Blue states are losing house seats to Red states like Georgia.

        This whhy Lefties are so upset and want every illegal counted.

  17. From census.gov

    The doc linked has charts for common questions on the census starting at page 121. The census has asked place of birth and citizenship from 1870 to 2000. Parents place of birth from 1870 to 1970.
    Objections to it on constitutional grounds are absurd.


    1. “The motivation for Ross’ “request” remains unclear, ”

      Maybe he wanted to know how many foreigners had illegally invaded the country.
      I’d like to know too.

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