Trump asserts executive privilege to withhold documents on citizenship census question

President Donald Trump has asserted executive privilege to withhold documents from Congress about the administration’s decision to add a citizenship question to the 2020 census.

A Wednesday Department of Justice letterexplaining the decision said the materials were being withheld to protect the deliberative process as well as attorney-client privilege and attorney work product. The New York Times, the Washington Post and the Wall Street Journal have coverage.

U.S. Attorney General William Barr had asked Trump on Tuesday to assert the privilege. The House Committee on Oversight and Reform had scheduled a Wednesday vote on whether to recommend that Barr and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross be held in contempt for failing to turn over the materials.

According to New York Times, the assertion of executive privilege “increased the prospects that the fight will end up in a lengthy court battle fought over the ill-defined line between constitutional powers for Congress to perform oversight and the powers of the president to keep information secret.”

Ross told Congress that he added a citizenship question because of a DOJ request for better citizenship data to assist in its enforcement of the Voting Rights Act. The American Civil Liberties Union has cited new evidence, found on computer files of a redistricting specialist after his death, which suggests that the question was added to create an election advantage for Republicans.

The U.S. Supreme Court is considering a challenge to the citizenship question. It is expected to rule by the end of the month.