Ocasio-Cortez Schools Wilbur Ross on Census Question, Potentially Traps Him In Perjury
“Why are we violating the law to include any question whatsoever in the 2020 census?” asked Ocasio-Cortez.
On Thursday U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross testified in front of a House Oversight and Reform Committee in regards to the Commerce Department’s attempt to add a citizenship question to the 2020 census.
While Ross struggled for much of the hearing to defend his claim that the citizenship question was added at the behest of the Justice Department and was not politically motivated, it was Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez who held his feet to the fire and may have even gotten him to commit perjury.
Watch the full exchange below:
“It’s all there in black and white,” Ocasio-Cortez said of a July 2017 email Kriss Kobach sent to Ross. Kobach was at the time the Kansas secretary of state and is most well-known for implementing a national voter purge system called Crosscheck that has been accused of racial discrimination and unlawfully purging voters.
The email Kobach sent Ross stated that adding a citizenship question was “essential.” Ocasio-Cortez sums up the correspondence by saying it is clear that Kobach’s motivation for the question is about congressional apportionment and has nothing to do with the Justice Department. She then asks Ross if he had further conversations with Kobach, to which Ross responds that he does not know.
Not letting up, Ocasio-Cortez goes on to reference a ruling in a Southern District New York court that found Ross did, in fact, speak again with Kobach later that month.
Ocasio-Cortez then references the same court’s discovery that Ross brought up Kobach’s citizenship question to the U.S. Census Bureau (which is part of the Department of Commerce) in a September 2017 meeting.
When asked if he remembered anything about that meeting, Ross said he did not.
Ocasio-Cortez moved on to Ross’ violation of congressional reporting requirements for making a change to the census.
“Why are we violating the law to include any question whatsoever in the 2020 census?” asked Ocasio-Cortez as she referenced the U.S. Census Act of 1974. The Act requires the Secretary of Commerce to send a report to Congress on the proposed change “when the question is proposed, not when it is decided upon,” as she says.
She asks if that report was sent to Congress, to which Ross claims they filed two reports in March of 2017 and March of 2018. Ocasio-Cortez pressed on that while two reports were filed elsewhere, no report was filed to Congress and again asked why they were in violation of the Census Act for the purpose of adding the citizenship question.
At one point Rep. Mark Meadows (R.-N.C.) attempted to jump to Ross’ defense and dismiss Ocasio-Cortez’s line of questioning by claiming that he had no idea what the statute was that Ocasio-Cortez referenced.
Ross also tried to dismiss Ocasio-Cortez’s questioning by stating, “I believe she is out of time, chairman,” as he looked to Chairman Elijah Cummings for help. Ross then added, “I don’t have any need to respond, sir.”
Cummings instructed Ross to answer the question and told Meadows that Ocasio-Cortez had in fact very clearly explained the statute Ross was in violation of.
Ross answered by stating, “I have been told by council that we have complied with all the regulations. I will take up with council the suggestions that have been made by the congressperson and we will get back in due course on the record.”
Cummings asked Ross for his statement that they have complied with all regulations in writing, to which Ocasio-Cortez responds that according to committee staff they are not in compliance.
Cummings interjects that Ross will be giving his statement in writing and reminds Ross and the committee that he is still under oath, thus, potentially setting Ross up to make a sworn written statement that he is in compliance with the Census Act when he may very well not be.