The Justice Department said Wednesday that it was defying a subpoena from House Democrats on the Oversight Committee for testimony this week from John Gore, a top lawyer in the department’s civil rights division, because the committee isn’t allowing a DOJ attorney to be present.
“In keeping with longstanding Department of Justice policy, neither Mr. Gore nor anyone else in the Department will be forced to testify in their capacity as a DOJ official on DOJ matters without DOJ counsel,” department spokeswoman Kerri Kupec said.
A deposition with Gore, the principal deputy assistant attorney general for the civil rights division, had been scheduled for Thursday. Assistant Attorney General Stephen E. Boyd wrote in a letter to Oversight Committee Chairman Elijah Cummings, D-Md., that the committee’s “exclusion of agency counsel from a compelled deposition would unconstitutionally infringe upon the prerogatives of the Executive Branch.”
A DOJ official told Fox News, “Mr. Gore has the Attorney General’s unqualified support in this matter.”
“This is a massive, unprecedented, and growing pattern of obstruction," Cummings said in a statement. "Yesterday, President Trump declared to the entire country that he would obstruct Congress and order all White House officials to defy lawful subpoenas from Congress. Today, the Trump Administration went even further by expanding this policy to employees at federal agencies—even when the subpoenas are bipartisan and supported by Republican Members of Congress."
Boyd wrote in his letter to Cummings that the committee offered to allow a DOJ lawyer to be “present in a separate room during the deposition,” but DOJ rejected that offer.
“We are disappointed that the committee remains unwilling to permit department counsel to represent the interests of the executive branch in the deposition of a senior department official,” Boyd said.
House Democrats are seeking testimony from Gore about the Trump administration’s efforts to ask about citizenship on the 2020 census.
“The Committee is trying to determine the real reason [Commerce] Secretary Wilbur Ross added the citizenship question, and the documents and testimony covered by these subpoenas are critical to answering that question,” Cummings said earlier his month.
It comes as the Trump administration has signaled plans to fight subpoenas from Capitol Hill Democrats, including for ex-White House counsel Don McGahn.
“We're fighting all the subpoenas," Trump told reporters at the White House on Wednesday.