Newly released documents prove the U.S. Census Bureau under President Donald Trump was directly communicating with recently deceased GOP gerrymandering expert Thomas Hofeller–despite DOJ repeatedly saying that no proof of such association existed.
Hofeller infamously authored a 2015 study favoring a so-called “citizenship question” on the 2020 Census because it “would be advantageous to Republicans and Non-Hispanic Whites” during upcoming redistricting battles in 2021 and beyond.
Hofeller’s conclusions were not subtle and were not missed by the incoming Trump administration and GOP operatives who aimed to use the Census as a political weapon in order to neutralize their non-white and Democratic Party-affiliated political enemies.
But the Trump administration frequently denied race had anything to do with their plans to diminish non-white Census respondents and enshrine the political power of conservative whites.
Instead, lawyers for Trump and the Commerce Department under Secretary Wilbur Ross lied and feigned concern for the Voting Rights Act (VRA)–claiming that their desire for the “citizenship question” was somehow a bid to enforce every American’s right to vote.
Those lies came directly from the top and implicate several lesser attorneys and officials at the U.S. Department of Justice.
Attorney General William Barr, by way of his underlings, argued in federal court that voting rights advocates were not entitled to sanctions because they could never definitively prove any such link between Hofeller’s racist study and the administration’s plans.
“There is no evidence that the 2015 Hofeller study made its way to Secretary Ross (or anyone else in government) and nothing in either document even arguably suggests that Secretary Ross harbored a discriminatory motive for including a citizenship question on the 2020 Census,” the filing claimed. But that claim was, quite simply, a lie.
Law&Crime previously reported on evidence which directly contradicts the DOJ’s by-now outlandish defense.
On November 14, voting rights advocates represented by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) pointed to the depositions of Ross advisor Mark Neuman, former DOJ official John Gore, and Commerce Department General Counsel Peter Davidson.
Those depositions contained several instances of false and misleading testimony which unsuccessfully sought to conceal Hofeller’s role in shaping the Trump administration’s race-based gambit.
Belying those efforts were documents obtained by the House Oversight Committee which showed that multiple lines authored by Hofeller were plagiarized by Nueman and Gore and inserted directly into a 2017 DOJ letter purporting to offer a non-racist legal argument in favor of adding the “citizenship question” to the 2020 Census.
More to the point, however, the evidence showed that Nueman and Hofeller conferred via text on how to pull off the attempted ruse.
Five months prior to DOJ’s formal request for the question’s inclusion, Nueman sent Hofeller a message with “Census” in the subject line.
Nueman was keen to the fact that the Trump administration would need a ron-racist excuse for running roughshod over minority voting rights. So, he went back to the source for some guidance.
“Please make certain that this language is correct,” Neuman wrote. “Fine as written,” Hofeller responded.
Five weeks after that conversation, Neuman forwarded the laundered Hofeller verbiage to Gore so that DOJ could provide back-dated, legalistic cover and gloss for Commerce’s already-in-progress plot.
A court filing by the voting rights plaintiffs in New York sums up the Trump administration’s serially-botched coverup scheme:
The basic facts are simple: Neuman incorporated verbatim the [Voting Rights Act] enforcement rationale from a 2017 document Hofeller authored into an initial draft of DOJ’s letter requesting the citizenship question. Defendants sought to brush off evidence of Hofeller’s role in adding a citizenship question to the census as a “conspiracy theory,” but the newly-released documents confirm that Hofeller played an even bigger part in Defendants’ scheme than previously was understood. And these new documents provide further proof that Defendants improperly withheld pertinent information from Plaintiffs and the Court.
Gore and Neuman lied under oath about their connection to Hofeller and his 2017 memo in front of U.S. District Judge Jesse Furman.
Several DOJ apparatchiks committed themselves to defending those falsehoods–including Assistant Attorney General Joseph H. Hunt, Deputy Assistant Attorney General James M. Burnham, Director of DOJ’s Federal Programs Branch John R. Griffiths, Special Counsel Joshua E. Gardner, Assistant Director of DOJ’s Federal Programs Branch Carlotta P. Wells and the following DOJ trial attorneys: Kate Bailey; Garrett Coyle; Stephen Ehrlich; Carol Federighi; Daniel Halainen; and Martin Tomlinson.
The newly public documents show Census Bureau official Christa Jones communicating with Commerce Department officials Michael Walsh and James Uthmeier as they piece together the false justification for the “citizenship question” in real-time.
The highly-redacted emails represent proof that Jones and at least two Commerce officials conspired to create a phony justification for including the question. Jones also communicates with multiple other Census Bureau personnel in service of drafting the faux-VRA concern.
“Attached is a draft of the decision memo,” Walsh writes in one email to Jones with the subject line “draft for your review.”
“Per the discussion below, would we consider this our final draft for the explanation of the citizenship question?” Jones writes in another email to several of her Census Bureau peers.
The emails also show the drafted justification–which was eventually given to DOJ by the Census Bureau, seemingly so that DOJ could pretend it was an honest and internal concern and then hand it back to Ross’s people–undergoing various permutations and revisions as Jones herself authored the first attempt.
That first draft was then forwarded to Census official Melissa L. Creech.
“Hi Christa,” Creech writes. “Thanks for drafting.”
According to DOJ attorneys, the damning documents were “inadvertently not produced in discovery” and the government is currently “still investigating the cause of the error within the document review platform to determine whether any other documents were similarly inadvertently omitted from production.”
The potential for additional documents implicating administration officials got an additional boost on Tuesday when the House Oversight Committee sued Barr over his “unlawful refusals to comply with duly authorized, issued, and served Committee subpoenas” related to the “citizenship question” controversy and coverup.
[image via Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images]