The acting head of the Justice Department’s civil rights division, John Gore, has agreed to testify about why the department requested a controversial, new citizenship question to be added to 2020 census forms, according to a DOJ official and Amanda Gonzalez, a spokesperson for the chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. Lawmakers were planning to issue a subpoena for Gore, who was a no-show after receiving an invitation to appear at the committee’s May 8 hearing about the upcoming national headcount. Gore has now “agreed to appear voluntarily” at a follow-up hearing on May 18, and was not served a subpoena, Gonzalez says.
At the earlier hearing, lawmakers did hear testimony from the Census Bureau’s acting director, Ron Jarmin, plus a former DOJ official under President Barack Obama and representatives from the Government Accountability Office and Commerce Department, which oversees the census. But Rep. Trey Gowdy, a South Carolina Republican who chairs the committee, said he was “disappointed” to not see Gore, whose civil rights division is charged with enforcing the Voting Rights Act — the law that the DOJ says is driving its push for the citizenship question.
“Most of my questions were actually for the witness that did not come,” Gowdy said during the hearing.
A spokesperson for the Justice Department, Devin O’Malley, declined to comment to NPR on why Gore did not appear in front of lawmakers on May 8.