Wilbur Ross Discussed Census Citizenship Question With Steve Bannon Wilbur Ross now says he spoke with the former White House adviser and the U.S. Attorney General months before a 2020 census citizenship question request became public, according to a court document.
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Commerce Secretary Now Recalls Discussing Citizenship Question With Steve Bannon

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Commerce Secretary Now Recalls Discussing Citizenship Question With Steve Bannon

Commerce Secretary Now Recalls Discussing Citizenship Question With Steve Bannon

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NOEL KING, HOST:

Here in Washington, the Supreme Court is weighing in on lawsuits over the citizenship question that was added by the Trump administration to the 2020 census. The court is expected to rule soon on whether a Cabinet secretary and a senior official can be questioned under oath in those cases. Now, all of this has led to a new discovery about a former Trump official who pushed for the citizenship question. NPR's Hansi Lo Wang reports.

HANSI LO WANG, BYLINE: Steve Bannon, the former chief strategist at the White House, was involved in an early discussion about adding a citizenship question that Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said he just remembered. That's according to a court document filed by the Trump administration. That sudden recall backtracks on congressional testimony by Ross, who oversees the Census Bureau.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

WILBUR ROSS: We have had a request, as everyone is aware, from the Department of Justice to add a citizenship question.

WANG: Ross testified at a hearing in March, just days before he approved that request for the 2020 census.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

GRACE MENG: You mentioned that you had not seen the email that the Trump campaign sent out.

WANG: Congresswoman Grace Meng, a Democrat from New York, asked Ross about the citizenship question.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

MENG: Has the president or anyone in the White House discussed with you or anyone on your team about adding this citizenship question?

ROSS: I'm not aware of any such.

WANG: Ross may not have been aware then, but he says he now recalls discussing the issue with former White House adviser Steve Bannon.

MENG: We have to make sure that the American people know they were being misled.

WANG: In a written statement, the Commerce Department says Ross meant to say that he and the White House had not discussed a Trump campaign email about the question. Here's Congresswoman Grace Meng again.

MENG: Oh, I definitely was lied to.

STEVE CHOI: It's not a surprise. We know that the White House has been lying about this from the start.

WANG: Steve Choi leads the New York Immigration Coalition. The group is suing to get the citizenship question removed.

CHOI: The citizenship question really has always had one motive - to scare immigrant communities from participating.

WANG: The administration says the Justice Department needs the question to better enforce the Voting Rights Act. NPR's review of more than 12,000 pages of court documents calls into question that assertion. This week, the Commerce Department inspector general's office said it's considering starting an investigation about the citizenship question. Hansi Lo Wang, NPR News, New York.

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