The House just voted to hold two Trump cabinet officials in criminal contempt of Congress
- The House of Representatives voted Tuesday to hold Attorney General William Barr and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross in contempt of Congress.
- The contempt resolution was the first criminal contempt charge from Democrats, marking one of the most severe actions against the Trump administration to date.
- The resolution came after both Ross and Barr refused to cooperate with the House Oversight Committee on the administration's effort to include a question of citizenship on the 2020 census.
- Potential punishments for criminal contempt of Congress if seen all the way through can include lofty fines or even jail time.
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WASHINGTON - The House of Representatives voted Wednesday to hold Attorney General William Barr and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross in contempt of Congress, marking congressional Democrats' most severe actions against President Donald Trump's administration to date.
Democrats on the House Oversight and Reform Committee sought to punish Barr and Ross over lack of cooperation in their probe to understand the administration's reasoning for attempting to add a citizenship question to the 2020 census.
The final vote was 230-198, largely along party lines with four Democrats voting against the resolution.
Read more: Trump just took executive action to get around obstacles to adding a citizenship question to the 2020 census
Unlike previous votes, which were part of an effort to enforce subpoenas for uncooperative Trump administration officials, including Barr, the contempt resolution passed on Wednesday includes a criminal referral to the US attorney's office, which if sought all the way through can include lofty fines and even jail time.
The resolution was originally slated to be voted on Tuesday, but Democratic leadership pushed it another day to take up a non-binding resolution of condemnation of Trump's comments that several freshman lawmakers should "go back" to their countries of origin.
Meanwhile the matter of including a citizenship question on the 2020 census is essentially settled. After the Supreme Court decided the administration's rationale for including the question was insufficient, Trump, Ross, and Barr scrambled to keep their plans in place.
Ultimately, the Trump administration announced the 2020 census would not include a citizenship question and instead, federal departments and agencies would be directed to gather available data on non-citizens for the Department of Commerce.
"Knowing this information is vital to formulating sound public policy, whether the issue is healthcare, education, civil rights, or immigration," Trump said during a ceremony announcing the initiative in the White House Rose Garden. "We must have a reliable count of how many citizens, noncitizens, and illegal aliens are in our country."