Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross to be deposed about plan to rig 2020 census

A federal judge said Friday that "his intent and credibility are directly at issue."

Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross at a June investment summit.
Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross at a June investment summit. CREDIT: Win McNamee/Getty Images

Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross is going to have to testify about his role in a controversial and possibly illegal Trump administration attempt to discourage immigrant participation in the next decennial U.S. census.

The Trump administration wants to add a question to the 2020 census about citizenship status that could lead to undercounting some 24 million people. The scheme is being challenged in federal lawsuits brought by state attorneys general, who say the move is illegal and would hurt their access to federal funding, which is distributed based on the “whole number of persons in each state.”

Documents released this summer showed that Department of Justice officials were pressured by Team Trump to include citizenship questions.They also showed that Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross may have covered up the request’s origins, which top lawyers for more than a dozen states have requested a chance to depose him about.

On Friday, U.S. District Judge Jesse Furman of the Southern District of New York issued an order agreeing to the request. “Secretary Ross must sit for a deposition because, among other things, his intent and credibility are directly at issue.” The judge found that Ross showed an “unusually strong personal interest in the matter,” before he “ultimately mandated the addition of the citizenship question” in the face of “strong and continued opposition” from the bureau charged with carrying out the 2020 census.


The “vulture” capitalist Ross, nicknamed the “king of bankruptcy” after making a fortune running roughshod over workers and “shedding retiree benefits” has had a rough go of things during his tenure as Trump’s Commerce Secretary.

Last month, Forbes’ Dan Alexander reported that he may have siphoned more than $120 million worth of assets from his associates. Two weeks earlier, Ross settled a lawsuit days after being subpoenaed to testify about whether he had been truthful about his dealings with a former partner during his confirmation process. In March, Ross made headlines for suggesting that concerns that Trump’s trade wars could mean significant price increases for consumers were nothing more than “hysteria.”

Paying more for goods “doesn’t mean anything to people,” the billionaire businessman said.