Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross talked with Attorney General Jeff Sessions and then-White House strategist Steve Bannon about adding a citizenship question to the 2020 census.
The revelation was made public in a new court filing Thursday in federal court in the Southern District of New York.
More than two dozen states, cities, and groups are suing the Census Bureau and Commerce Department over the decision to add a question about U.S. citizenship status to forms for the 2020 census.
In their complaints, the plaintiffs say they want the question removed and worry it would discourage households with noncitizens from participating in the census, and then harm the accuracy of the head count. It is also discriminatory against immigrants and minorities, the plaintiffs have argued.
In the filing, Justice Department officials say Ross recalls Bannon calling him in the spring of 2017 to ask him if he would talk to then-Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach about Kobach’s ideas about a citizenship question.
Ross also discussed the citizenship question with Sessions in spring 2017, as well as at “subsequent times,” the court filing revealed.
In September, U.S. District Judge Jesse Furman ordered Ross and John Gore, the acting assistant attorney general for the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, to sit for depositions in the case.
“Secretary Ross must sit for a deposition because, among other things, his intent and credibility are directly at issue in these cases,” wrote Furman. The Second Circuit in New York ruled earlier this month to uphold Furman’s earlier ruling.
But late Tuesday, Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg granted Solicitor General Noel Francisco’s request for the high court to temporarily block the depositions.
The plaintiffs have until 4 p.m. Thursday to reply to Ginsburg’s ruling, after which she can either make a ruling or refer the request to the full Supreme Court.
In December, ProPublica reported the Justice Department made the request in a letter.
The Census Bureau has not asked about citizenship status for the full census statistics since 1950.