11.26.19

Whitehouse, Leahy Share New Information Implicating Justice Department Official In False Statements

Documents Show Former Civil Rights Division Principal Deputy John Gore Appears To Have Violated Department Ethics Rules Gore Submitted An Inaccurate Statement That Forced DOJ To Issue A Correction In Federal Court, Department Acknowledges

(TUESDAY, Nov. 26, 2019) -- Senators Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) and Patrick Leahy (D-VT) have shared with the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of Professional Responsibility a Justice Department letter correcting statements by John Gore, former Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General of the Civil Rights Division.  The Justice Department letter confirms that Gore was not truthful in a sworn declaration in ongoing open records litigation between the Department and a watchdog group.  The senators also shared with the Office of Professional Responsibility a memo from the House Committee on Oversight and Reform that details new evidence implicating Gore in efforts to create a pretextual justification for attempting to add a citizenship question to the 2020 Census. 

In October, Whitehouse and Leahy requested an ethics investigation of Gore after documents surfaced contradicting Gore’s sworn declaration.  The Department letter the senators shared with the Office of Professional Responsibility “acknowledges that Mr. Gore’s previous sworn statement describing the nature of his relationship with a Republican Party election official . . . was inaccurate,” Whitehouse and Leahy write in a letter transmitting the new information.

Documents obtained by the senators through a separate Freedom of Information Act request by the watchdog group American Oversight show Gore taking action as a Department official to pursue allegations of voting irregularities in Chicago brought to his attention by a Republican political operative.  Gore went so far as to elevate the allegations to the Trump White House.  The documents contradicted the declaration Gore submitted under penalty of perjury in federal court denying the official-capacity nature of his communications with the operative.  Gore’s lack of candor with the tribunal may run afoul of several rules of professional conduct for Department officials, and calls into question the Department’s continued reliance on Mr. Gore’s apparently untruthful testimony.  To the extent the Department continues to rely in ongoing litigation on testimony it knows to be false, that raises separate, serious ethical questions for Department ethics officials to resolve.

The Department’s continued reliance on Mr. Gore’s testimony is further complicated by the new report from the House Committee on Oversight and Reform.  Documents included in that report contradict Gore’s testimony that he, not a Department of Commerce official, originally drafted the December 2017 DOJ letter to the Census Bureau that formally requested a citizenship question on the 2020 Census.  In the letter, DOJ argued that the administration sought a citizenship question to protect racial minorities’ voting rights—an argument the Supreme Court has rejected for appearing “contrived.”  Last year, Gore admitted that a citizenship question was “not necessary” to enforce the Voting Rights Act.  House Oversight’s new documents confirm that the administration’s true motivation for adding the question was to aid Republican redistricting efforts by diminishing minority votes. 

Full text of the senators’ letter sent Monday is below.  A PDF copy of the senators’ letter and attachments are available here

A PDF copy of the senators’ October referral with accompanying appendix is available here.

___________________________________________________________________________________________________________________ 

November 25, 2019

 

Mr. Jeffrey Ragsdale

Acting Director and Chief Counsel

Office of Professional Responsibility

U.S. Department of Justice

950 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W., Suite 3266

Washington, DC 20530-0001

 

Dear Director Ragsdale:

We write to follow up about two developments relevant to our October 4, 2019, request that your office review the conduct of John Gore, former Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General of the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice (DOJ, or the Department), as well as other attorneys representing DOJ in matters involving Mr. Gore.

First, please find attached DOJ’s November 18, 2019, submission filed in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York, in the litigation underlying our October 4 referral, Brennan Center for Justice et al. v. U.S. Dep’t of Justice et al., 17 Civ. 6335.  See Exhibit A.  After plaintiffs in that matter brought our October 4 referral to the court’s attention, DOJ filed this letter indicating that it had “recently learned additional information indicating that certain statements in Mr. Gore’s declaration (and by extension, defendants’ prior motion papers) require correction.”  The letter acknowledges that Mr. Gore’s previous sworn statement describing the nature of his relationship with a Republican Party election official, described in our October 4 referral, was inaccurate.  In the event that this development has not yet been brought to your attention, we thought it would be relevant to your review.

Second, a November 12, 2019, memo from the House Committee on Oversight and Reform details new evidence implicating Mr. Gore’s truthfulness in litigation regarding the origins of a letter requesting the addition of a question about citizenship to the Census.  This evidence casts further doubt on Mr. Gore’s credibility and raises concerns about DOJ’s continued reliance on his testimony.  Enclosed please find the House Committee on Oversight and Reform’s November 12, 2019, oversight report (Exhibit B) and Plaintiffs’ Motion for Leave to File Sur-reply in Support of Sanctions in State of New York, et al. v. U.S. Dep’t of Commerce, et al., which, again, we believe should be relevant to your review (Exhibit C).

Thank you for your prompt attention to this matter. 

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Press Contact

Rich Davidson (Whitehouse), 202-228-6291

David Carle (Leahy), 202-224-3693