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U.S. House Committee Votes to Hold Commerce Secretary—and Storied Art Collector—Wilbur Ross in Contempt of Congress

Wilbur Ross.

COURTESY THE WHITE HOUSE

The U.S. House Oversight Committee has recommended that Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, who appeared on ARTnews‘s “Top 200 Collectors” list from 2014 to 2017, be held in contempt of Congress “for refusing to comply with subpoenas” related to a new citizenship question on the 2020 census. CNN reported that the House Oversight Committee voted 24–15 to hold both Ross and Attorney General William Barr in contempt.

The vote followed President Trump’s decision to exercise executive privilege over documents pertaining to the addition of a question regarding citizenship status to the next governmental census. Ross called the house committee vote an “empty stunt” in a statement, and House Oversight Committee Chairman Elijah Cummings said, “I bent over backwards to try to work with the Administration, but they delayed, dissembled, and degraded our Committee’s efforts to conduct this investigation and fulfill our responsibilities under the Constitution.”

According to CNN, it is “unclear” what will happen next; whether House Democrats go to the floor with both criminal and civil contempt depends on responses from the Departments of Justice and Commerce. It’s possible that criminal citations could be dropped before going to the floor.

Cummings told CNN he’s unsure if he’ll try for a full House vote. “We will decide that when the time comes,” he said.

Ross and his wife, Hilary, have collected contemporary Chinese and Vietnamese art, contemporary photography, and 20th-century American work. The Rosses are also known for acquiring a robust number of works by Surrealist painter René Magritte.

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