NEW YORK — Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross says he now remembers speaking with former senior White House adviser Steve Bannon in spring 2017 about adding a citizenship question to the 2020 U.S. census.
Government lawyers made the revelation in a Manhattan federal court document Thursday.
The new information comes as the U.S. Supreme Court considers whether Ross must answer questions from lawyers challenging whether the citizenship question legally can be included.
Over a dozen states and big cities, among others, have sued, saying Ross acted improperly before it was announced in March that the question would be added to the census.
Plaintiffs in two lawsuits say the citizenship question will discourage immigrants from participating, diluting political representation and federal dollars for states that tend to vote Democratic.
A judge presiding over the lawsuits has said a deposition by the secretary is necessary in part because Ross had testified under oath that he was unaware of discussions between him and anyone in the White House on the subject.
U.S. District Judge Jesse M. Furman said last month there was reason to believe that Ross had consulted with Bannon.
The judge also said Ross must be deposed because evidence developed so far "casts grave doubt" on claims by Ross that he only considered adding the question last December when the Justice Department recommended it.
Furman said Ross has admitted he began considering whether to add a citizenship question shortly after his appointment in February 2017 and consulted with various other government officials before demanding to know as early as May 2017 why no action had been taken on his request.
In its filing Thursday, federal government lawyers said Ross recalls that Bannon called him in the spring of 2017 to ask if he would speak with then-Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach about Kobach's ideas about adding a citizenship question to the census.
The lawyers wrote that Ross also discussed adding the question with Attorney General Jeff Sessions in the spring of 2017 and at other times.
New York Attorney General Barbara Underwood, among those who have sued over the citizenship question, sent a series of tweets about the papers filed Thursday by the government and its admission about Bannon.
"The story keeps unraveling," she said.