NO CONSENSUS ON CENSUS… Executive order on citizenship? Confusion Spreads

DOJ reverses, says it’s trying to find ways to include citizenship question on 2020 census

A lawyer with the Department of Justice (DOJ) said Wednesday that agency officials have been ordered to determine whether there is a way the administration can include a citizenship question on the 2020 census, hours after a tweet from President Trump raised confusion over the status of the question.

Joseph Hunt, an assistant attorney general with the DOJ’s civil division, said Wednesday that the department has been “instructed to examine whether there is a path forward, consistent with the Supreme Court’s decision, that would allow us to include the citizenship question on the census.”

“We think there may be a legally available path under the Supreme Court’s decision. We’re examining that, looking at near-term options to see whether that’s viable and possible,” Hunt said, according to a transcript of a teleconference held in federal court in Maryland.

The DOJ official said the agency currently plans to file a motion in the Supreme Court that would “govern further proceedings in order to simplify and expedite the remaining litigation and provide clarity to the process going forward.”“It’s very fluid at present because we are still examining the Supreme Court’s decision to see if that option is still available to us,” Hunt added, according to the transcript.

Trump considers executive order on citizenship question

President Trump is considering an executive order to try to move forward with a citizenship question on the 2020 census, top sources tell Jonathan Swan and me.

  • “We didn’t come this far just to throw in the towel,” said a senior administration official with direct knowledge of the conversations.

Administration lawyers are exploring various legal options.

  • A senior legal source said: “The administration is considering the appropriateness of an executive order that would address the constitutional need for the citizenship question to be included in the 2020 census.”
  • But there is considerable skepticism within the administration that an executive order would succeed.

Why it matters: Trump’s insistence on pushing ahead with the question, potentially without doing the legwork the Supreme Court called for, reflects his expansive view of executive power.

  • A source familiar with some of the administration’s internal deliberations said: “I think that there’s a good argument to be made that even though the president may lose in litigation at the end of the day, going through that process ultimately makes it clear that it’s the chief justice, and not the Executive Branch, that bears responsibility for that unfortunate outcome.”

Former federal judge J. Michael Luttig, who has longtime ties to officials in the administration, told Axios:

  • “If the president of the United States were to issue an executive order, supported by his full Article II powers, directing that the citizenship question be included in the 2020 census, I believe the Supreme Court would affirm the constitutional power of the president to include the citizenship question in the census.”

 

Justice Department Renews Citizenship Question Push as Confusion Spreads

WASHINGTON—The Trump administration threw the census into further confusion Wednesday, telling two federal judges that the government was seeking a legal basis to reinstate the citizenship question halted by the Supreme Court, a day after Justice Department lawyers said they dropped a plan to include the question.

“We at the Department of Justice have been instructed to examine whether there is a path forward, consistent with the Supreme Court’s decision, that would allow us to include the citizenship question on the census,” Assistant Attorney General Jody Hunt said in a teleconference with Judge George Hazel and lawyers for organizations and individuals that successfully sued to block the question.

New York and other states with large immigrant populations, along with immigrant-rights groups, argued that the administration hadn’t justified adding a question that the Census Bureau’s own experts concluded would deter responses from households with immigrants, reducing the count’s accuracy. They suggested the administration’s goal may have been to reduce the counts in Democratic-leaning communities—an allegation they say was bolstered by recently discovered evidence suggesting the question originated with a Republican political consultant who was in touch with Commerce Department officials.

The Trump administration’s official explanation, which three federal district courts and, last week, the Supreme Court rejected, was that it needed additional citizenship data to improve compliance with the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Mr. Trump hasn’t mentioned that rationale which, if true, would increase the political weight of constituencies where he has little support.

 

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