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Justice Department to pursue census citizenship question under Trump’s orders

July 03, 2019

Just a day after announcing it would not add a citizenship question on the 2020 census, officials from the Department of Justice said that they were looking for a way to include the question under orders from President Donald Trump.

On Wednesday, President Trump said that the administration was “absolutely moving forward” with the plans, despite the logistical and legal barriers they face.

“The News Reports about the Department of Commerce dropping its quest to put the Citizenship Question on the Census is incorrect, or, to state it differently, FAKE!” the president tweeted. “We are absolutely moving forward, as we must, because of the importance of the answer to this question.”

The president’s statements caused senior census planners to hold emergency meetings and representatives from the Justice Department held a phone conference with a Maryland federal judge.

On Wednesday, the representatives from the Justice Department told the judge that their plans had changed within 24 hours. They said they now believed there could be “a legally viable path” to add the question to the census, and that they were planning to enlist the help of the Supreme Court to quickly resolve the lawsuits they faced on the matter.

Last week, the Supreme Court rejected the Trump administration’s reasoning for adding the question to the 2020 census as contrived. But Chief Justice John Roberts, who sided with the liberal justices to strike down the question, wrote that the administration could come up with an acceptable reason.

Due to tightening deadlines, Trump administration officials announced that they would begin printing census forms without the citizenship question. The Secretary of the Department of Commerce Wilbur Ross, released a statement accepting the Supreme Court’s decision but disagreeing with it.

Just a day later, United States District Judge George J. Hazel and Justice Department officials had a call where the judge said the president’s tweet had grabbed his attention.

“I don’t know how many federal judges have Twitter accounts, but I happen to be one of them, and I follow the president,” said Hazel.

In response, Joshua Gardner, a special counsel for the Justice Department, said, “The tweet this morning was the first I had heard of the president’s position on this issue, just like the plaintiffs and Your Honor.”

“I do not have a deeper understanding of what that means at this juncture other than what the president has tweeted,” Gardner continued, “But obviously, as you can imagine, I am doing my absolute best to figure out what’s going on.”

According to Gardner, the census forms would continue to be printed without the question, as federal court rulings, supported by the Supreme Court, were still in effect.

“This is a fluid decision that might change,” Gardner said. “But we’re just not there yet, and I can’t possibly predict at this juncture what exactly is going to happen.”

– MK. II

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