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PoliticsTrump administration scrambles to save citizenship question on census

04:35  05 july  2019
04:35  05 july  2019 Source:   washingtonpost.com

Reopened Legal Challenge to Census Citizenship Question Throws Case Into Chaos

Reopened Legal Challenge to Census Citizenship Question Throws Case Into Chaos The battle over whether to add a citizenship question to the 2020 census was thrown into turmoil on Tuesday, just as the Supreme Court was expected to issue a ruling on the dispute this week. By allowing a district judge to reopen a case related to the origin of the question, a federal appeals court raised the prospect that the federal government might be unable to meet a deadline for completing census questionnaires that include it, regardless of the Supreme Court’s ruling. New hearings in the reopened case would stretch well beyond July 1, which is the deadline for printing the questionnaire and other forms.

How a census question about citizenship ended up in the Supreme Court. Spurred on by President Trump , government lawyers scrambled Thursday to find a legal path to add a controversial citizenship question to the 2020 Census , despite their conclusions in recent days that no such avenue exists.

How a census question about citizenship ended up in the Supreme Court. The Washington Post. Spurred on by President Trump , government lawyers scrambled Thursday to find a legal path to add a controversial citizenship question to the 2020 Census , despite their conclusions in recent days that

Trump administration scrambles to save citizenship question on census© Bill O'Leary/The Washington Post President Trump listens to guests including Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, left, before signing the Women’s Global Development and Prosperity Initiative in the Oval Office in Washington on Feb. 7, 2019.

Spurred on by President Trump, government lawyers scrambled Thursday to find a legal path to add a controversial citizenship question to the 2020 Census, despite their conclusions in recent days that no such avenue exists.

Census officials and lawyers at the Justice and Commerce departments scrapped holiday plans and spent their Independence Day seeking new legal rationales for a citizenship question that critics say could create a steep undercount of immigrants, which could limit federal funding to some communities and skew congressional redistricting to favor Republicans.

Trump says he'll attempt to 'delay the Census' after Supreme Court decision on citizenship question

Trump says he'll attempt to 'delay the Census' after Supreme Court decision on citizenship question President Donald Trump said on Thursday afternoon that he would attempt to delay the 2020 census following a Supreme Court decision.

WASHINGTON — The Trump administration , in a dramatic about-face, abandoned its quest on Tuesday to add a citizenship question to the 2020 The decision was a victory for critics who said the question was part of an administration effort to skew the census results in favor of Republicans.

Barr backs Trump on census citizenship question . That sent administration lawyers scrambling to determine his exact stance, and how to execute it. One of the options includes an executive order; Trump told reporters as he departed his New Jersey golf retreat on Sunday he was also considering a

A federal judge in Maryland overseeing one of three lawsuits on the citizenship question has given the Trump administration until 2 p.m. Friday to explain how it intends to proceed. The government has already begun printing the census forms, according to administration officials.

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The question had seemed settled after the Supreme Court ruled last week against the Trump administration. As late as Tuesday evening, the secretary of commerce, who oversees the census, said the administration was dropping its effort and was printing the census forms without the citizenship question.

But Trump, in tweets Wednesday and Thursday, said he was not giving up. He tweeted Thursday morning: “So important for our Country that the very simple and basic ‘Are you a Citizen of the United States?’ question be allowed to be asked in the 2020 Census. Department of Commerce and the Department of Justice are working very hard on this, even on the 4th of July!”

Democrats celebrate announcement on citizenship census question

Democrats celebrate announcement on citizenship census question Top Democrats on Capitol Hill are celebrating the Trump administration's announcement on Tuesday that it will forgo adding a citizenship question to the 2020 census. require(["medianetNativeAdOnArticle"], function (medianetNativeAdOnArticle) { medianetNativeAdOnArticle.getMedianetNativeAds(true); }); Critics have pushed back on the White House's efforts to ensure its inclusion for months, arguing it had the potential to cause noncitizens and anyone else in their households to skip filling out the question or partaking in the census altogether, which could lead to an inaccurate count.

(MORE: Supreme Court blocks Trump on census citizenship question , he calls ruling 'ridiculous' ). But they reversed course after Trump tweeted that his administration was "absolutely moving forward" with efforts to include the question , sending DOJ lawyers scrambling to work up a new

The Trump administration on Tuesday said it will print the 2020 census without a question about citizenship , bringing to an apparent close a contentious legal battle over that aspect of the decennial survey. The announcement comes after the Supreme Court effectively blocked the addition of the

The reversal came after Trump talked by phone with conservative allies, who urged him not to give up the fight, according to a senior White House official and a Trump adviser, who both spoke on the condition of anonymity.

Trump was furious and thought the Commerce Department and the Justice Department — which has been arguing the case — had both given up the fight too easily. Trump complained about Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and said he thinks Roberts is lined up against him, the adviser and senior officials said. Trump also complained about Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross.

Before Trump’s tweets plunged their week into chaos, Justice officials thought the president understood how few legal options remained, according to people familiar with the matter. They had earlier told the White House that the case was a dead-end and that pursuing it would be a waste of time.

Justice Department Reverses Course on Citizenship Question on Census, Citing Trump’s Orders

Justice Department Reverses Course on Citizenship Question on Census, Citing Trump’s Orders A day after pledging that the 2020 census would not ask respondents about their citizenship, the Justice Department reversed course on Wednesday and said it was hunting for a way to restore the question on orders from President Trump. Officials told a federal judge in Maryland that they thought there would be a way to still add the question, despite printing deadlines, and that they would ask the Supreme Court to send the case to district court with instructions to remedy the situation.

The Trump administration will continue to pursue a way of adding a citizenship question to the census , lawyers said in court filings submitted on Friday. But administration lawyers failed to provide any legal justification for the census question by a court deadline. The Supreme Court rejected the

The Trump administration has been scrambling on the issue since shortly after the Supreme Court ruled in late June against Trump ’s efforts to include the citizenship question . The court said the administration ’s stated rationale for adding the question — to better protect minority voting rights

Those people said that Attorney General William P. Barr had talked to Trump and had tried to explain how few legal avenues remained to fight for the question after the Supreme Court’s ruling.

After the Supreme Court called the government’s reason for the question “contrived,” many wondered how the government could suddenly come up with a new rationale.

“What were they going to say?” said Dale Ho, director of the Voting Rights Project at the American Civil Liberties Union and a lead attorney for plaintiffs in the New York lawsuit. “ ‘Here’s our real reason? Or here’s a new reason?’ Well, that’s kind of reverse engineering on a decision that’s already been made, which was the very definition of pretextual. . . . We had them in an inevitable checkmate.”

But since Trump’s tweet, Justice Department lawyers have been working furiously to find a way to appease him and devise a legal maneuver that would allow the question to be added with the Supreme Court’s blessing. As they deliberated options Thursday, the lawyers were pessimistic about their chances, according to people familiar with the matter, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe internal deliberations.

‘A willingness to fight’: Win or lose, Trump’s push for a citizenship question in the Census is red meat for his base

‘A willingness to fight’: Win or lose, Trump’s push for a citizenship question in the Census is red meat for his base While President Trump’s combative strategy has so far yielded mixed results, it nonetheless allows Trump to cast himself as a relentless change agent.

Not all Republicans agreed with Trump’s decision to plunge back into the fight. And some moderate Republicans and Trump advisers characterized it as a waste of time. “The census is part of the legacy of our Founding Fathers. There’s no reason to weaponize it in a country that was, is and will be composed of immigrants,” said Dan Eberhart, a prominent GOP donor.

But conservative legal figures — including Leonard Leo, head of the Federalist Society — have been especially vocal in urging Trump not to stop fighting for the citizenship question, according to advisers close to Trump.

Two top Republicans familiar with Trump’s discussions said the president continued to grouse to aides and friends Thursday in calls and conversation about his deep frustrations with Ross over the census issue.

Trump made it clear to several advisers Thursday that addressing the census issue should be the administration’s priority in the coming days, saying he does not like the confusion that has gripped the administration. According to the two Republicans, the president has told aides repeatedly, “Fix this.”

Trump has talked of issuing an executive order to the Commerce Department to try to forge a new legal avenue for the citizenship question, having picked up that idea from conservative allies, according to a senior administration official.

Barr Says Legal Path to Census Citizenship Question Exists but Gives No Details

Barr Says Legal Path to Census Citizenship Question Exists but Gives No Details EDGEFIELD, S.C. — President Trump and Attorney General William P. Barr began working to find a way to place a citizenship question on the 2020 census just after the Supreme Court blocked its inclusion last month, Mr. Barr said on Monday, adding that he believes that the administration can find a legal path to incorporating the question. “The president is right on the legal grounds. I felt the Supreme Court decision was wrong, but it also made clear that the question was a perfectly legal question to ask, but the record had to be clarified,” Mr. Barr said in an interview.

In a Washington Post column on June 29, Hugh Hewitt urged Barr to “prepare an executive order for the president’s signature directing the commerce secretary to add any such questions, and be prepared to defend the questions on the grounds discussed in the meeting. Nothing more is required.”

Reached by phone, Hewitt argued that Justice and Commerce officials gave up too easily. “At a minimum, you could print two sets of census documents. The census does not fall apart because we go past July 5,” he said.

An executive order could give the government some leeway for argument, said Josh Blackman, a constitutional law professor at South Texas College of Law.

In the Supreme Court’s splintered ruling last week, Roberts said the government had provided a “contrived” reason for wanting the information, seemingly leaving open the door for the government to offer a new justification and see whether it satisfies the court. An executive order from Trump and a new rationale given by Ross on the basis of that order could give the administration something to take back to the Supreme Court.

A rule exists that would allow the government to file a motion for the Supreme Court to reconsider within 25 days of its ruling, Blackman said. “It’s un­or­tho­dox, but in theory, you could bypass having to fight it all over again in the lower courts and go right back to the Supreme Court,” Blackman said.

For months, however, census officials have argued in court that not resolving the question by July 1 would impair their ability to administer the census.

The real reason for the census debacle? Trump just wants to fight.

The real reason for the census debacle? Trump just wants to fight. Republicans are showing us how to manipulate the census for political gain.

On Thursday, census officials were proceeding with plans to continue printing forms without the question, and each passing day makes a change of course more difficult and costly.

“They can push it back pretty far, even by months. It’s a matter of how much it will cost,” said John Thompson, a former Census Bureau director.

The administration was considering some kind of addendum that could be printed separately, according to an administration official familiar with the discussions, though such a move would be likely to come with additional costs, and the feasibility of the idea was not immediately clear.

Lawyers for plaintiffs in the New York and Maryland cases, several of whom had left for vacation after the Supreme Court ruling, also found themselves scrambling Thursday to prepare for the Trump administration’s new arguments.

Ho, one of the lead attorneys for the plaintiffs, had been so relieved by the Trump administration’s announcement Tuesday giving up the legal battle that the following day he went out with his wife for the day and purposely left his phone behind at their Montreal hotel. Then came Trump’s tweets, blowing up the best-laid plans of all involved in the 15-month-long court battle.

“It was kind of surreal,” Ho said.

Shankar Duraiswamy, one of the lead plaintiffs’ attorneys in the Maryland litigation, was vacationing with his family in Florida when he heard of the turnaround during a call with U.S. District Judge George J. Hazel and the Justice Department lawyers.

“The mystery to me is when did they receive that instruction . . . and who gave those instructions?” Duraiswamy said.

Duraiswamy said his team will seek to confer with the government’s lawyers Friday to see whether they can agree to a stipulated order.

He added that he does not see what a path forward would look like for the government. “That may not be clear to the president or Secretary Ross, or they may not care, and so what we are seeing perhaps is tension between maybe the whims of the president and certain political appointees and the legal and practical realities,” he said.

As the wrangling continues, Hazel is poised to authorize litigants to start producing information in a case that could stop the question on different grounds from what the Supreme Court heard. New evidence suggests a Republican political operative saw the question as a way to help Republicans and white voters, and that operative was in touch with administration officials. If administration lawyers do not drop their pursuit of the question by Friday, Hazel is likely to allow that case to proceed.

Blackman, the constitutional law professor, said that like others, he was surprised to be working Thursday, trying to parse the Trump administration’s last-minute legal maneuvers as others fired up grills and prepared to watch fireworks. “In some ways though,” he said, “there’s nothing more patriotic than fighting over the Constitution on July Fourth.”

tara.bahrampour@washpost.com

josh.dawsey@washpost.com

matt.zapotosky@washpost.com

william.wan@washpost.com

Robert Costa contributed to this report.

Read More

Trump citizenship plan will face logistical, legal hurdles.
WASHINGTON (AP) — After failing to get his citizenship question on the census, President Donald Trump now says his fallback plan will provide an even more accurate count — determining the citizenship of 90 percent of the population "or more." But his plan will likely be limited by logistical hurdles and legal restrictions. Trump wants to distill a massive trove of data across seven government agencies — and possibly across 50 states. It's far from clear how such varying systems can be mined, combined and compared. He directed the Commerce Department, which manages the census, to form a working group.

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