Justice and Commerce Department officials spent their Fourth of July scrambling to find a new path for ’s controversial citizenship question on the census, according to a Washington Post report.
After the Supreme Court ruled last week that the Trump administration did not give an adequate reason for adding a question about citizenship to the 2020 Census, Commerce Secretary confirmed that, although he “strongly disagreed” with the court’s ruling, the bureau had already started printing census documents without a citizenship question.
However, President Trump pushed back on that assertion Wednesday, tweeting that news reports about his administration dropping the fight to get the question on the census were “FAKE.”
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! We are absolutely moving forward, as we must, because of the importance of the answer to this question.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 3, 2019
According to sources who spoke to The Washington Post on the condition of anonymity, Trump believed that the Justice and Commerce departments were giving up too easily on the census question, directing officials to continue searching for legal options.
A lawyer with the DOJ on Wednesday said that agency officials had been ordered to determine whether there is a way the administration can include the question, just hours after the president’s tweet.
A federal judge in Maryland overseeing the lawsuits over the question has given the Trump administration until 2 p.m. Friday to present a new rationale, despite the legal hurdles.
“What were they going to say?” Dale Ho, director of the Voting Rights Project at the American Civil Liberties Union and an attorney for plaintiffs a New York lawsuit over the question, told The Washington Post. “‘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.”
Although there are few legal options for the Justice Department, the government is allowed to file a motion for the Supreme Court to reconsider its decision within 25 days of its ruling, The Washington Post reported. The president is also reportedly considering using an executive order to add the citizenship question to next year’s census.
But lawyers at the Justice Department were worried about their chances on July Fourth as they deliberated their options, according to The Washington Post, not seeing a clear route to persuading the Supreme Court.
Shankar Duraiswamy, an attorney for one of the lead plaintiffs in the Maryland lawsuit over the question, told The Post the confusion over the question speaks to the tension between the White House and “the legal and practical realities” of implementing a citizenship question.