Friday night, Trump nemesis and New York Attorney General Letitia James joined the ACLU in filing a motion in federal court to stop the administration from halting the printing of the 2020 census or from changing it to include a question about citizenship.
The ongoing political battle regarding the census re-erupted on Thursday when senior officials told Axios that President Trump is mulling the use of an executive order to force a citizenship question onto the census.
The suit claims that the Supreme Court ordered the census questionnaire not be altered after June 30.
“Defendants’ efforts to prolong uncertainty and drag out this matter are sowing confusion and exacerbating fear among immigrant communities, and directly injuring the Plaintiffs’ efforts to mobilize participation in the Census,” the motion reads. “As Defendants have acknowledged, this uncertainty comes by direct order of the President, who made clear on July 1 his intent to weaponize the census as a mechanism ‘to find out if somebody is a citizen as opposed to an illegal.'”
The motion states …
In a telephonic conference in the Kravitz case on the afternoon of July 3, counsel for Defendants represented as follows:
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. 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.
And so to the extent we can identify an option for that to work, if we continue to
examine the decision and believe that we have a viable path forward to that work,
our current plan would be to file a motion in the Supreme Court to request
instructions on remand to govern further proceedings in order to simplify and
expedite the remaining litigation and provide clarity to the process going forward.
So as Mr. Gardner said, 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.
The suit argues that “The Court should apply the doctrine of judicial estoppel to hold Defendants accountable for their repeated and unequivocal representations that the Census Bureau must finalize the 2020 Census questionnaire by the end of June 30, 2019, and to prohibit Defendants from concocting a new basis to add a citizenship question to this Decennial Census. Defendants’ perpetuation of uncertainty over the status of the questionnaire is unacceptable: by their own admission, this delay is imperiling the Defendants’ ability to conduct the 2020 census. Moreover, this uncertainty (which is being perpetuated in tandem with a torrent of anti-immigrant rhetoric from the administration) is harming Plaintiffs by frustrating their efforts to promote participation in
the 2020 census. Such outrageous conduct must stop.”
According to Newsday reporter Emily Ngo, Trump told the press pool this week, of James, “She campaigned on, ‘I’m gonna get Trump, I’m gonna get Trump.’ She never knew me, I never met her, I don’t know who she is. But her whole campaign was that — and that’s illegal, you’re not allowed to do that, she knew nothing about me.”
During her campaign for NY Attorney General, James vowed to “use every area of the law to investigate President Trump and his business transactions and that of his family as well. We want to investigate anyone in his orbit who has, in fact, violated the law. Donald Trump’s days of defrauding Americans are coming to an end.”
There’s no doubt that the census issue is about more than just that one issue. For James, anything she can do to gut-punch Trump is worth doing.
“What is clear is that Defendants are out of time for a ‘do over,’” James stated in a press release. “Defendants’ ‘heads I win, tails we’ll see’ approach undermines confidence in both their ability to conduct the 2020 Census and public confidence in the courts and the rule of law.”
“The Trump administration repeatedly argued the census forms could not be altered after June 30,” said Dale Ho, director of the ACLU’s Voting Rights Project. “They’ve now changed their tune because the Supreme Court ruled against them. They can’t have it both ways. Trump’s lawlessness will not go unanswered.”
Before leaving the White House for the weekend and boarding Marine One, the President admitted that he is considering his options, to include an executive order.
“We’re thinking about doing that,” he said. “We have four or five ways we can do it, it’s one of the ways that we’re thinking about doing it. So we’ll see what happens.”
“You need it for a reason,” Trump said when asked why the question is important. “You need it for Congress for districting, you need it for appropriations. Where are the funds going, how many people are there, are they citizens or not citizens? You need it for many reasons.”
On Thursday, the President tweeted …
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!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 4, 2019
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