PRESIDENT Donald Trump’s efforts to include a contentious citizenship question in the upcoming 2020 Census continues as the Department of Justice (DOJ) revealed on Monday, July 8 that a new legal team would now be overseeing the census-related cases.
DOJ Spokesperson Kerri Kupec announced the transition on Sunday, July 7, but did not give a reason for the change.
“Since these cases began, the lawyers representing the United States in these cases have given countless hours to defending the Commerce Department and have consistently demonstrated the highest professionalism, integrity, and skill inside and outside the courtroom,” said Kupec. “The Attorney General appreciates that service, thanks them for their work on these important matters, and is confident that the new team will carry on in the same exemplary fashion.”
Kupec said the new team would be made up of political and career appointees — some of who work in the DOJ’s Consumer Protection Branch.
According to court papers, legal team members include Deputy Assistant Attorney General David Morrell, who previously worked as a lawyer in the Trump White House and is now head of the Consumer Protection Branch; and Christopher Bates who serves as a senior counsel at the DOJ. Also included are four career DOJ attorneys, Glenn Girdharry, Colin Kisor, Christopher Reimer, and Daniel Schiffer.
The change comes amid questions on whether the Trump administration’s efforts on adding the question may have been motivated by racial bias, with U.S. District Court Judge George Hazel last week ordering a court case looking into the motivation to go forward.
It also comes after the Supreme Court last month blocked Trump’s initial effort to add the question in a 5-4 ruling, with Chief Justice Roberts saying that a sufficient reason for adding the question would be needed. He said that the rationale given by the Trump administration were “contrived.”
With the clock ticking and census forms already printing as scheduled without the question, Trump said last week that he was considering declaring an executive order. He also suggested that the question could be added on to the questionnaire as an addendum if approved later.
Attorney General William Barr told the Associated Press on Monday that he had been in contact with Trump and saw a legal way for the census to ask about citizenship.
“I agree with him that the Supreme Court decision was wrong,” said Barr. He added that he believed there to be “an opportunity potentially to cure the lack of clarity that was the problem and we might as well take a shot at doing that.”
Despite Trump having said last week that the main reason for wanting the question on the census was for electoral district drawing purposes, his administration has for months argued that the question on citizenship would help administer the Voting Rights Act (VRA) of 1965, which is supposed to prevent voter discriminagion against minorities.
Advocates against the question have maintained that the question — which hasn’t been on the census since it was dropped in 1950 — would discourage a significant amount of people from participating in the census, thus making it likely for certain communities to be misrepresented.
Many have also argued that when it comes to the issue of knowing the non-citizen demographic of the U.S., there are other less-intrusive ways of getting that data.
The decennial count looks for population changes and other information about who makes up the United States — citizens and non-citizens alike.
The census also, more importantly, uses the derived data to address many of the nation’s needs like determining how seats in Congress are set, and how funding for certain programs like Medicaid benefits, law enforcement, and public schools should be allocated.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif, on Monday criticized the Trump administration’s continuous efforts towards adding the question, saying that the administration was looking to “make American white again.”
“This is about keeping — you know, Make America, you know his hat — Make America White Again. They want to make sure that people, certain people, are counted,” said Pelosi.
She continued, “What they want to do is to put a chilling effect so that certain populations will not answer the form.”
It is still unclear as of press time what new rationale the Trump administration will introduce or what next steps it will take, but Barr told reporters that the DOJ would reveal “in the next day or two” how it will proceed. (Rae Ann Varona/AJPress)