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AG Barr: Citizenship Question Can Still Be Added Legally


United States Attorney General William Barr on Monday said that despite the Supreme Court preventing the Trump administration’s efforts to add a citizenship question to the 2020 census in a ruling last month, the Justice Department still believes the question can be legally added to the questionnaire.

In an interview with the Associated Press, Barr said he’s been in talks with President Donald Trump regarding the matter and believes that the administration’s strategy for legally including the question will be finalized within the next 48 hours.

The administration originally argued that adding the citizenship question would help with enforcement of the Voting Rights Act by further ensuring minority voters are able to exercise their right to vote despite conflicting evidence from the Census Bureau.  Those challenging the question contended that its inclusion would actually hinder minority voting access to intentionally advantage Republicans.

But in a shocking 5-4 decision that saw Chief Justice John Roberts side with the court’s four liberal justices, the court found that the administration’s proposed reasoning was “contrived,” and contrary to the administration’s own analysis of the likely effects the question would have on census responses.

Just days after the court’s decision, the Department of Justice decided to move forward without the citizenship question, issuing a public statement saying that the Census Bureau would begin printing the 2020 census questionnaire without the question.

However, one day after the announcement, President Trump explicitly contradicted his own administration, tweeting that “News Reports,” which quoted administration officials on the record, were incorrect.

“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,” Trump tweeted.

Part of the administration’s plan moving forward is putting together an entirely new legal team to justify the decision. An anonymous Justice Department official told the Associated Press that attorney James Burnham would no longer be leading the team which will be comprised of political appointees and career department officials.

“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,” department spokeswoman Kerri Kupec said in a statement to the Associated Press.

According to the anonymous official, a new legal team will likely have less difficulty defending a new rationale for the administration’s decision.

[image via NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images]

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Jerry Lambe is a journalist at Law&Crime. He is a graduate of Georgetown University and New York Law School and previously worked in financial securities compliance and Civil Rights employment law.