President Trump plans to hold a news conference Thursday where he’s expected to announce an executive action related to the ongoing battle over the 2020 census.
The announcement is likely related to his administration’s efforts to get a citizenship question on the census, after the Commerce Department’s attempts were stalled last month by the Supreme Court. Any executive action would likely trigger a new legal battle.
The Supreme Court, in its opinion, did not say that the administration could not ask the question — but made clear that they needed to provide a valid reason for it. The court challenged the reasoning given that the Justice Department wanted the question to better enforce the Voting Rights Act.
Since then, the Trump administration has given conflicting signals — initially planning to print the census forms without the citizenship question and then renewing the push to include it.
An executive order by Trump would not, by itself, override court rulings blocking the question, but such a move could give administration lawyers a new basis to try to convince federal courts the question could be included.
As Ohio State University law professor Peter Shane warned in a piece for The Atlantic, an executive order would not automatically be enough for the citizenship question to meet the requirement of not being arbitrary. The administration would still need to show that they have a valid reason for the question.
Trump has floated the reason that the question could be used in drawing congressional districts, something that has concerned one of his possible 2020 opponents. Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., who is vying for the Democratic nomination, introduced a bill Wednesday aimed at prohibiting the use of a census citizenship question for districting.
Booker worries that districting based on citizenship would end up favoring white people over minorities.
“To be clear, redistricting based on citizenship data will push communities of color — which are already dramatically undercounted — farther into the shadows,” Booker said in a statement.
Meanwhile, the Justice Department said it is replacing the legal team that has been pursuing Trump’s efforts, putting in place a new team consisting of both career and politically appointed attorneys. A top lawyer in the department’s civil division who had been leading the team told Attorney General William Barr that a number of people who had been litigating the case preferred “not to continue during this new phase,” Barr said.
But this week, two federal judges rejected the Justice Department’s plan to switch up the legal team, saying it can’t replace the team so late in the dispute without satisfactorily explaining why it’s doing so.
Fox News’ Blake Burman and The Associated Press contributed to this report.