'We won': Trump opponents celebrate as the Justice Department announces it's giving up on the fight over the Census

'We won': Trump opponents celebrate as the Justice Department announces it's giving up on the fight over the Census
Official White House Photo by D. Myles Cullen

Opponents of President Donald Trump's efforts to add a citizenship question to the Census — an apparent strategy to suppress the count of racial minorities to the benefit of Republicans — celebrated Tuesday when reports broke that the administration has thrown in the towel on the fight.

Daniel Jacobson, a former White House lawyer under President Barack Obama, revealed the news on Twitter. He shared an email from a Justice Department trial attorney that the administration has decided to print the Census without a citizenship question. The printer has been instructed to begin creating the questionnaires, she said.

The New York Times confirmed the report.

Neal Katyal, the former acting solicitor general under Obama, celebrated the news:

The citizenship question's fate was sealed, it seemed, last week when Justice John Roberts issued a Supreme Court ruling upholding a lower court's decision against its addition to the Census. Multiple court challenges had been brought against the administration, and Roberts had actually rejected several of the arguments against the question's inclusion. However, a majority of the court found that the Commerce Department, which runs the Census, had clearly contrived a pretextual reason for its decision to include the question, and he remanded the decision back to the agency for reevaluation.

Some believed this would simply give the administration time to cover its tracks and concoct a new, more plausible justification for including the question. However, others, such as Katyal, argued that there just wasn't enough time for the department to go through the process needed to include the question before the 2020 deadline.

It seems Katyal was right. Despite President Donald Trump's insistence that the question was necessary and that he'd fight the Supreme Court's decision, the Justice Department appears to have admitted defeat. This may be for the best even by Trump's own light, though, because on Monday, he insisted that the question was necessary to "find out if somebody’s a citizen as opposed to an illegal." This comment would only raise new questions about the administration's intentions.

Because, of course, the citizenship question wouldn't answer the question of whether someone was authorized to be in the country, just whether they were a citizen or non-citizen. It's not clear if Trump's comments would have affected any potential further Supreme Court rulings, but they continued to cast doubt on whether the administration's reasons for seeking to include it are above board. At this point, it's probably best for the administration to just cut its losses and move on.

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