In an early morning post on Twitter, Trump mentioned two federal departments that were continuing their work on it. He said the census question was vital for the country and needs to be included.
“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,” he wrote on July 4.
“Department of Commerce and the Department of Justice are working very hard on this, even on the 4th of July!” he added.
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
A July 4 Axios report said Trump was also mulling whether to issue an executive order on including the question, citing an anonymous “senior legal source.”
“The administration is considering the appropriateness of an executive order that would address the constitutional need for the citizenship question to be included in the 2020 census,” the source told Axios.
A former federal judge said if the president were to issue such an order, it would likely be successful legally.
“If the president of the United States were to issue an executive order, supported by his full Article II powers … I believe the Supreme Court would affirm the constitutional power of the president to include the citizenship question in the census,” J. Michael Luttig told Axios.
Facing a deadline to get the census forms printed, administration officials, including Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, said on July 2 that they were going ahead without including the question.
But a day later, Trump wrote on Twitter that the reports were incorrect and said his administration is “absolutely moving forward, as we must, because of the importance of the answer to this question.”
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.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 3, 2019
Following Trump’s announcement, a Justice Department lawyer told a Maryland-based federal judge overseeing litigation on the matter that the administration was seeking a “path forward” to add the citizenship question.
The Trump administration had told the courts that its rationale for adding the question was to better enforce a law that protects the voting rights of racial minorities. Critics called that rationale a pretext for partisan motives.
Trump has made combating illegal immigration a key element of his presidency and 2020 re-election campaign. On June 27, Trump also said he was exploring whether the census can be delayed.
“I have asked the lawyers if they can delay the Census, no matter how long, until the United States Supreme Court is given additional information from which it can make a final and decisive decision on this very critical matter,” Trump said in multiple posts on Twitter.
Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) said recently he supports the president’s move.
“@realdonaldtrump is absolutely right to renew a push for adding the citizenship question to the 2020 census, consistent with the law and SCOTUS reasoning,” Meadows said in a July 3 post on Twitter.
“Every legal option should be pursued so that our country can know how many American citizens live in America,” he added.
Reuters contributed to this report.