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Checking in With the Unending Saga of Trump’s Obsession With Adding a Racist Citizenship Question to the Census

Donald Trump points to where his brain is supposed to be

Last week, Donald Trump’s quest to add a citizenship question to the 2020 Census was declared dead and done with by everyone except Trump himself. This wasn’t fake news, as he would say (and did)—it wasn’t a case of the media jumping the gun. It was confirmed to multiple news outlets by the Justice Department. But we all know how hard it is to get Trump to part with a racist undertaking, so apparently, he’s still trying to make this happen.

For the full backstory, get a refresher here. But in short, Trump wanted to put a question about citizenship on the next US Census. The Supreme Court said no but left some wiggle room for him to try again. The thing was, SCOTUS was leaving for their summer recess and the Census had to be printed, so that’s when the Justice Department called it. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said that they’d even begun the process of printing the Census, sans citizenship question.

Then Trump tweeted that he and his administration was “absolutely moving forward, as we must, because of the importance of the answer to this question.” And, indeed, it is important. Adding this question to the Census is an intimidation tactic that would undoubtedly result in many immigrants (even those living here legally) and people living in households with immigrants choosing to not fill out their surveys, thereby undercounting the populations of immigrant communities, allowing Republicans to underfund those neighborhoods and gerrymander districts in their favor.

At a press conference yesterday, Nancy Pelosi called this what it is: an attempt by Trump and his team to “make America white again.”

Anyway, after Trump challenged the SCOTUS ruling and the DOJ’s decision via tweet, a federal judge in Maryland scheduled an immediate hearing to figure out what the heck was going on. And from the sound of it, no one knew for sure.

According to a transcript of the closed hearing (via BuzzFeed News), Jody Hunt, a lawyer who heads the DOJ’s Civil Division, told the judge that the Justice Department had been instructed to look for “a legally available path under the Supreme Court’s decision” to include the citizenship question on the Census. This was after another DOJ lawyer, Joshua Gardner, told that judge there would be no citizenship question. Gardner didn’t know anything had changed until Trump said so on Twitter.

“The tweet this morning was the first I had heard of the President’s position on this issue, just like the plaintiffs and Your Honor. I do not have a deeper understanding of what that means at this juncture other than what the President has tweeted,” Gardner said. “But, obviously, as you can imagine, I am doing my absolute best to figure out what’s going on.”

Well, that’s a little embarrassing.

That all happened last week. On Sunday, the DOJ announced they were “shifting these matters” to a whole new team of lawyers. There was no explanation for the change, but according to the New York Times, the statement that was put out “strongly suggested that the department’s career lawyers had decided to quit a case that at the least seemed to lack a legal basis, and at most left them defending statements that could well turn out to be untrue.”

It seems that unlike most others in the Trump administration, some at the DOJ actually want to maintain their professional credibility after he leaves office, rather than being relegated to jobs as Fox News commentators for the rest of their lives. Trump can’t be taking that well.

We’ll continue to provide updates as this ordeal inevitably continues to drag on for the rest of time.

(image: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

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Vivian Kane (she/her) has a lot of opinions about a lot of things. Born in San Francisco and radicalized in Los Angeles, she now lives in Kansas City, Missouri with her husband Brock Wilbur and too many cats.