WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump on Thursday will announce an executive action over his administration’s effort to add a citizenship question to the 2020 census despite ongoing court challenges, two administration officials told Reuters.
FILE PHOTO: U.S. President Donald Trump points to a questioner while taking questions during a news conference following Tuesday’s midterm congressional elections at the White House in Washington, U.S., November 7, 2018. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque/File Photo
Trump, in a tweet, said he would hold a news conference about the census following a planned meeting on social media on Thursday afternoon. Trump’s announcement is likely to be around 5:00 p.m. in the Rose Garden or elsewhere at the White House.
The administration’s attempts to add the contentious question have been blocked in the courts because of challenges from some U.S. states and civil rights groups.
Critics say that asking about citizenship in the census discriminates against racial minorities and is aimed at giving Republicans an unfair advantage in elections. Trump and his supporters say it makes sense to know how many non-citizens are living in the country.
The administration was still ironing out the details of the action, which was likely to be an executive order, one of the officials said.
Trump and his administration’s efforts to add a question to the nation’s decennial population survey have become embroiled in a legal fight not only over plaintiffs’ opposition but also over the Department of Justice’s handling of the cases.
The case had already made its way to the U.S. Supreme Court, which last month ruled against the Republican president’s first attempt to add the question, saying the administration’s rationale was “contrived” but leaving the door open to its possible addition if officials could offer a new explanation.
Since then, the Justice Department has sought to shake up its legal team by replacing the lawyers handling the case. On Wednesday, a second federal judge rejected the department’s efforts, saying it had to offer detailed reasoning for the change.
Attorneys within the Trump administration have been studying the census issue and intend to keep the president’s order within the confines of the Supreme Court decision, but they are cognizant that whatever action he takes is likely to be challenged in court again.
The U.S. Constitution specifically assigns the job of overseeing the census to Congress, limiting a president’s authority, which could complicate any effort to add the question via presidential missive.
Trump is insistent that the question be added to the census despite the legal challenges. The census is used to determine how many seats each state gets in the U.S. House of Representatives and also affects how billions of dollars in federal funds are doled out across the country.
Reporting by Jeff Mason and Susan Heavey; Editing by Alistair Bell