Trump expected to back away from census citizenship question, direct Commerce to seek data through other sources


Washington (CNN) President Donald Trump is expected to issue an executive action Thursday directing the Commerce Department to obtain citizenship data through means other than the US census, according to two people with knowledge of the plan.

These people said Trump is expected to table his effort to add a question about citizenship status to the 2020 census, setting aside his demands last week to continue pursuing the issue despite a Supreme Court order blocking it.

Trump tweeted Thursday morning he would be holding a press conference in the Rose Garden in the afternoon about “the census and citizenship.” Attorney General William Barr will participate in the event, according to Justice Department spokesperson Kelly Laco. The Justice Department declined further comment on the details of the planned announcement.

The Supreme Court late last month blocked a citizenship question from being added to the 2020 census. The bitter controversy centers around whether the administration can ask all recipients a citizenship question on the 2020 census for the first time since 1950 — a move that could impact the balance of power in states and the House of Representatives, which are based on total population.

Adding the question, critics say, could result in minorities being undercounted by scaring off even legal residents or naturalized citizens from completing the decennial questionnaire, which is also used to determine funding for an array of government programs.

The expected decision to back off the census fight was first reported by ABC News.

The Census Bureau, which falls under the Commerce Department, has long favored using administrative records — including data from the Social Security Administration, IRS, US Citizenship and Immigration Services and the State Department — to gather citizenship data, rather than asking individuals to self-report their status on the census itself.

Key Republican senators said early Thursday they had not been briefed by the White House on the contours of Trump’s action. Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Roger Wicker, a Republican from Mississippi who has oversight of the Census Bureau, said he has not had discussions with the White House.

Democrats made clear they were prepared to fight any new effort to add a citizenship question.House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said that the House of Representatives will vote next week on criminal contempt for Barr and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross over their refusal to answer questions about internal discussions surrounding the citizenship question.”Next week the full house will vote on a resolution of criminal contempt for Attorney General Barr and Secretary Ross so we can enforce our subpoenas and get the facts,” Pelosi said. This comes after the House Oversight Committee voted last month to hold Barr and Ross in contempt over the dispute.

The vote has been scheduled for Tuesday, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer tweeted later on Thursday.

Pelosi, when asked if Trump could still add the citizenship question by executive action, replied: “I don’t know.”


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