- The Washington Times - Friday, July 5, 2019

President Trump said Friday he’s “thinking” about issuing an executive order to try to force a citizenship question onto the 2020 census, as he continues to battle the courts.

The president said that’s one of a handful of options he’s considering. Another is to begin printing the census without a citizenship question, but then adding an “addendum” later if he wins approval from the courts.

“We’re working on a lot of things including an executive order,” the president told reporters at the White House.

He said he’d spoken with Attorney General William P. Barr and they may pursue several options.

“We’ll make a decision. The attorney general’s working on that,” he said.

Mr. Trump is expending an extraordinary amount of political capital to try to get a citizenship question into next year’s count. He says asking the question is common sense, and a way to figure out the difference between citizens and “illegals.”

In fact, the census will not determine legal status — but could help with better data for enforcing the voting-rights act, according to the Justice Department.

Opponents say asking about citizenship will scare immigrants and Hispanics away from answering, skewing the count and interfering with how congressional seats are doled out, and how federal money is allocated.

It’s not clear what executive order Mr. Trump could issue, though one option conservatives have suggested would be to order the Commerce Department to begin emergency rule-making on census questions.

That would likely invite a new round of court battles, and the administration would have to seek an emergency ruling from the Supreme Court.

Last week the court, in a 5-4 decision, said that while a citizenship question is legal, the administration’s reasoning for why it wanted to ask it this time was “contrived.” Chief Justice John G. Roberts, writing the key opinion, sent the case back to the lower courts for a do-over.

But the Commerce Department had a June 30 deadline for finalizing the questionnaire.

Earlier this week government lawyers told the lower courts they had decided to drop the question.

Mr. Trump took to Twitter to say he wasn’t part of that, and he was plowing ahead. The lawyers are due with an answer back to the courts Friday.

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