Update (2:45 PM ET):
After an extremely tense morning during which the nation was forced to ponder the uncomfortable prospect of Donald Trump thumbing his nose at the Supreme Court, ABC reported that the White House will drop its bid to include a citizenship question in the 2020 census, putting to bed weeks of speculation and rampant uncertainty.
Instead, Trump will take executive action to instruct the Commerce Department to “survey the American public on the question through other means”, sources said.
No further details were available.
Donald Trump will effectively try to override the Supreme Court on Thursday, or, if that’s too strong, suffice to say that people familiar with the situation have indicated the president will strike a defiant tone on the controversial census question during a press conference.
The administration was, of course, shot down by the high court, which late last month put on hold the president’s plan to include a citizenship question in the 2020 census.
At first, it seemed like the administration would comply (because, you know, it’s the Supreme Court, after all). Indeed, the government started printing forms without the question.
But then, Trump took to Twitter to announce that he intended to press ahead anyway, a rather remarkable assertion that underscored his penchant for pushing the limits of his power.
On July 3, Justice Department lawyers informed a federal judge in Maryland that they were told to figure out a way to add the question. The transcript of a call between the government and the court was quite something. Here’s a passage:
MR. GARDNER: Your Honor, this is Mr. Gardner. I want to back up just a step and say that I’ve been with the United States Department of Justice for 16 years, through multiple Administrations, and I’ve always endeavored to be as candid as possible with the Court. What I told the Court yesterday was absolutely my best understanding of the state of affairs and, apparently, also the Commerce Department’s state of affairs, because you probably saw Secretary Ross issued a statement very similar to what I told the Court. 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. But, as you can imagine, I am doing my absolute best to figure out what’s going on. I can tell you that I have confirmed that the Census Bureau is continuing with the process of printing the questionnaire without a citizenship question, and that process has not stopped.
Subsequently, Trump tried to install a new team of lawyers to argue the case, but that bid crashed and burned in rather spectacular fashion, when US District Judge Jesse M. Furman called the request “patently deficient”. “Defendants provide no reasons, let alone ‘satisfactory reasons,’ for the substitution of counsel”, Furman said Tuesday.
Trump wasn’t amused. “So now the Obama appointed judge on the Census case (Are you a Citizen of the United States?) won’t let the Justice Department use the lawyers that it wants to use. Could this be a first?”, he wondered, on Twitter.
New York Attorney General Letitia James (a vocal Trump critic and a frequent target of the president’s ire) mocked the White House. “Despite the president attempting to fire his lawyers, this is not an episode of ‘The Apprentice'”, she quipped.
Out of options, Trump will apparently attempt to get this done by dictatorial decree, or something like it.
“President Donald Trump will announce executive action on the 2020 US Census on Thursday, pursuing his fight to include a citizenship question in the decennial population count despite being rebuffed by the Supreme Court”, Bloomberg reported on Thursday morning, adding that “the executive action is expected to be announced at a news conference”. Three sources did not say whether the “action” would take the form of an executive order.
Because we live in a reality TV show, this announcement will apparently accompany a farcical Rose Garden press event, where Trump will detail what went on during his “social media summit”, which will double as a who’s who gathering of right-wing (and in some cases extreme right-wing) internet trolls. Here’s the Daily Beast:
The White House hasn’t released a public list of attendees for the Thursday afternoon event, but a number of pro-Trump personalities have posted invitations on Twitter. They include Ali Alexander, a right-wing operative pushing a smear that Democratic presidential hopeful Sen. Kamala Harris (CA) isn’t really “an American Black,” a pro-Trump “memesmith” who goes by the screenname “@CarpeDonktum,” and blogger Jim Hoft, whose Gateway Pundit blog frequently promotes hoaxes.
The invitee list also includes more traditional White House visitors, including Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL), Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), and representatives from campus conservative group Turning Point USA and conservative YouTube channel PragerU. In an Instagram post, Turning Point executive Benny Johnson promised to use the conference to give Trump “dank meme ideas.”
Facebook and Twitter are not invited.
The subject of the pow wow will be purported bias against the president and his allies. “A big subject today at the White House Social Media Summit will be the tremendous dishonesty, bias, discrimination and suppression practiced by certain companies”, Trump said, adding that “We will not let them get away with it much longer”.
During one of 16 tweets the president sent on Thursday morning, Trump appeared to tease the Rose Garden announcement of the census action. To wit:
The White House will be hosting a very big and very important Social Media Summit today. Would I have become President without Social Media? Yes (probably)! At its conclusion, we will all go to the beautiful Rose Garden for a News Conference on the Census and Citizenship.
That was hardly the end of it. Here is the rest of the string (it’s difficult to know what to say about it, as it’s quite obviously not the work of someone who is thinking clearly):
….The Fake News is not as important, or as powerful, as Social Media. They have lost tremendous credibility since that day in November, 2016, that I came down the escalator with the person who was to become your future First Lady. When I ultimately leave office in six……….years, or maybe 10 or 14 (just kidding), they will quickly go out of business for lack of credibility, or approval, from the public. That’s why they will all be Endorsing me at some point, one way or the other. Could you imagine having Sleepy Joe Biden, or @AlfredENeuman99,…or a very nervous and skinny version of Pocahontas (1000/24th), as your President, rather than what you have now, so great looking and smart, a true Stable Genius! Sorry to say that even Social Media would be driven out of business along with, and finally, the Fake News Media!
There is apparently no end to what Congress is willing to stomach from Trump.
If everything goes as “planned” on Thursday (and if Bloomberg’s reporting proves accurate), the president of the United States will be allowed to convene a meeting of far-right conspiracy theorists at the White House and then mosey out into the Rose Garden to announce his intention to defy the Supreme Court.