On Thursday morning, America was on edge.
For several hours, it seemed likely that Donald Trump would announce an executive order aimed at effectively undermining the Supreme Court, which shot down the administration’s bid to add a citizenship question to the 2020 census.
Immediately following the SCOTUS decision, the administration backed down. 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 and authority.
Ahead of scheduled remarks on Thursday afternoon, sources told the media that some manner of executive action was coming. Shortly after lunchtime, news leaked that Trump intended to throw in the towel on the census fight and would instead use executive action to obtain the information the White House wants “by other means”.
Trump, flanked by William Barr and Wilbur Ross, spoke from the Rose Garden on Thursday afternoon to explain what exactly it is that the administration plans to do.
After decrying the courts and declaring that “far-left Democrats are determined to conceal the number of illegal aliens hiding in our midst”, the president explained his plan as follows:
I am hereby ordering every department and agency in the federal government to provide the Department of Commerce with all requested records regarding the number of citizens and non-citizens in our country. They must furnish all legally assessable records in their possession immediately.
Here’s the full clip:
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He continued. ‘This information is relevant to administering our elections”, the president said, adding that “some states may want to draw state and local legislative districts based upon the voter eligible population”.
For his part, Barr claimed the only reason the government isn’t prepared to keep litigating the issue is that it would simply take too long. The Attorney General adopted the same obsequious demeanor he employed while attempting to spin the Mueller report hours before it was released to the public in April. Barr repeatedly “congratulated” Trump on today’s executive order.
Finally, if you were wondering whether there was any truth to the suggestion that Trump was at least considering the possibility of defying the Supreme Court, the answer is yes.
How do we know Trump was, for a time anyway, pondering the unthinkable? Simple: Because the Attorney General felt it necessary to say that he didn’t.