Attorney General William Barr appears to be creating a legal argument for President Trump to use, should he choose to defy the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling against including a citizenship question on the 2020 Census.
On Monday, Attorney General Barr told the Associated Press (AP) that he and Trump spoke regularly about the Supreme Court’s recent ruling against including a question about citizenship on next year’s Census form. In his ruling siding with the 4 liberal-leaning SCOTUS justices, chief justice John Roberts called the Trump administration’s rationale for including the question “contrived.”
He added that he agreed with Trump on including the question, saying there was “an opportunity potentially to cure the lack of clarity that was the problem and we might as well take a shot at doing that.”
The AP also reported that a “senior official” within the Trump administration said President Trump may choose to defy the court’s ruling by issuing a presidential memorandum to the Department of Commerce, instructing them to add the citizenship question to the 2020 Census. But adding the question now could prove difficult, as the Trump administration’s self-imposed deadline for sending the Census form to the printer has come and gone. This would make adding the citizenship question to the 1.5 billion 2020 Census forms nearly impossible.
Should Trump follow through and defy the Supreme Court’s ruling striking down the citizenship question and add it anyway, it could potentially provoke the U.S. Supreme Court holding a sitting president in contempt for the first time in history. According to Corenell University law school, a comtempt ruling would be civil in nature, as it pertains to an official refusing to carry out the order of the court. However, civil contempt penalties could include fines and/or jail time.
The controversy over the citizenship question stems from a belief that undocumented immigrants may decline to participate in the 2020 Census, leading to an inaccurate count. This could result in a shortage of hundreds of billions of dollars for critical infrastructure in cities and states with high concentrations of undocumented immigrants, like California and Texas.
Tom Cahill is a contributor for Grit Post who covers political and economic news. He lives in Bend, Oregon. Send him an email at tom DOT v DOT cahill AT gmail DOT com.