The Department of Justice (DOJ) is changing the legal team responsible for the government’s court battle to add a citizenship question to the U.S. Census.
Justice Department spokeswoman Kerri Kupec announced the swap in a statement Sunday:
“As will be reflected in filings tomorrow in the census-related cases, the Department of Justice is shifting these matters to a new team of Civil Division lawyers going forward. Since these cases began, the lawyers representing the United States in these cases have given countless hours to defending the Commerce Department and have consistently demonstrated the highest professionalism, integrity and skill inside and outside the courtroom. The attorney general appreciates that service, thanks them for their work on these important matters and is confident that the new team will carry on in the same exemplary fashion as the cases progress.”
A DOJ official told the Washington Post that the entire team on the case will be replaced with lawyers from the department’s Civil Division and Consumer Protection Branch. It is unclear if the change is due to internal tensions over the Trump administration’s decision to move forward with the case.
Just last week, top government officials revealed their intent to print the 2020 Census without the citizenship question after a temporary defeat in front of the Supreme Court. The high court ruled that the administration provided an insufficient explanation as to why they wanted to add the citizenship question to the Census.
“The decision has been made to print the 2020 decennial census questionnaire without a citizenship question,” a Justice Department lawyer wrote in an email. (RELATED: Trump Administration Abandons Citizenship Question)
Department of Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross confirmed the decision, stating, “The Census Bureau has started the process of printing the decennial questionnaires without the question. My focus, and that of the Bureau and the entire Department is to conduct a complete and accurate census.”
However, reports that the Census was being printed without the question seemingly angered President Donald Trump, who tweeted that the news was “FAKE!”
“The News Reports about the Department of Commerce dropping its quest to put the Citizenship Question on the Census is incorrect or, to state it differently, FAKE! We are absolutely moving forward, as we must, because of the importance of the answer to this question,” the president claimed.
One day later, the administration told a federal judge that they would continue to pursue the legal battle to add the question.
“We at the Department of Justice have been instructed to examine whether there is a path forward, consistent with the Supreme Court’s decision, that would allow us to include the citizenship question on the census,” assistant Attorney General Jody Hunt told a federal judge in Maryland.