President Donald Trump on Wednesday branded as “fake” news reports that his administration was dropping plans to ask people if they are U.S. citizens on the 2020 census — despite officials in his own administration having said a day before that the question will not be asked.
Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and a Justice Department lawyer had both said Tuesday that the Census Bureau is in the process of printing the census questionnaire without the citizenship question.
Their statements came five days after a Supreme Court decision that effectively blocked the question being added to the 2020 census questionnaire.
The high court ordered the case challenging the question to be reconsidered by a lower court, leaving the Commerce Department with little or no time to have the dispute settled legally before this past Monday’s deadline for printing the questionnaires.
But Trump, in a tweet Wednesday, said, “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,” Trump wrote.
Trump’s use of the word “quest” echoed its use by The New York Times on Tuesday in its lead paragraph of a story that said the Trump administration, “in a dramatic about-face, abandoned its question to add a citizenship question to the 2020 census.”
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.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 3, 2019
A White House spokesman did not immediately respond to CNBC’s query as to wherther the census form will ask the citizenship question.
A Census Bureau spokesman referred questions about the president’s tweet to the Commerce Department, which did not immediate respond to a request for comment.
On Tuesday, Ross, in a statement had said, “I respect the Supreme Court but strongly disagree with its ruling regarding my decision to reinstate a citizenship question on the 2020 Census.”
“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,” Ross said.
In a Tuesday email to legal challengers of the citizenship question, a Department of Justice lawyer wrote, “We can confirm that the decision has been made to print the 2020 Decennial Census questionnaire without a citizenship question, and that the printer has been instructed to begin the printing process.”
The Trump administration’s plan to add the citizenship question to the 2020 census had been controversial since it was first announced in March 2018.
In addition to that question, the Census Bureau at the time said that respondents would be asked how many people live in their residences, and those persons’ ages, sexes, Hispanic origin, race, relationship and homeownership status.
Critics of the citizenship question say it would reduce the census’s accuracy, and undercount minority populations, including immigrants.
An undercount of those groups in turn could affect the allocation of billions of dollars worth of federal funds, whose distribution often is related to census data. An undercount also could affect how district seats in the House of Representatives are drawn.
Shortly after Trump’s tweet Wednesday morning, the House Civil Rights and Civil Liberties Subcommittee Chairman Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md., announced that Census Bureau Director Steven Dillingham will testify before Raskin’s panel on July 24.
“It is time for the Census Bureau to move beyond all the outside political agendas and distractions and devote its full attention to preparing for the 2020 Census,” Raskin said in a press release. “This hearing will examine the current status of the Bureau’s readiness for the Census next year — especially in areas where the Bureau may be falling behind such as IT, security and public education.”
It was unclear if the timing of Raskin’s announcement was related to the president’s tweet.
A citizenship question has not been posed to all U.S. households in decades.
In the Supreme Court decision last week which blocked the question, for now, from being added to the census, Chief Justice John Roberts questioned the Trump administration’s rationale for adding the query, calling it “contrived.”
The administration had argued that while the question could make the census’s count less accurate, it would help the government better enforce certain provisions of the Voting Rights Act. Three federal courts who heard challenges to the question did not accept that argument.
Democrats had celebrated on Tuesday after the Trump administration’s apparent decision to abandon the controversial question for the upcoming census became public.
“Today’s decision is a welcome development for our democracy,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said at the time.
“House Democrats will be vigilant to ensure a full, fair and accurate Census.”
A spokesman for Pelosi did not immediately respond to CNBC’s request for comment on Trump’s tweet
Rep. Ted Lieu, D-Calif. on Wednesday cited the Justice Department lawyer’s statement in a tart response to Trump’s new tweet.
Hey @realDonaldTrump, there is an email from the @TheJusticeDept yesterday confirming the #census forms are being printed without the citizenship question. Why? Because the Department told the Supreme Court yesterday was the deadline. You want them to lie again?#WednesdayWisdom https://t.co/gEbZAdS4xj
— Ted Lieu (@tedlieu) July 3, 2019
Julián Castro Calls on Puerto Rico Governor to Resign
Democratic presidential contender Julián Castro called on embattled Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló (D) to resign, saying “it’s clear” that the leader of the U.S. territory “can no longer be effective.”
Rosselló has resisted calls to resign as he struggles to cope with a corruption scandal involving former members of his administration and the release of hundreds of pages of messages between him and his top lieutenants that contained homophobic and misogynistic slurs.
“I stand with Puerto Ricans who are protesting in the streets his administration. We’ve seen comments that he and others in the administration have made, we’ve seen the use of force against the people of Puerto Rico,” Castro told reporters at a campaign stop in Manchester, N.H.
“This governor can no longer be effective and I believe he should resign,” added the former Housing and Urban Development secretary.
Two former members of Rosselló’s administration were arrested by the FBI earlier this month, accused of directing more than $15 million in government contracts to favored businesses.
Meanwhile, the Puerto Rican Center for Investigative Journalism released a trove of messages exchanged among Rosselló and his closest allies, including at least two Cabinet members, where homophobic and misogynistic slurs were directed at journalists and political rivals.
Rosselló has since apologized repeatedly for his role in the texting scandal. But protests demanding his resignation have rocked San Juan through the week.
An array of public officials, as well as several prominent Puerto Rican public figures, have also demanded Rosselló’s resignation.
And Rosselló, who is up for reelection in 2020, has lost much support within his own local party, the New Progressive Party (PNP).
“Reelection is out of the question, out of the question. The party has been clear and has expressed it in an elegant but concise manner,” Puerto Rico Senate Majority Leader Carmelo Ríos told The Hill Thursday.
President Trump on Thursday denounced Puerto Rico’s leaders as “corrupt” amid the massive protests demanding his resignation.
Puerto Rico’s government has been widely criticized for its response to Maria, which left thousands dead and devastated much of the island in 2017. But the Trump administration has also been the target of criticism for its disaster-relief efforts.
Puerto Rico Governor Ricardo Rossello Says He’s Not Resigning After Private Chat Scandal
Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló said Monday that he has no plans to resign or give up his leadership of the pro-statehood New Progressive Party after a fierce public outcry over the release of profanity-laced and derogatory private chat messages with other officials and close associates.
Rosselló did say in a radio interview, however, that as a “tactical measure” he would think about whether he should seek re-election next year.
The messages, which included homophobic and misogynistic comments, have been strongly condemned by other officials in his party and drawn protests outside the governor’s mansion in Old San Juan. Some excerpts of the chats, on the instant messaging service Telegram, were leaked to local media on July 8th. The island’s Center for Investigative Journalism, which received the 889 pages from a source, published them in their entirety on Saturday.
In the chats, the group used disparaging and sexist terms to refer to San Juan’s mayor, Carmen Yulín Cruz, as well as former New York City Council President Melissa Mark-Viverito. They also belittled the death of independence movement leader Carlos Gallisá and slammed the federal control board overseeing the island’s finances.
The group used a homophobic comment in relation to international pop star Ricky Martin, who is from Puerto Rico. On Twitter, Martin urged Rosselló to step down.
The governor, Martin tweeted, “lacks the abilities of a true leader, who inspires, stimulates and guides by example so that our people attain a higher level of life.”
Over the weekend, a group of mayors and officials from the governor’s New Progressive Party, including the president of Puerto Rico’s House of Representatives, Carlos “Johnny” Mendez, had urged Rosselló to “re-evaluate” and reflect on his position. In a statement, they wrote that “the most recent publications of the content in the Telegram chat do not reflect in any way how our delegation or the party feels.”
On Saturday, Rosselló announced that other top officials who participated in the chats had submitted their resignations. This included the secretary of state, Luis G. Rivera Marín, who would have been next in line for the governorship if Rosselló were no longer in his position.
The commonwealth’s chief financial officer, Christian Sobrino, who is also the governor’s representative to the federal control board overseeing Puerto Rico’s finances, also announced he was stepping down. The federal control board was a topic in the chats.
The island’s justice secretary, Wanda Vázquez, announced that she was appointing a special task force to determine whether the comments in the chats broke any laws. On Monday, Rosselló said he had reviewed the chats and he said he had committed no wrongdoing.
The messaging scandal comes on the heels of the arrests of the island’s former secretary of education, Julia Keleher, and five other people on charges of steering federal money to unqualified, politically connected contractors.
It also occurs against the backdrop of the U.S. commonwealth’s ongoing attempts to recover after the devastation of Hurricane Maria in 2017 as well as Puerto Rico’s ongoing financial crisis.
Trump Says Progressive Congresswomen Should ‘Go Back’ and Fix the Places They ‘Originally Came From’
President Donald Trump on Sunday said progressive congresswomen should “go back” and try to fix the “crime infested places” they “originally came from” before telling the U.S. government how to handle its problems.
“So interesting to see ‘Progressive’ Democrat Congresswomen, who originally came from countries whose governments are a complete and total catastrophe, the worst, most corrupt and inept anywhere in the world (if they even have a functioning government at all), now loudly and viciously telling the people of the United States, the greatest and most powerful Nation on earth, how our government is to be run,” Trump wrote in a series of three tweets.
“Why don’t they go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came,” the president continued. “Then come back and show us how it is done. These places need your help badly, you can’t leave fast enough. I’m sure that Nancy Pelosi would be very happy to quickly work out free travel arrangements!”
Though he did not mention anyone by name in his tweets, the president appeared to be referring to a group of progressive congresswomen who have generated headlines and whose influence was recently downplayed by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
That group includes Democratic Reps. Rashida Tlaib of Michigan, Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, and Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts.
Tlaib, a Palestinian American, was born in Michigan; Omar, a Somali refugee, moved to the U.S. when she was 12 and is a naturalized U.S. citizen; Ocasio-Cortez, who is of Latin-American descent, was born in New York; and Pressley, who is African American, was born in Cincinnati.
Ocasio-Cortez responded to Trump on Twitter Sunday afternoon, saying “the country I ‘come from,’ & the country we all swear to, is the United States.”
“But given how you’ve destroyed our border with inhumane camps, all at a benefit to you & the corps who profit off them, you are absolutely right about the corruption laid at your feet,” she continued. She added that Trump is “angry because” he doesn’t “believe in an America where I represent New York 14, where the good people of Minnesota elected [Omar], where [Tlaib] fights for Michigan families, where [Pressley] champions little girls in Boston.”
“You are angry because you can’t conceive of an America that includes us,” she said. “You rely on a frightened America for your plunder.”
Omar also responded to Trump in a tweet on Sunday, saying she and her fellow members swear an oath only to the U.S., “Which is why we are fighting to protect it from the worst, most corrupt and inept president we have ever seen.”
As Members of Congress, the only country we swear an oath to is the United States.
Which is why we are fighting to protect it from the worst, most corrupt and inept president we have ever seen. https://t.co/FBygHa2QTt
— Ilhan Omar (@IlhanMN) July 14, 2019
Pelosi on Sunday blasted Trump’s screed, saying that when the president “tells four American Congresswomen to go back to their countries, he reaffirms his plan to ‘Make America Great Again’ has always been about making America white again.”
“Our diversity is our strength and our unity is our power,” the California Democrat added.
Trump’s tweets were swiftly condemned by other congressional Democrats, including presidential candidates, who called them “racist” and “bigoted.”
Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, a contender for the Democratic presidential nomination, tweeted that Trump’s comments were “vile,” “racist” and “xenophobic.”
“This *is* their country, regardless of whether or not Trump realizes it,” Warren said of the Democratic congresswomen. “They should be treated with respect.”
Let’s be clear about what this vile comment is: A racist and xenophobic attack on Democratic congresswomen. This *is* their country, regardless of whether or not Trump realizes it. They should be treated with respect. As president, I’ll make sure of it. https://t.co/WupieDquLA
— Elizabeth Warren (@ewarren) July 14, 2019
Sen. Bernie Sanders, a Vermont independent also running to be the Democratic nominee, tweeted: “When I call the president a racist, this is what I’m talking about. We must stand together for justice and dignity towards all.”
Rep. Ben Ray Luján of New Mexico, a member of the House Democratic leadership, blasted Trump, tweeting, “A racist tweet from a racist president,” while Rep. Don Beyer of Virginia wrote, “This is undisguised racism, misogyny, and xenophobia, and everyone in Congress regardless of party should condemn it.”
Rep. Joe Neguse of Colorado, meanwhile, said Trump was “spending his Sunday morning sending bigoted tweets.”
“Fact check: 3 of the 4 colleagues of mine he’s targeting were born in the U.S. And those of us serving in Congress who immigrated here or are children of immigrants like myself are American,” he tweeted. “Period.”
A weeklong feud involving the progressive congresswomen and Democratic leadership might have played a role in Trump’s tweets. Referring to the four women, Pelosi said in a Maureen Dowd column published in The New York Times last week: “All these people have their public whatever and their Twitter world. But they didn’t have any following. They’re four people, and that’s how many votes they got.”
In response, Ocasio-Cortez said in an interview that she and her fellow progressives were being singled out by Pelosi as “newly elected women of color,” saying, “it got to a point where it was just outright disrespectful.”
Trump jumped into the fray himself last week, defending Pelosi and saying Ocasio-Cortez is the one who’s been disrespectful.
“A group of people that came from — I don’t know where they came from — I’m looking at this Omar from Minnesota,” he added. “And if one-half of the things they’re saying about her are true, she shouldn’t even be in office.”
Sanders said Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press” that he thought Pelosi was being “a little” too tough on the freshman lawmakers.
“You cannot ignore the young people of this country who are passionate about economic and racial and social and environmental justice. You’ve got to bring them in, not alienate them,” Sanders said.
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