Trump's census citizenship question endeavor is a shambolic mess. It might easily get worse.

Attorney General William Barr talks census law
(Image credit: Screenshot/YouTube/AP )

President Trump's shambolic "fight to add a citizenship question to the 2020 census is one he seems likely to lose," Politico says. Attorney General William Barr appears pretty upbeat about Trump's chances, however.

The soon-to-be-revealed "approach we're taking" will "provide a pathway for getting the question on the census," Barr predicted Monday. He's been "in constant discussion" with Trump since the Supreme Court blocked the citizenship question in June, saying the stated rationale seemed "contrived," Barr said. And Trump's "considering all the options," including an executive order.

A senior official told The Associated Press that Trump will likely issue a memorandum ordering the Commerce Department to add a citizenship question to the already printed census. "It was not clear what such an order would accomplish," The New York Times notes. "The Constitution makes Congress responsible for overseeing the census, not the president." Also, says HuffPost's Sam Levine, "there are existing court orders barring the question, and Trump can't just issue an edict wiping out such rulings."

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Meanwhile, a group of plaintiffs asked a federal judge in New York on Monday to block the Justice Department's rare move to swap the entire legal team pursuing adding the citizenship question, saying the DOJ hasn't given a "satisfactory reason" for the switch. Bringing in a new legal team from the DOJ's consumer protection division to persuade three federal judges and the Supreme Court to change tack is widely seen as detrimental to Trump's effort.

Also Monday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi reportedly told colleagues she'll "soon" schedule a full House vote on holding Barr and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross in criminal contempt for defying subpoenas that would "shed light on the real reason the administration added a citizenship question." Ironically, "Trump's continued insistence on adding the citizenship question increases the risk of additional disclosures about the White House's role in the effort," Politico reports, including perhaps "more details on Trump's own involvement."

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Peter Weber

Peter Weber is a senior editor at, and has handled the editorial night shift since the website launched in 2008. A graduate of Northwestern University, Peter has worked at Facts on File and The New York Times Magazine. He speaks Spanish and Italian and plays bass and rhythm cello in an Austin rock band. Follow him on Twitter.