President Trump has reached the stage where he demonstrates his contempt for the rule of law and democracy in this country on a daily basis.
Today his behavior was particularly egregious as he defied the constitutional mandate on the separation of government powers by ordering both the Justice and Commerce departments to defy a federal court order that directed his administration to proceed with the printing of U.S. census forms without the citizenship question that Trump so desperately wanted to be included.
As the nation went to sleep last night, the public thought the fight over this question was over after the Department of Justice announced that the 2020 census questionnaire would go to the printers without the citizenship question incorporated.
Here’s the email from DOJ pic.twitter.com/PdyfK0a1hJ
— Daniel Jacobson (@Dan_F_Jacobson) July 2, 2019
Trump upended the happy ending to this battle with a tweet that shook the foundations of the relationship between the judicial and executive branches of government.
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
The president has been frustrated by the failure to force the citizenship question onto the census forms despite the progress his Justice Department was making in convincing the Supreme Court — now stacked with usually complaint conservative justices — to allow him to do so.
That progress came to an abrupt halt after “files discovered on hard drives belonging to a deceased Republican redistricting strategist suggested he had communicated with the Trump administration about how to get the citizenship question onto the survey and that the strategist had determined that adding the question would create an electoral advantage for Republicans and non-Hispanic whites,” as The Washington Post reported.
Once the news of the political plotting involved in including the question on census forms was revealed, the Supreme Court rejected the administration’s justifications for it, saying that the reason Trump’s surrogates were offering for its inclusion “appears to have been contrived.”
After the case was sent back to the U.S. District court, opponents of the citizenship question — who fear that it will suppress an accurate count of the actual population given the current dangerous climate for any undocumented persons living in the country and result in uneven political representation once the completed census is used to determine new congressional districts — thought they had won a major victory in their fight against the Trump administration’s attempts at political manipulation.
President Trump’s boundary-shattering tweet, however, shocked not only the ACLU which was among the plaintiffs in the case but Judge George J. Hazel of the United States District Court, the lower court judge who was assured only yesterday that the printing of census forms would proceed without any mention of citizenship among its queries.
Judge Hazel quickly demanded a conference call with both parties in the lawsuit to clear up any confusion that Trump’s defiant tweet had caused.
Los Angeles Times National Correspondent Matt Pearce tweeted out excerpts from the transcript of the call — which can be read in its entirety here — that shows the judge’s outrage and Justice Department attorneys’ embarrassed responses.
— Matt Pearce 🦅 (@mattdpearce) 3 July 2019
— Matt Pearce 🦅 (@mattdpearce) 3 July 2019
With an intransigent President and a judge who wants the Commerce Department to put in writing its commitment to printing the census forms sans any citizenship inquiry, we’ll likely have to wait until after the Independence Day holiday to see how this all winds up playing out, but it will be difficult to enjoy the celebration of our nation’s independence from tyrannical rule while President Trump is in the midst of attempting to reinstate his own imperial powers over a subordinate judicial system.
He must not be allowed to defy the courts. He must be stopped. He must be removed from office as soon as possible. If not our democracy is more of a farce than it already has proven to be in the first two years of his reign of idiocy and autocracy.
Follow Vinnie Longobardo on Twitter.