Ex-federal prosecutor calls Trump's possible executive order on citizenship question 'an idle threat'

Former federal prosecutor Joseph Moreno cast doubt on Monday over whether the citizenship question will ultimately be included on the 2020 census, saying that President TrumpDonald John TrumpSupreme Court comes to Trump's aid on immigration Trump is failing on trade policy Trump holds call with Netanyahu to discuss possible US-Israel defense treaty MORE’s potential move to invoke an executive order would immediately be challenged in the court.

“If the president decided to issue an executive order, ordering secretary of Commerce to include this question the plaintiffs would run back to the district court in New York, in Maryland, in California,” Moreno told Hill.TV during an interview on “Rising.”

“They would get an injunction from one or all three and we’d be back in the same place, so I think it’s sort of an idle threat,” he continued, adding that he doesn’t see it “changing the legal dynamic of anything.”

Moreno added that even if the case is brought in front of the Supreme Court again it has already lost all credibility, emphasizing that the Trump administration is largely to blame. 

“Reasonable people can agree or disagree on whether this question should be there — that’s a perfectly fine question open to debate,” he told Hill.TV. “But when you ruin the process, when you make yourself so that you give judges almost no choice but to turn you down, well then you’ve really taken a big step backward.”

The Trump administration has made it clear that it has not abandoned its efforts to add the citizenship question on 2020 forms.

Trump said last week that he is considering an executive order on the matter as well as printing the forms now and including the question in an addendum to the census next year. Trump has also argued that the 2020 census should be delayed, although its deadlines appear in statute.

“We have four or five ways we could do it,” Trump said when pressed again on his plans over the weekend.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has already filed a lawsuit in an effort to block such efforts.

The ongoing battle comes after the Supreme Court ruled last month that while such a question is constitutional, the administration’s justification was “inadequate.” But the high court the left the door open to add the question under a different legal justification.

The Justice Department, meanwhile, has since assigned a new team of lawyers to take over the case, according to reports from multiple news organizations.

—Tess Bonn