Trump expected to announce he won't force citizenship question onto 2020 census

President TrumpDonald John TrumpJimmy Carter: 'I hope there's an age limit' on presidency White House fires DHS general counsel: report Trump to cap California trip with visit to the border MORE on Thursday is expected to issue an executive order directing the Commerce Department to collect citizenship information by other means than the U.S. census, according to an administration official.   

The move would effectively sideline the Trump administration’s bid to force the citizenship question onto the 2020 census, which the president abruptly announced after the Supreme Court ruled late last month against its inclusion.  

But administration officials have cautioned that the situation is fluid and the plans could change.

Trump lamented the high court’s ruling, telling a group of political allies at the White House that it’s “the craziest thing” census takers cannot ask about people’s citizenship.

“We’re going to talk a little bit about the fact that we’re not allowed to ask for whether or not somebody is a citizen on the census form. And I think we have a solution that will be good for a lot of people. Really good,” Trump said.

Trump tweeted Thursday morning that he would hold a news conference about “the Census and Citizenship,” triggering speculation he would announce the next step in his legal battle to include the question on next year’s census. Trump is scheduled to speak at 5 p.m. at the White House.

Officials did not say why the president apparently changed course, but the decision could close the book on the tumultuous legal fight over the citizenship question. It comes days after the Trump administration reversed its prior decision to print census forms without the question and said it would press ahead with their effort to include it. 

It’s also unclear how that data would be collected: The American Community Survey, which is sent out every year, already surveys a limited sample of the U.S. population about their citizenship. 

Legal experts warned that issuing an order forcing the question onto the census could have wide-reaching ramifications on the separation of powers within the federal government, as the presidential action would directly conflict with several court injunctions blocking the question’s inclusion.

The Supreme Court ruled late last month that the administration’s reason for adding the question was “contrived” and thus could not be included on census forms. 

Some Trump allies believe that an executive action from the president directing the Commerce Department, which oversees the census, to add the citizenship question would strengthen the administration’s legal case. 

But many experts were doubtful that such an order will hold up in court. Groups like the American Civil Liberties Union and the New York state attorney general had also promised to strike back at any action taken by Trump aimed at getting the question on the census.

The administration was guaranteed to face even further legal challenges over the citizenship question, dragging out the fight. And with deadlines looming to get census out on time, an extended court battle could have spelled doom for the question’s inclusion on the 2020 survey.

However, litigation surrounding the question continues to play out in a pair of federal courts. One federal judge in Maryland is weighing whether there was a discriminatory intent behind the question’s addition to the 2020 census, and another in New York is hearing arguments on whether to sanction Trump officials for allegedly making inaccurate representations about the question while under oath.

Updated: 4:45 p.m.