The Hill's Morning Report — Trump retreats on census citizenship question

The Hill's Morning Report — Trump retreats on census citizenship question
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The presidential contest is speeding through the calendar. This weekend marks a year until the Democratic National Convention anoints a nominee in Milwaukee (the GOP convention follows in August 2020 in Charlotte).

The 2020 census questionnaire will not ask about citizenship status, President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump denies telling Bolton Ukraine aid was tied to investigations Former senior Senate GOP aide says Republicans should call witnesses Title, release date revealed for Bolton memoir MORE announced on Thursday, retreating to Plan C after being blocked by legal challenges, admonished by the Supreme Court for a “contrived” rationale and buffeted by statutory deadlines he could not alter. 


The administration will instead follow a course proposed more than a year ago to assemble available data from federal departments and agencies that may help determine the number of citizens and non-citizens living in the United States, Trump said.

“It will be, we think, far more accurate,” he added during a Rose Garden event to explain an executive order that instructs the Department of Homeland Security, the Social Security Administration and other agencies to share with the Commerce Department relevant data already in existence.  

The Census Bureau has said it can collect citizenship records from many federal sources, including the Internal Revenue Service, the State Department and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.

Bristling at criticism that he caved at the end of months of court challenges and confusing public remarks that a citizenship question might accompany the census survey next year, Trump insisted “we are not backing down.”

“We must have a reliable count of how many citizens, non-citizens and illegal aliens are in our country,” the president said, adding that his administration will leave “no stone unturned.”

Trump, accompanied by Attorney General William BarrWilliam Pelham Barr DOJ says surveillance of Trump campaign adviser Page lacked evidence Senators press DHS over visa approval for Pensacola naval base shooter Democrats sharpen case on second day of arguments MORE and Commerce Secretary Wilbur RossWilbur Louis Ross'In any other administration': Trump's novel strategy for dealing with scandal Desperate Democrats badmouth economy even as it booms Trump scheduled to attend Davos amid impeachment trial MORE, described his focus on citizenship in starkly political terms.

“As shocking as it may be, far-left Democrats in our country are determined to conceal the number of illegal aliens in our midst. They probably know the number is far greater, much higher than anyone would have ever believed before,” he said. “Maybe that’s why they fight so hard. This is part of a broader left-wing effort to erode the rights of the American citizen, and it is very unfair to our country.”

Barr twice congratulated Trump for deciding on a fallback that “will yield the best data the government has had in many decades,” arguing that the president’s census posture would have been upheld by the Supreme Court if there had been time to submit “a better record” than the initial Justice Department rationale about trying to protect voting rights, which the court described as “contrived.”

Separately, the House earlier in the day announced plans to vote next week to hold Barr and Ross in criminal contempt of Congress for refusing to comply with bipartisan subpoenas issued as part of the House Oversight and Reform Committee’s probe of the administration’s push to use the census to glean citizenship information. The House still plans to proceed with that vote if Barr and Ross do not turn over the subpoenaed documents, Committee Chairman Rep. Elijah CummingsElijah Eugene CummingsBaltimore unveils plaques for courthouse to be named after Elijah Cummings GOP leaders encourage retiring lawmakers to give up committee posts Pelosi taps Virginia Democrat for key post on economic panel MORE (D-Md.) said in a statement Thursday night.  

Many demographers and analysts, including inside the Commerce Department, object to the census as a vehicle to ask about citizenship because they believe fear and confusion in some households could lead to undercounting the population, which could impact congressional districts, federal funding and benefits.

The attorney general assailed the “media” for what he said was “rank speculation” that Trump flirted with defying court orders with executive action or delaying the census, although the president did both on Twitter and in public comments.

Trump described his determination to both identify and quantify non-citizens and undocumented immigrants living in the United States against the backdrop of his reelection bid, in which his hardline border policies endear him to many supporters.

Trump has said his administration will soon deport thousands of immigrants living illegally in major U.S. cities. A multi-city purge by Immigration and Customs Enforcement is to begin on Sunday, according to The New York Times and other news outlets.

Before he ducked back into the Oval Office as skies blackened before an evening rain storm, the president averted his gaze and warded off reporters’ shouted questions with a raised arm.

The Hill: A new phase is set to open in Trump’s immigration war.

The Hill: Trump drops bid to put citizenship question on the 2020 census.

CNN: Here’s how the Census Bureau can find out who is a U.S. citizen.

Harry Litman: We just dodged a constitutional crisis with the census.

Amy Howe, SCOTUSblog: Background in courts leading up to Trump’s announcement.


CONGRESS: Drama is building ahead of former special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) Swan MuellerSchiff: Trump acquittal in Senate trial would not signal a 'failure' Jeffries blasts Trump for attack on Thunberg at impeachment hearing Live coverage: House Judiciary to vote on impeachment after surprise delay MORE’s highly anticipated Capitol Hill testimony on Wednesday as Democrats come up with their strategy for questioning after pushing for months to hear his testimony. 

Part of the strategy for Democrats centers around time constraints for the former special counsel’s appearance. Mueller’s testimony is limited to roughly two hours per committee as it stands and only 22 members on each will be allowed to ask questions. There are 41 members on the Judiciary Committee compared to 22 on the House Intelligence Committee. 

Democrats say their plans are still in flux and that they are still negotiating with Mueller over the logistics of the appearance. Adding a layer to the drama are murmurs the Justice Department is seeking to block two of Mueller’s deputies from testifying privately, something that is bound to shake up the agreement (The Hill). 

“We’ve got to be strategic, we’ve got to understand why we want to talk to him in the first place and that’s to get answers to some unanswered questions,” said Rep. Val DemingsValdez (Val) Venita DemingsSunday shows - Spotlight shifts to Trump tweet, Senate trial witnesses House impeachment manager: 'Evidence against the president is overwhelming' Democrats worry Trump team will cherry-pick withheld documents during defense MORE (D-Fla.), a member of both panels questioning Mueller. “Wednesday will be here before we know it and we need to make sure that we utilize that time in the most effective and most efficient way.”

As they wait for Mueller’s appearance, the House Judiciary Committee voted to subpoena multiple current and former Trump administration officials as they push to receive documents and testimony from the potential subjects. 

The panel voted along party lines 21-12 to approve a resolution that authorizes subpoenas for 12 people who are witnesses sought in the panel's investigation into potential obstruction and abuse of power the president. Among those subpoenaed are Trump senior adviser and son-in-law Jared KushnerJared Corey KushnerSuspicions cloud Trump's Middle East peace plan Hillicon Valley — Presented by Philip Morris International — Wyden asks NSA to investigate White House cybersecurity | Commerce withdraws Huawei rule after Pentagon objects | Warren calls on Brazil to drop Greenwald charges Wyden calls on NSA to examine White House cybersecurity following Bezos hack MORE, former national security adviser Michael Flynn, former White House chief of staff John KellyJohn Francis KellyMORE, former Attorney General Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsLawmaker wants Chinese news outlet to register as foreign agent Trump-aligned group launches ad campaign hitting Doug Jones on impeachment ICE subpoenas Denver law enforcement: report MORE and former Deputy Attorney General Rod RosensteinRod RosensteinRosenstein says he authorized release of Strzok-Page texts Journalist alleging Obama administration spied on her seeks to reopen case Rosenstein on his time in Trump administration: 'We got all the big issues right' MORE.



> Pelosi vs. AOC: House Democrats are letting their loyalties be known in the ongoing feud between Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiFormer senior Senate GOP aide says Republicans should call witnesses Democrats step up pressure over witnesses after Bolton bombshell Texas AFL-CIO endorses Cuellar's primary challenger MORE (D-Calif.) and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-CortezAlexandria Ocasio-CortezThe Memo: Impeachment dominates final Iowa sprint 'The worst news': Political world mourns loss of Kobe Bryant Biden leads 2020 pack in congressional endorsements MORE (D-N.Y.), and most are siding with the House Democratic leader.

A growing number of House Democrats who have grown frustrated with the spat between the two Democratic heavyweights, have panned Ocasio-Cortez, largely for accusing Pelosi of treating minority women unfairly. Democrats have become perturbed by the back-and-forth that has roiled the conference.

“What a weak argument,” said Rep. Wm. Lacy ClayWilliam (Lacy) Lacy ClayLawmakers honor JFK on 56th anniversary of his death Trump tax breaks for low-income neighborhoods draw scrutiny Maloney wins vote for Oversight chairwoman MORE (D-Mo.). “Because you can’t get your way and because you’re getting pushback you resort to using the race card? Unbelievable. Unbelievable to me.”

Others have argued that Ocasio-Cortez isn’t looking at the big picture and is instead looking at the current issues through the lens of the “squad,” which Pelosi has dismissed as “four people.” They believe Ocasio-Cortez’s group needs to look at the conference as a whole and the push to pass legislation (The Hill).

“We admire them; they energize us; they're eager,” Rep. Gwen MooreGwen Sophia MooreA dozen House Democrats call on EU ambassador to resign amid Ukraine scandal The 13 House Democrats who back Kavanaugh's impeachment On The Money: Senate panel scraps vote on key spending bill amid standoff | Democrats threaten to vote against defense bill over wall funding | Trump set to meet with aides about reducing capital gains taxes MORE (D-Wis.) said in praise of the group. “And of course they have the luxury of — it is a luxury — just to be able to represent [their] district and to be strident. Nancy, of course, is the leader, so she has to represent all of us.”

“They’ll learn. It’s all about the 218 in this game,” said Moore. “You can be a star if you want to be, but it’s all about the 218.”

The Washington Post Magazine: In her House office, AOC’s chief of change. 

Peggy Noonan: Ocasio-Cortez a one-woman Committee to Re-elect the President. 

> Spending caps: With little progress on a spending deal for the 2020 fiscal year, lawmakers are conceding that a stopgap measure will be necessary to keep the government running come October. 


Appropriators say they can generally turn around spending bills relatively quickly once party leaders agree on overall spending levels. But the August recess is just weeks away, with the House set to leave town in two weeks, and the Senate has not yet introduced a single appropriations bill. 

Passing even a fraction of the 12 bills through subcommittee, committee and on the Senate floor before working out differences with the House and getting President Trump’s approval would be a herculean task (The Hill). 

The Hill: Pelosi says debt limit should be dealt with in the next few weeks.

The Hill: GOP balks at White House push for standalone vote on debt ceiling.


2020 POLITICS & CAMPAIGNS: Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) members are seething at Justice Democrats, a group aligned with Ocasio-Cortez, for their decision to endorse primary challengers against members of color, especially African American members. 

The group has announced that they are backing challengers against Clay, a St. Louis-based member and a prominent CBC lawmaker, and Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-Texas), a Blue Dog Democrat. They have also discussed backing an insurgent candidate against Rep. Hakeem JeffriesHakeem Sekou JeffriesJeffries, Nadler showcase different NY styles in Trump trial Hakeem Jeffries tells Senate in impeachment proceedings they should subpoena Baseball Hall of Fame after Jeter vote Video becomes vital part of Democrats' case against Trump MORE (D-N.Y.), the No. 5 Democrat and a member of the CBC.

There are also rumblings that the group could endorse challengers against a cadre of other CBC members, including Reps. Yvette ClarkeYvette Diane ClarkeSanders, Warren battle for progressive endorsements Hillicon Valley: FBI to now notify state officials of cyber breaches | Pelosi rips 'shameful' Facebook | 5G group beefs up lobby team | Spotify unveils playlists for pets Jewish advocates pressure social media platforms, Congress to regulate online anti-Semitic speech MORE (D-N.Y.), Joyce BeattyJoyce Birdson BeattyBoth sides of the aisle call for local, state, federal cooperation on homelessness The Hill's Morning Report - Impeachment trial a week away; debate night Progressive group unveils first slate of 2020 congressional endorsements MORE (D-Ohio), Emanuel Cleaver (D-Mo.) and Anthony BrownAnthony Gregory BrownBiden leads 2020 pack in congressional endorsements Overnight Defense: Dems raise pressure on Esper to block border wall funds | Trump impeachment trial begins in Senate | Day one dominated by fight over rules House Dems express 'deepening concern' over plans to take .2B from Pentagon for border wall MORE (D-Md.).

“It just seems strange that the social Democrats seem to be targeting members of the Congressional Black Caucus, individuals who have stood and fought to make sure that African Americans are included and part of this process,” said Rep. Gregory MeeksGregory Weldon MeeksOcasio-Cortez defends decision not to pay dues to House Democratic campaign arm Hillicon Valley: Lawmakers say Facebook deepfake ban falls short | House passes bills to win 5G race | Feds sound alarm on cyberthreat from Iran | Ivanka Trump appearance at tech show sparks backlash House Democrats urge financial regulators to defend against Iranian cyberattacks MORE (D-N.Y.), a senior CBC member. “I don’t know what that agenda is, but if they want to come after members of the Black Caucus, it’s two ways,”

Clay is being primaried by Cori Bush, a registered nurse and Black Lives Matter activist, for the second time. Justice Democrats endorsed Bush last cycle, but Clay, a 10-term lawmaker, defeated her by 20 points. 

The incumbent bashed Justice Democrats for their decision and likened them to “Russian trolls of 2016” trying to sow discord among Democrats (The Hill). 

“It does make you wonder what’s going on,” said Rep. Robin KellyRobin Lynne KellyHillicon Valley: FCC moves against Huawei, ZTE | Dem groups ask Google to reconsider ads policy | Bill introduced to increase data access during probes Dems call out Oracle for lack of diversity on its board Overnight Health Care: GOP senator says drug price action unlikely this year | House panel weighs ban on flavored e-cigs | New York sues Juul MORE (D-Ill.), a CBC member. “Some names that have been mentioned all seem to be people of color, and more so CBC members.” 



> Polls: Yet another national poll about the 2020 Democratic contenders is out, and former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenTrump denies telling Bolton Ukraine aid was tied to investigations Former senior Senate GOP aide says Republicans should call witnesses Title, release date revealed for Bolton memoir MORE continues to pace the field, with Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenPoll: Sanders leads Biden by 9 points in Iowa Poll: Biden leads in Iowa ahead of caucuses The Memo: Impeachment dominates final Iowa sprint MORE (D-Mass.) trailing by 7 points as she continues her ascent in the primary.

According to the latest NBC/Wall Street Journal poll, Biden leads with 26 percent of support. Warren trails the front-runner with 19 percent, while Sen. Kamala HarrisKamala Devi HarrisBiden leads 2020 pack in congressional endorsements Harris on 2020 endorsement: 'I am not thinking about it right now' Panel: Is Kamala Harris a hypocrite for mulling a Joe Biden endorsement? MORE (D-Calif.) and Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersPoll: Sanders leads Biden by 9 points in Iowa Poll: Biden leads in Iowa ahead of caucuses The Memo: Impeachment dominates final Iowa sprint MORE (I-Vt.) both sit with 13 percent.  

South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete ButtigiegPeter (Pete) Paul ButtigiegPoll: Sanders leads Biden by 9 points in Iowa Buttigieg on polarization: 'We don't have to choose between being bold and being unified' Buttigieg: America 'united in mourning' Kobe Bryant's death MORE sits at 7 percent, while no other candidate registers above 2 percent support.  

While Biden holds a slight lead nationally, he continues to trounce the field in South Carolina. According to a new Fox News poll, he leads with 35 percent support, more than double any other candidate. 

Sanders and Harris trail behind with 14 and 12 percent support, respectively. Warren lags behind in the pack with 5 percent backing.  

The Washington Post: Biden’s Senate records could answer questions about his past actions — but they’re being kept secret. 

The New York Times: At Latino forum, Democratic candidates channel anxiety over immigration.

Politico: “A real barn-burner”: Potential Senate showdown looms in Wyoming.

Stuart Rothenberg, Roll Call: Kentucky Senate: Seriously, are we doing this again?

David Ignatius: Wake up, Democrats. Trump is on something of a roll. 

Elsewhere on the political scene … Former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro took aim at former Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson for calling into question decriminalizing crossing the southern border. He told the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) forum that Johnson is “wrong” on the subject, adding that “ ‘open borders' is a right-wing talking point” (The Texas Tribune) … Rep. Bradley ByrneBradley Roberts ByrneGOP lawmaker offers resolution to censure Pelosi for holding articles of impeachment GOP rep releases campaign ad ripping Kaepernick, 'The Squad' GOP rep rails against Democrats for rejecting Republican impeachment amendment MORE (R-Ala.) announced that his campaign raised over $750,000 and that he has over $2.5 million in the bank in his bid for the Senate. Byrne is expected to face Judge Roy MooreRoy Stewart MooreDemocrats Manchin, Jones signal they're undecided on Trump removal vote The 5 most vulnerable senators in 2020 The biggest political upsets of the decade MORE and former Auburn football coach Tommy Tuberville for the GOP nod to take on Sen. Doug Jones (D-Ala.) in 2020.

The Morning Report is created by journalists Alexis Simendinger and Al Weaver. We want to hear from you! Email: and We invite you to share The Hill’s reporting and newsletters, and encourage others to SUBSCRIBE!



Donald Trump will win the Democratic Party civil war, by Donald Trump Jr.Donald (Don) John TrumpComedians post fake Army recruitment posters featuring Trump Jr. Trump Jr., Ivanka garner support in hypothetical 2024 poll FWS: There's 'no basis' to investigate Trump Jr.'s Mongolian hunting trip MORE, opinion contributor, The Hill. 

Cruelty won’t stop the crisis at the border, by Denis McDonoughDenis Richard McDonoughFormer Obama officials willing to testify on McCabe's behalf: report Trailer shows first look at Annette Bening as Dianne Feinstein 2020 Democrats fight to claim Obama's mantle on health care MORE and Cecilia Muñoz, former top White House advisers to the 44th president, opinion contributors, The New York Times.


Hill.TV’s “Rising” program features Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney (D-N.Y.), who talks about the expected House extension of the 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund; former federal judge Walter Kelley, on news about the census; and Lauren Maunus, the Sunrise Movement coordinator for policy and politics, on progressives’ climate change agenda. Find the interviews beginning at 9 a.m. ET at or on YouTube at 10 a.m. at Rising on YouTube.

The House meets at 9 a.m. The House Judiciary Committee holds a hearing at 9 a.m. about the “constitutional processes for addressing presidential misconduct” as it relates  to investigative findings by Mueller. … The House Oversight and Reform Committee explores migrant detention of children in the United States, gathering testimony at 10 a.m. from lawmakers who recently visited detention facilities at the border, inspectors general from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and advocates for the rights and health of immigrant children.

The Senate is off today and meets Monday at 3 p.m. to consider the nomination of Peter Joseph Phipps to be a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit.

The president departs for Milwaukee, Wis., where he will speak at a fundraising lunch and roundtable with GOP donors in Fox Point, Wis., after which he’ll visit Derco Aerospace Inc. in Milwaukee (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel) and talk about the push for ratification in Congress for the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement. Then Trump flies to Cleveland, Ohio, to headline a private political fundraiser at the home of nursing home executive Brian Colleran of Foundations Health Solutions ( He will return to the White House tonight. 

Pence is in San Diego, Calif., this morning. The vice president plans to travel to McAllen, Texas, border territory 11 miles from Mexico to visit a migrant detention facility as a way to counter recent news coverage that the administration fails to provide professional, humane care at a Clint, Texas, detention compound. “We're going to take the cameras into one of the busiest detention centers on the southern border and the American people are going to be able to see for themselves every single day, our Customs and Border Protection provide compassionate and generous care to people that are crossing our border.  And we're going to continue to see to it that that’s the case,” he said on Thursday. The vice president invited members of the Senate Judiciary Committee to accompany him, but Democratic members of the panel said they will not attend (The Hill).

U.S. Treasurer Jovita Carranza speaks at noon in Milwaukee, Wis., at the LULAC National Convention and Exposition.



School choice: Billionaire industrialist Charles Koch is turning the power of his network to an initiative called “Yes Every Kid,” focused on school choice and other education issues at the state level (The Associated Press). 

Drug pricing: Trump's drug pricing plan encountered two setbacks this week, putting pressure on Congress to deliver bipartisan legislation to step in where the administration was unable to lower prescription drug costs for consumers (The Hill). Some analysts believe legislation signed by the president ultimately would be a better outcome (The Associated Press).

Bad weather: Tropical Storm Barry, the second named storm of the hurricane season, formed over the Gulf of Mexico and is beginning to lash the Louisiana coast this morning and could be a hurricane by Saturday (Accuweather). New Orleans is worried most about heavy rain and expected “feet of flooding” (The Associated Press). Trump signed a disaster declaration for Louisiana in advance of the storm.




And finally …   Bravo to Morning Report Quiz Winners! 

The Lion King” — the 1994 film, the Broadway show and a film remake hitting theaters this month — inspired our quiz and turned up these winners this week: Candi Cee, Sara Hall Phillips, Patrick Kavanagh, Rich Gruber, Zev Lewis, Neysa Slater-Chandler, Carol Katz, John Donato, Allyson Foster, Luther Berg and William Chittam. 

They knew that James Earl Jones provided the commanding voice of Mufasa in the original movie — and does so again in a new film version in theaters next week. 

Timon, a personality-plus meerkat, sang part of the song “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” in the 1994 movie.

TV host and actress Whoopi GoldbergWhoopi GoldbergMeghan McCain blasts NY Times: 'Everyone already knows how much you despise' conservative women Whoopi Goldberg on fight with Meghan McCain: 'Sometimes it goes off the rails' Meghan McCain after confrontation with Whoopi Goldberg: 'I won't be quiet' MORE voiced a female hyena, Shenzi, in the original “Lion King.” 

Broadway (and Disney) boast a durable and international hit (22 years!) with the musical “The Lion King,” which debuted on stage in New York in 1997.