Sessions attacks judge who ordered officials to sit for depositions in challenges to Census citizenship question

Sessions attacks judge who ordered officials to sit for depositions in challenges to Census citizenship question
© Anna Moneymaker

Attorney General Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsOvernight Hillicon Valley — Apple issues security update against spyware vulnerability Stanford professors ask DOJ to stop looking for Chinese spies at universities in US Overnight Energy & Environment — Democrats detail clean electricity program MORE said a federal judge's order that Commerce Secretary Wilbur RossWilbur Louis RossHouse panel, Commerce Department reach agreement on census documents China sanctions Wilbur Ross, others after US warns of doing business in Hong Kong DOJ won't prosecute Wilbur Ross after watchdog found he gave false testimony MORE and another top Justice Department official sit for depositions in lawsuits challenging the Trump administration’s decision to add a citizenship question to the 2020 census was outrageous.

In prepared remarks before the Heritage Foundation on Tuesday, Sessions attacked what he called “activist judges” who “view themselves as something akin to roving inspectors general for the entire executive branch.” 

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Though he did not specifically name him, he called out Judge Jesse Furman on the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, who ordered the depositions to get a better understanding of how the decision to add the citizenship question was made and who was involved.

Sessions said the citizenship question is either legal or illegal.

“The words on the page don’t have a motive; they are either permitted or they are not. But the judge has decided to hold a trial over the inner workings of a Cabinet secretary’s mind,” he said.

“This is not the first time we’ve had to seek emergency appellate intervention to stop outrageous discovery.”

Furman’s ruling was upheld by the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals last week, but Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg agreed to put it on hold while the Supreme Court considers whether the depositions can go forward. 

Furman’s decision came in two lawsuits challenging the question that have been consolidated. One of the cases was brought by New York and 16 other blue-leaning states, while the other challenge came from a coalition on immigrant groups.

The challengers argue asking about citizenship will scare people in immigrant communities away from responding to the census and lead to an inaccurate count.

Resident figures from the census are used to determine the number of seats in the House each state receives, which in part determines the number of electoral votes states have in a presidential election.

In a court filing last week the Justice Department revealed that Ross talked with Stephen Bannon, then President TrumpDonald TrumpCapitol fencing starts coming down after 'Justice for J6' rally Netanyahu suggests Biden fell asleep in meeting with Israeli PM Aides try to keep Biden away from unscripted events or long interviews, book claims MORE’s chief White House strategist, and Sessions about adding the citizenship question to the 2020 census.

Ross, however, told Rep. Grace MengGrace MengAfghanistan evacuation flights resume after pause House Democrats include immigration priorities as they forward DHS funding bill Here's what Congress is reading at the beach this summer MORE (D-N.Y.) on the House Appropriations Committee in a March 20 hearing that he was not aware of any discussions with White House officials about adding the question to the census.