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 SessionsMueller's investigation ends, but divisive political circus will continue Mueller delivers report to Justice, ending investigation Trump says 'people will not stand' for Mueller report MORE said a federal judge's order that Commerce Secretary Wilbur RossWilbur Louis RossThe Hill's 12:30 Report: O'Rourke jumps into 2020 fray 'Marie Antoinette' activist attends House hearing to protest Trump Commerce chief The Hill's Morning Report - Trump, Senate GOP clash over Yemen, border security 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 John TrumpMueller report findings could be a 'good day' for Trump, Dem senator says Trump officials heading to China for trade talks next week Showdown looms over Mueller report MORE’s chief White House strategist, and Sessions about adding the citizenship question to the 2020 census.

Ross, however, told Rep. Grace MengGrace MengMuslim man denied green card after being detained, allegedly served pork: report Feminine hygiene products to be available to House lawmakers using congressional funds First DACA recipient to become Rhodes scholar to attend State of the Union 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.