ACLU pushes forward with request to sanction Trump officials in citizenship question case

ACLU pushes forward with request to sanction Trump officials in citizenship question case
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Groups opposed to adding a citizenship question to the 2020 census asked a federal judge on Tuesday to sanction Trump administration officials tied to the census push, alleging that officials engaged in a "concerted campaign of delay and obfuscation."

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the New York Civil Liberties Union and lawyers from the firm Arnold & Porter claimed in a filing that several Commerce Department officials “knowingly, and repeatedly, engaged in litigation conduct that is nothing less than a fraud on the Court.”

And they said that senior Department of Justice (DOJ) officials may have played a role in “abetting misconduct.”


“Through the use of false or misleading testimony, they obscured evidence suggesting that the true purpose of [Commerce] Secretary [Wilbur] Ross’s decision to add a citizenship question to the 2020 Census — suppressing the political power of minority immigrant communities,” the motion states.

The filing calls on U.S. District Judge Jesse Furman, an Obama appointee, to take action against the officials cited in the filing, including census adviser Mark Neuman and DOJ official John Gore, saying it could set an important precedent for future cases.

“Those ethical considerations are heightened in this case, where the misconduct appears to have been perpetrated by senior Commerce and DOJ officials — not the career DOJ line attorneys who litigated this case on behalf of Defendants,” the filing states. “It is of the utmost importance that such senior government officials be held to the highest ethical standards.”

The Hill has reached out to the Justice and Commerce departments for comment, as well as an attorney for Neuman.

The ACLU first asked Furman to impose sanctions on the Trump officials earlier this year, after evidence was uncovered in a separate lawsuit alleging the previously unknown involvement of GOP redistricting strategist Thomas Hofeller in getting the citizenship question on the 2020 census.

That evidence — including a 2015 unpublished study conducted by Hofeller that found asking about citizenship would help Republicans and hurt Democrats and Hispanics in redistricting efforts — was again raised in Tuesday’s filing.

The motion argues that Hofeller’s apparent ties to the citizenship question “should have been disclosed in the course of litigation before this Court.”

“They detail multiple instances in which Defendants, their witnesses, and representatives provided materially false or misleading testimony to Plaintiffs or statements to the Court,” the document reads. “They also lay bare other instances where Defendants attempted to obstruct or delay Plaintiffs’ discovery on the genesis and purpose of the citizenship question.”

The Trump administration first announced last year that it would add a citizenship question to the 2020 census, a move almost immediately challenged in court. Opponents argued that it would cause an undercount of the population, particularly for immigrant and Hispanic communities, and lead to underfunding for those groups.

Several lawsuits, including the one in New York that involved the ACLU, successfully fought the question's addition. The Supreme Court also ruled 5-4 against the question last month, finding that the reasoning for adding it to the survey — that it could help the administration enforce the Voting Rights Act — was "contrived."

President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump rages against '60 Minutes' for interview with Krebs Cornyn spox: Neera Tanden has 'no chance' of being confirmed as Biden's OMB pick Pa. lawmaker was informed of positive coronavirus test while meeting with Trump: report MORE initially appeared determined to include the question on the census despite the Supreme Court's order but last week stepped away from the effort and instead issued an executive order on collecting data on citizenship through existing administrative records.