President Donald Trump said Friday that he is weighing an executive order to ensure the inclusion of a citizenship question on the U.S. Census in 2020.
"We're thinking about doing that. We have four or five ways we can do it. It's one of the ways we're thinking about doing it very seriously," Trump said when asked about using an executive order to add the question.
"We can start the printing (of the Census forms) now and maybe do an addendum after we get a positive decision, so we're working on a lot of things, including an executive order," he told reporters before departing 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. for his golf club in Bedminster, N.J. He added that administration officials were “doing very well" on the issue.
Trump's Friday comments followed reports that he was considering whether or not to issue an executive order to add the controversial question to the next Census after the Supreme Court last week blocked the question from appearing on the Census — for the time being — in a 5-4 ruling.
Chief Justice John Roberts joined with the his liberal peers in delivering the court opinion. He said the government has the right to ask a citizenship question, but it needs to provide an appropriate explanation for adding such a question. The Supreme Court said the administration could offer another plausible rationale for adding the question.
Critics of including the citizenship question argued it was designed as part of a Republican ploy to scare immigrants from participating in the survey and to engineer a population undercount in Democratic-leaning communities with large immigrant populations.
Justice Department lawyers scrambled to meet a Friday afternoon court deadline to detail a path forward to add the question on the Census — a reversal that was prompted by a tweet from the president earlier this week urging officials to move forward despite the Supreme Court's ruling and public statements from the Justice and Commerce Departments indicating the question would not be included.
"The News Reports about the Department of Commerce dropping its quest to put the Citizenship Question on the Census is incorrect or, to state it differently, FAKE!" Trump tweeted Wednesday. "We are absolutely moving forward, as we must, because of the importance of the answer to this question."
U.S. District Court Judge George Hazel of Maryland, who is overseeing a lawsuit over the citizenship question, set a 2 p.m. ET deadline Friday for the administration to explain how it intends to add the question. Hazel is reviewing whether there is discriminatory intent behind the administration's efforts to add the citizenship question to the Census — a different legal question than the one addressed by the Supreme Court.
Trump said Friday that Roberts, who called the administration's legal rationale "contrived" in the majority opinion, had essentially invited the White House to return to the court to come up with a new legal pathway to include the question.
"I have a lot of respect for Justice Roberts, but he didn't like it, but he did say 'Come back,' essentially he said, 'Come back,'" Trump said.