In a Twitter thread Sunday evening, Eric Columbus, former Justice Department appointee under President Obama sounded the alarm on the announcement Trump’s own lawyers were done.
The announcement came that the DOJ was making a change, but the reality is that Trump’s own politically appointed lawyers weren’t going to try and push the census question after the Supreme Court made a ruling.
BuzzFeed Justice reporter Zoe Tillman revealed, “the move away from the Federal Programs Branch means it’ll no longer be overseen by the head of that branch, James Burnham.” The senior DOJ official refused to say who would be taking over the role. The fact that one of Trump’s own lawyers wanted out, however, was what Columbus found shocking.
“Per this thread [Tillman] the team exiting the case includes a top POLITICAL APPOINTEE, Deputy Assistant Attorney General James Burnham,” Columbus tweeted. “It’s one thing — terrible and rare! — for a career lawyer to refuse to participate; it’s far worse when even someone on POTUS’s team won’t play along.”
“James Burnham was in the White House Counsel’s Office from January 2017 to April 2019,” he continued on Twitter.
“If *he* won’t advance Trump’s new arguments, something is rotten. Why are Burnham and others refusing to [continue] on the case? Probably two reasons. First, they’re being asked to make wholly implausible arguments. This is extraordinary rare but it’s happened before in this administration, in the Obamacare case currently before the Fifth Circuit. The second, even bigger reason these DOJ lawyers are quitting the case is to avoid having to contradict prior representations to the courts that the Census had to be finalized by 6/30. That type of thing can lead to sanctions and discipline,” he closed.