From the moment it was first reported, I suspected the Trump administration’s push to add a citizenship question to the Census was about boosting the GOP’s electoral advantage.
However, I did not expect I’d see a smoking gun that was the administration’s true motive. And I definitely didn’t believe I’d see one with as much smoke as what was revealed on Thursday morning by the the groups who sued the administration over adding the question.
With recently obtained evidence, the challengers were able to draw a line between a secret 2015 study, which found that excluding noncitizens from redistricting would increase Republicans’ political power, to the formal request put forward by the administration explaining its ostensible reason for adding the question: Voting Rights Act enforcement. The use of the VRA enforcement rationale to obscure the administration’s actual reason for adding the question is the key issue in the case.
That evidence made its way into the challengers’ hands in an incredible turn of luck: the daughter of the author of that study — a GOP gerrymander guru who died last year — found his hard drive while going through his belongings after his death. She shared it with a voting rights group, who subpoenaed his files for a separate North Carolina voting rights case. Those challengers in turn shared documents relevant to the Census case with the plaintiffs who brought that lawsuit.
As unbelievable as the Census challengers’ fortunes were in getting the evidence, so too is how the administration was able to cover up its true motives in the litigation.
The discovery in the case showed that the Trump administration was ridiculously sloppy and ham-handed in how it sought to get the question added. There were emails and other internal documents that made it obvious that the administration was lying when it claimed VRA enforcement was its real reason to add the question. Those documents, and other evidence of the administration’s deception, prompted the judge in the case to okay the deposition of Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross.
The Supreme Court, at the Justice Department’s request, intervened and blocked Ross’ deposition.
That move allowed the Justice Department, when arguing the case on the merits in front of the justices, to shamelessly assert that the challengers had failed to prove that Ross didn’t believe this question was being requested for VRA enforcement reasons.
It's just perfect that SG–having gotten Supreme Court to block plaintiffs in Census case from deposing Secy Ross as to his intent, as purportedly not relevant–relies heavily on the lack of evidence as to Secretary Ross's intent. Circle squared, with SCOTUS as the accomplice. pic.twitter.com/Yo866f3tlW
— Sasha Samberg-Champion (@ssamcham) April 23, 2019
The Supreme Court did allow for John Gore, a top DOJ official also involved in getting the question added, to be deposed — despite the Justice Department request to block it. He is now accused of lying in his deposition. No wonder the administration didn’t want him testifying.