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Democrats claim victory as Trump retreats on census citizenship question

NBC News logo NBC News 5 days ago Rebecca Shabad and Alex Moe
Jeff Merkley standing in front of a crowd: “The president’s retreat on adding the misguided citizen question to the census was long overdue and is a significant victory for democracy and fair representation," Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said on Thursday. © Jacquelyn Martin “The president’s retreat on adding the misguided citizen question to the census was long overdue and is a significant victory for democracy and fair representation," Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said on Thursday.

WASHINGTON — Democrats ran victory laps and breathed sighs of relief Thursday as President Donald Trump announced that he was backing down on his demands to include a citizenship question on the 2020 census after the Supreme Court blocked the administration’s plan to add it.

“The president’s retreat on adding the misguided citizen question to the census was long overdue and is a significant victory for democracy and fair representation," Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said in a statement. "Every person must be counted and no one should be intimidated by the president and his capricious behavior.”

Schumer said that Trump is still “so intent on intimidating communities of color that even when the courts and rule of law thwart him, he still tries to persist in his ham-handed ways.”

Trump announced in remarks Thursday evening in the White House Rose Garden, alongside Attorney General William Barr and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, that he was giving up on a push to add a citizenship question to the 2020 census, and was instead issuing an executive order directing departments and agencies to better share data related to the number of citizens and non-citizens in the country.

The order will eliminate "longstanding obstacles" to data sharing, the president said, and allow the administration to combine that data with information from the 2020 census questionnaire to create a more accurate count than in the past.

Last month, the Supreme Court ruled that the administration had not provided a sufficient reason for adding the question.

ACLU Voting Rights Project director Dale Ho, who argued the Supreme Court case, said in a statement Thursday that Trump had just acknowledged defeat. “He lost in the Supreme Court, which saw through his lie about needing the question for the Voting Rights Act. It is clear he simply wanted to sow fear in immigrant communities and turbocharge Republican gerrymandering efforts by diluting the political influence of Latino communities.”

House speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., asked if she was happy to hear the news of the president's retreat, said she was "not happy — jubilant."

"Because, you know what, if he had tried to defy the Supreme Court, that would have been a constitutional crisis," she said. "For the basis of the census and the citizenship question, I am glad it’s gone. For the basis of the country, I am glad that he was advised to see the light."

Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., celebrated the news Thursday on Twitter.

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Rep. Elijah Cummings, chairman of the Committee on Government Oversight and Reform, said in a statement that Trump had “just admitted what his Administration has been denying for two years—that he wants citizenship data in order to gerrymander legislative districts in partisan and discriminatory ways. This never had anything to do with helping to enforce the Voting Rights Act. That was a sham, and now the entire country can see that."

Cummings added that if the administration did not turn over documents related to the census citizenship question that his committee had subpoenaed, the House would vote to hold Barr and Ross in criminal contempt.

Other Democrats, meanwhile, expressed concern Thursday about the administration’s plan to conduct mass immigration raids on Sunday.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement plan to target about 2,000 families in major cities across the United States — the same 10 cities that were revealed under previous plans, Department of Homeland Security officials said Thursday, though a source told NBC News that two of those cities may change. The previously named cities were: Atlanta, Baltimore, Chicago, Denver, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, New Orleans, New York and San Francisco.

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