Last week was a complete disaster for President Donald Trump’s administration and the Department of Justice when it came to defending their case to keep the citizenship question in the census. It’s no surprise that the DOJ is now swapping out the lawyers the New York Times reported Sunday.
Former Jeff Sessions chief of staff Jody Hunt, who now serves as Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Division, was forced to be on a call with U.S. District Judge George Hazel. DOJ lawyer Josh Gardner lamented that never in his 16 years at the department has he ever gone into court not knowing what exactly he was defending.
The DOJ was forced to twist themselves in knots trying to claim that they had to move quickly on the census because it needed to be printed. That claim was quickly dashed by the president’s twitchy Twitter fingers. He claimed in a tweet that he was thinking about still asking the question and working on some options.
The decision to keep the question part of the census was news to the DOJ attorney, who hadn’t read Trump’s Twitter feed before getting on the phone with the judge.
As of Sunday, however, Gardner is out, according to the New York Times.
“The announcement came days after plaintiffs in the case filed a motion in United States District Court that effectively accused the department and the administration of lying about the urgency of resolving the census dispute in time to meet a July 1 deadline to begin printing census forms. Although that deadline has long passed, the department has continued to argue in court that it is seeking new ways to add the question to the next census,” The Times reported.
According to former DOJ appointee under President Barack Obama, the existing lawyer refused to be a part of the case, something he called “terrible and rare.”
Per this thread the team exiting the case includes a top POLITICAL APPOINTEE, Deputy Assistant Attorney General James Burnham. 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. https://t.co/KryfgxKIql
— Eric Columbus (@EricColumbus) July 8, 2019