On Thursday, former federal prosecutor Joyce Vance told MSNBC's David Gura that President Donald Trump's abrupt order for the Justice Department to reverse its legal position on the census citizenship question in federal court is a huge blow to the agency's credibility — and could lead to career lawyers resigning from the government.
"Let me put some version of that question to you," said Gura. "You and I have talked in the past about what it's like, or must be like, to work for this president, to work in this administration. Your reaction to this, what you read in that transcript. The about-face we saw, the Secretary of Commerce coming out with an official statement saying this question was not going to be included on the 2020 Census, and then having this about-face only a matter of hours later."
"Really just an incredible denigration of DOJ's reputation for integrity," said Vance. "One of the things DOJ lawyers routinely do is they speak with their client agencies and they develop positions that they can take in court. And courts know when a DOJ lawyer walks in and says a certain agency says X is the truth, that the court can rely on that. Now judges can't do that. Now the DOJ is in the position of taking a position that isn't true. Apparently the census operation has some wiggle room on deadlines. And it seems like DOJ has sacrificed its credibility on the altar of this president's whims."
"It's a bad place for the Justice Department to be," said Vance. "I would expect we'll see a lot of people resigning. The only question is whether that will be career people or whether some of the political people might also grow a little bit of gumption here."