Trump can't add the citizenship question — even if he does what John Roberts ordered him to do: Constitutional expert
President Donald Trump (Photo: Screen capture)

On the face of it, the Supreme Court decision ruling against President Donald Trump's push to change the 2020 Census to interrogate people about citizenship would seem to give the president a path to including it after all. A majority of justices, led by Chief Justice John Roberts, found the administration's reasoning "contrived," but remanded it to lower courts and hinted they could reconsider the question if a better reason was provided.

But as Supreme Court reporter Ariane de Vogue explained on CNN Thursday, the administration has very little hope of securing the question even if they do as Roberts ordered.

"Just very simply, can the White House, can the Trump administration say, 'Forget all that stuff we've said before when we were arguing the case prior. That was our justification for including this question then. Forget that stuff. This is our justification now,'" said anchor Jim Sciutto. "Can the courts just sort of have amnesia on that and say, 'Okay, we're going to consider your new justification for this?'"

"Well, if the administration scratches all that or comes out with a new memo it can say, 'Look, you wanted a justification, here's our justification,'" said de Vogue. "But the deeper problem here is that things happen slowly in the court system, right? And usually you would start with the district court, the appellate court, the Supreme Court. And lower courts have not looked kindly upon the president in this so far."

"The Supreme Court blocked the question for now, said if you come back and give better justification then maybe we can look at it again. They basically remanded it," said de Vogue. "But, Jim, what's key is the timing, because even Census Bureau officials testified at trial that, 'Look, the drop-dead deadline would be in October.' And if you wait that long, first of all you jeopardize the actual administration of the census. There's a lot of different costs involved."

"And totally separate than what is before the Supreme Court are these lower court hearings on issues that weren't before the Supreme Court," added de Vogue, "and so a separate court like the judge in Maryland could very well issue an injunction and block it all again. So that's the key here."

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