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In One Way, Census Chaos Worked Out for Trump

Newser — John Johnson

President Trump surprised backers and critics alike on Thursday when he announced that he would not push for a citizenship question on the 2020 census after all.

Here's a quick look at how the move is being received:

  • Stunned: Axios reports that leaders in the conservative legal community (the Federalist Society, for example) are "stunned and depressed" by the move.

Two anonymous quotes in the post: "What was the dance ... all about if this was going to be the end result?" And, perhaps more troubling for the White House: "It’s certainly going to give people pause the next time one has to decide how far to stick one’s neck out."

  • A victory anyway? At Hot Air, Allahpundit runs through some theories on the about-face and notes that Trump already has "sort of" won on the issue.

"If the idea is to exclude illegal immigrants from the count, it's a cinch that some immigrants will be so nervous about answering the census after all the media attention to this matter that they'll end up throwing it in the trash when they get it." Blue districts will be hurt as a result, and Trump may have figured that was "enough of a victory."

  • Square one: A story in the Wall Street Journal notes that, "ironically," the new plan outlined by Trump is essentially the same one that census officials laid out to Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross last year.

Back then, they told Ross they could use other government records (such as Social Security applications) to obtain citizenship data for the White House. The story notes that census officials cannot legally share any information with immigration authorities.

  • In defense: Trump insisted he's "not backing down" on the issue because he's ordered government agencies to obtain citizenship data in other ways.

Attorney General William Barr, meanwhile, says the move was necessary because the administration simply ran out of time, per the New York Times. "The impediment was a logistical impediment, not a legal one," says Barr.

"We simply cannot complete the litigation in time to carry out the census."

  • A theme? Aaron Blake of the Washington Post writes that this is another example of an abrupt about-face by Trump on a major issue.

He cites the June decision to call off a strike on Iran at the last minute as another. Each of the decisions can be justified on their own.

"The totality of all of these things, though, suggests a president who is perfectly willing to set the government in motion on something that he either doesn’t intend to follow through on or can’t make up his mind about," writes Blake.

"It doesn’t really matter the scale or how many government servants might ultimately waste time preparing for something big; everything is subject to change."

  • Democrats: 2020 candidates are weighing in.

"Wow, he's going to follow the law?" quipped Elizabeth Warren, per the Hill. On CNN, Pete Buttigieg said: "It sounds like a face-saving way to recognize that he's been on the wrong side of the law throughout."

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This article originally appeared on Newser: In One Way, Census Chaos Worked Out for Trump