Court denies DOJ's lawyer swap in citizenship question case

Attorney General William Barr speaks to reporters after a tour of a federal prison in Edgefield

The administration will try to get the question - blocked last month by the Supreme Court - re-added to the census after President Trump tweeted last week that the Department's previous representations that it was backing down in the fight were "fake".

"It's fascinating to me we're at a weird place in American where President Donald Trump is being asked why he wants this question included in te census and Democrat aren't being asked why they don't [want it included]", White House Deputy Press Secretary Hogan Gidley said during an interview with Fox News this week.

Judge Jesse Furman ruled Tuesday, saying lawyers must cite satisfactory reasons for withdrawing.

"The Justice Department owes the public and the courts an explanation for its unprecedented substitution of the entire legal team that has been working on this case".

The justice department had announced the changes in a three-paragraph notification that argued the replacements wouldn't "cause any disruption in this matter".

Furman also said in a footnote in the ruling that this is not the first time that Justice Department lawyers have made moves to leave the case - last year, he said, attorneys from the US Attorney's office in Manhattan withdrew from the case.

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The judge, however, did allow two lawyers who already left the Justice Department to be removed from the department's team, but rejected the claims for other attorneys. He said he'll require new attorneys to promise personnel changes will not slow the case.

The administration says the question would help enforce the Voting Rights Act by protecting minorities' right to vote. It also hinted at the possibility that administration officials feared the lawyers would no longer be viewed as credible by judges presiding over the case.

Furman's order is a procedural denial. Some saw the decision to replace the attorneys as a sign that the Trump administration was treading on shaky legal ground and did not want to make further representations to the court. That doesn't work for Barr and Trump so they're looking to replace the team quick with some hatchet men and women willing to just make stuff up in a desperate bid to keep the census ball in the air.

However, those efforts now contradict what was told to the Supreme Court previously, because the Justice Department had said the ruling was needed quickly to ensure the timely printing of the census.

The Department of Justice said on July 7 that it was shifting legal teams. "We won't rest until we know the truth".

Critics of including the citizenship question argued it was designed as part of a Republican ploy to scare immigrants from participating in the survey and to engineer a population undercount in Democratic-leaning communities with large immigrant populations.

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