Donald Trump said on Friday he may try to add a citizenship question to the 2020 census by executive order in an attempt to surmount the legal obstacles facing the administration.
The Supreme Court rejected the government’s efforts to add the question last week, but said it could try again if it came up with a more convincing explanation for why it wants the addition to the census.
The president’s comments came at the end of a chaotic week where the administration said it was abandoning its efforts to ask about citizenship on next year’s count, before abruptly reversing course after Mr Trump tweeted he was not giving up.
Justice department lawyers told two federal judges this week the process of printing census questionnaires had begun without the question, even as they searched for a “new rationale” could satisfy the Supreme Court.
“We could start the printing now and maybe do an addendum after we get a positive decision. So we’re working on a lot of things including an executive order,” Mr Trump told reporters on Friday.
In a Friday afternoon court filing, the justice department said it was still examining its legal options. The disclosure in federal court in Maryland cleared the way for further litigation about evidence that the addition of the question was intended to benefit Republicans and non-Hispanic whites.
The judge overseeing that challenge to the administration had asked the justice department to confirm it was abandoning the fight or he would allow the case to go forward.