Watch CBSN Live

Trump considering executive action and other legal actions over citizenship question

DOJ reverses course on census question

President Trump is considering executive action and exploring other legal options to place the controversial citizenship question on the 2020 census, according to senior administration officials. 

One senior administration official confirmed the White House is looking into different legal avenues aside from a potential executive order. Another senior administration source cautioned that, while such avenues are "plausible," any plans are, as of yet, nebulous. Axios first reported the president is considering an executive order to pursue the question after the Supreme Court determined the Commerce Department cannot add the question the way it intended. 

"The Supreme Court ruled that it is legal to have a citizenship question in the census if there's an appropriate explanation – and it should come as no surprise President Trump is looking at every option within his legal authority to add such a question," White House principal deputy press secretary Hogan Gidley said. 

Mr. Trump tweeted Wednesday morning that the Commerce Department and Justice Department are still looking for ways to add the question, even after Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and the Justice Department confirmed the 2020 questionnaire is being printed without the question. A Justice Department lawyer, on a conference call with lawyers in a case being litigated over the question, confessed he didn't know what the president's tweet meant. The lawyer, Joshua Gardner, added that the department is looking at ways to possibly reevaluate the situation

"The News Reports about the Department of Commerce dropping its quest to put the Citizenship Question on the Census is incorrect or, to state it differently, FAKE!" Mr. Trump tweeted Wednesday. "We are absolutely moving forward, as we must, because of the importance of the answer to this question."

The president's tweet caused confusion within the White House and among officials at the Commerce Department, which oversees the Census Bureau, according to White House and administration sources. 

This tweet was news to many across the Trump administration, who were were acting on Ross' Tuesday evening statement that the census would move forward without the question.

The unexpected Trump tweet left White House aides scrambling to communicate with the Commerce Department and the Justice Department for alternate options including an executive order to keep the fight going for the citizenship question. The July 4th holiday has not helped the confusion, with the overwhelming majority of administration officials off work for Independence Day.

Mr. Trump has previously threatened to delay the census in order to add the question, although the legality of doing so is up for debate.

View CBS News In