What to Know in Washington: Trump Scraps Citizenship Query Fight

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The Trump administration abandoned its hard-fought plan to add a citizenship question to the 2020 census after the U.S. Supreme Court challenged its purpose, a win for immigrant-rights groups and Democrats who claimed the query was designed to dilute their power.

The move is a sharp reversal for President Donald Trump, who said last week that he’d explore ways to delay the census after the Supreme Court put the plan on hold. In a 5-4 ruling, the court said Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross’s stated rationale for including the question was “contrived” and couldn’t be squared with the evidence about his true motivations.

“I respect the Supreme Court but strongly disagree with its ruling regarding my decision to reinstate a citizenship question on the 2020 Census,” Ross said in a statement Tuesday. “The Census Bureau has started the process of printing the decennial questionnaires without the question.”

“Today’s news is a victory for New York State, for America, and for every single person in this nation,” New York Attorney General Letitia James, who led a coalition of states in suing over the question, said in a statement.

Opponents claimed that the citizenship question sought to reduce immigrants’ participation in the survey and that administration officials hid their true aim of boosting Republican and white voters. Ross said the goal was to help the Justice Department enforce the Voting Rights Act, which protects minority voters.

In its ruling last week, the high court said the administration needed to put forward a rationale for the question that could pass legal muster. Read more from Erik Larson and Greg Stohr.

Trump_Wilbur_ross
Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images
WASHINGTON, DC – JUNE 12: U.S. President Donald Trump listens to Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross speak during a luncheon with the President of Poland, Andrzej Duda at the White House on June 12, 2019 in Washington, DC

Trump, Administration Probes

No Showers, Overcrowding at Border Facilities: The Homeland Security Department’s Office of Inspector General yesterday released a report outlining overcrowded and dangerous conditions at border facilities in the Rio Grande Valley, Texas, that officials observed the week of June 10, Michaela Ross reports.

Children at three of the five facilities visited had no access to showers, no laundry facilities and limited access to a change of clothes, the report said. It also said hot meals had not been served to children at two facilities, as required by the agency. One facility manager said overcrowding was “a ticking time bomb” for potential escape, agitated detainees, the report said. Acting DHS Secretary Kevin McAleenan disputed similar reports of facility conditions as “unsubstantiated” in a June 28 press conference. The watchdog in May released a similar report describing conditions of facilities in the El Paso region.

  • House Oversight Chairman Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) announced that his panel has invited McAleenan and acting U.S. Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Mark Morgan to testify on July 12 regarding the “troubling new revelations” about the administration’s “family separation policy and harsh conditions at detention centers on the border.”

Democrats Sue Treasury, IRS: House Democrats asked a U.S. court to force the Treasury Department to turn over six years of Trump’s personal and business tax returns. The long-expected lawsuit filed in a Washington federal court yesterday is Congress’s latest attempt to assert oversight over the executive branch, as the Trump administration has either rejected or ignored various subpoenas since Democrats took the majority in the House.

“In refusing to comply with the statute, defendants have mounted an extraordinary attack on the authority of Congress to obtain information needed to conduct oversight of Treasury, the IRS, and the tax laws on behalf of the American people who participate in the nation’s voluntary tax system,” the complaint said. The White House called the suit a “danger to democracy.” Read more from Joe Light, Andrew Harris and Laura Davison.

  • But the House Ways and Means Committee’s suit, in its quest for Trump’s tax returns, sets in motion a legal battle that may not be resolved before the 2020 election. Courts will be asked to decide not just whether the panel’s request for six years of returns is legitimate, but also whether Congress can sue the executive branch. How quickly it all happens will likely depend on the judge assigned to the case, tax practitioners and professors say. The issue could eventually reach the U.S. Supreme Court. Aysha Bagchi and Allyson Versprille explain.

Trump Appeal of Bank Subpoena Set: The federal appeals court in New York set Aug. 23 as the date for arguments in Trump’s challenge to a House subpoena seeking records from Deutsche Bank and Capital One, new court records show. Trump is seeking to reverse a lower-court ruling that denied his request to block subpoenas issued by two House panels to the banks. The president claims the subpoenas seek “an enormous volume of documents, reaching back decades,” requiring information about transactions by Trump and his employees and chil dren. Read more from Bob Van Voris.

Cummings Warns of Hurricane Subpoenas: Cummings also said he may issue subpoenas if the Trump administration continues to ignore its demands for documents related to the handling of the 2017 hurricanes in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Cummings said in a letter to Acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney that it’s “unacceptable for the White House to completely ignore valid requests from the committee, particularly when they are based on strong, clear and bipartisan precedents, and especially when they relate to the deaths of thousands of American citizens.” Read more from Billy House and Caitlin Webber.

Also on Lawmakers’ Radars

New Call to Halt Facebook Crypto Plan: Facebook’s plan for its own digital currency is drawing yet another round of fire in Washington, this time in the form of a letter from more than 30 groups influential with Democrats demanding a halt to the project to deal with the “profound questions” it raises. In a letter to leaders of five congressional committees, organizations such as the Service Employees International Union, the Consumer Federation of America and Public Citizen argued regulators aren’t prepared to address issues surrou nding the Libra project and that the social-networking giant needs to present a fuller picture of its plans.

“All of us believe the risks posed by Facebook’s proposal are too great to allow the plan to proceed with so many unanswered questions,” the groups said yesterday. Their demand echoes House Financial Services Chairwoman Maxine Waters’ (D-Calif.) earlier call for lawmakers to impose a moratorium and may set the tone for this month’s congressional hearings on the issue. Read more from Jesse Westbrook.

Child-Food Programs Inch Toward Redo: Senate Republicans are close to finishing a child nutrition program reauthorization bill, the chairman of a key committee said. “We have language we’re sharing that with our counterparts” on the Democratic side, Pat Roberts (R-Kan.), chairman of the Senate Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry Committee, said in an interview. The bill is “pretty well complete,” he said.

Child nutrition programs, which include the federal school lunch program and the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children, better known as WIC, haven’t been reauthorized in almost 10 years. The House Education and Labor Committee and Senate Agriculture Committee have jurisdiction over the policy decisions, while funding has been continued through annual appropriations. Read more from Teaganne Finn.

Trump Will Keep Ethanol Vow, Grassley Says: Trump should curb federal government waivers allowing oil refineries to bypass biofuel-blending mandates, despite pressure from some Republicans in the Senate to continue broadly exempting facilities, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) said. Trump has promised he will uphold the integrity of the Renewable Fuel Standard, “and I am confident he will continue to keep his promises,” Grassley told reporters on a conference call yesterday. Read more from Jennifer A. Dlouhy.

McDonald’s Violence Raises Ire of Democrats: Five Democratic senators are asking McDonald’s and the federal government to take action to prevent workplace violence at the fast-food chain’s restaurants. “Without decisive, comprehensive action by the Department of Labor, these workers will continue to face threats and violent attacks from consumers without the proper resources or protocols in place to protect them,” the letter to Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta says. Read more from Bruce Rolfsen.

Elections & Politics

Trump, GOP Report $105 Million Haul: Trump’s re-election campaign and the Republican National Committee raised $105 million during the second quarter of the year and had $100 million cash on hand, Trump’s campaign manager said yesterday, an ominous sign for Democrats in a crowded field of contenders vying to challenge the president in the general election. “Record breaking!” Trump campaign manager Brad Parscale said in an early morning message on Twitter. Read more from Margaret Talev.

  • Meanwhile, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) raised $18 million for his presidential bid in the second quarter, his campaign said. Those figures mean he’s slipped from his perch as the biggest fundraiser among the Democratic presidential contenders. Sanders got money from 1 million contributors, with an average pledge of $18 and almost all contributors giving $100 or less, campaign manager Faiz Shakir told reporters. Read more from Laura Litvan and Bill Allison.

Warren Asks Gottlieb to Leave Pfizer Board: Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), a leading candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination, called on former Trump administration Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Scott Gottlieb to quit the board of drug giant Pfizer. Gottlieb left his post at the FDA on April 5 and less than three months later joined Pfizer’s board or directors. Pfizer is one of the world’s biggest drugmakers, and last year was criticized sharply by Trump for price increases on many of its drugs.

“Revolving door influence-peddling smacks of corruption, and makes the American people rightly cynical and distrustful about whether high-level Trump administration officials are working for them, or for their future corporate employers,” Warren said. Read more from Anna Edney.

Warren Wins Respect on Wall Street: There’s a new whisper on Wall Street — maybe Elizabeth Warren isn’t so bad. The Democratic senator, who rose to national prominence by calling for tough regulation after the financial crisis, is winning respect from a small but growing circle of senior bankers and hedge fund managers. As the presidential candidate from Massachusetts takes aim at the “rich and powerful” with a slew of tax-raising policy proposals, some financial types who fit that description say she’s proven capable and makes some good points. Read more from Lananh Nguyen and Tyler Pager.

Hickenlooper Was Urged to Quit: Democratic presidential candidate John Hickenlooper was urged by staff last month to quit the 2020 race, as his campaign has only 13,000 donors and will likely run out of cash in about a month, Politico reports. Fundraising topped $1 million in the second quarter, compared with $24.8 million for Pete Buttigieg and the $18 million figure for Sanders. At least five aides have left or are leaving Hickenlooper’s campaign.

Trade War Aid Paying Off for Trump: Trump’s $16 billion in additional trade-war aid for farmers appears to be paying off, as optimism rebounds in a critical constituency for his 2020 re-election bid. A gauge of agricultural sentiment sharply rebounded in June after a darkening mood on America’s farms throughout the spring amid a damaging trade war with China and relentless rain that restricted planting. Read more from Dominic Carey and Mike Dorning.

Cruz Invokes Rosa Parks in Court Fight: Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) compared himself to civil rights icon Rosa Parks in court papers filed in his challenge of campaign finance limits. Cruz wants to eliminate restrictions on how much donors can give to help candidates put back into their personal bank accounts the money they previously loaned to their campaigns. Current Federal Election Commission rules limit to $250,000 the amount that can be raised after an election to repay pre-election candidate loans. Read more from Kenneth P. Doyle.

Trump Predicts NRA Move to Texas: Trump predicted the National Rifle Association would soon move to Texas to flee “harassment” by the New York state government, although the organization is not based in the Empire State. The NRA is loved in Texas, Trump said in a series of tweets yesterday, the second day in a row he’s used Twitter to claim New York officials target their political opponents, causing businesses and organizations to leave the state. Read more from Caitlin Webber.

The Next Democratic President Is Coming for Your Monopoly: Senator Warren slammed Washington for failing to challenge giant corporations. Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) assailed the power of Wall Street and the pharmaceutical industry. Senator Cory Booker (D-N.J.) vowed to appoint more judges and antitrust enforcers and even Joe Biden is preparing a trust-busting plan. Democratic presidential hopefuls are coming out in force against the rapid pace of corporate consolidation, a message to 2020 voters that gained volume during their first debates in Miami last week. They’re expanding their pledges to take on big tech, including Facebook Inc. and Alphabet Inc., to other industries.

Attacking big corporations is both a political message and a policy prescription. It’s one way Democrats think they can address the concerns of voters who have fallen behind, even as the U.S. economy continues to expand. As Democrats gear up to try to take back the White House in 2020, they hope the anti-corporate tone taps into the populist passion that propelled Donald Trump in 2016. Read more from Mike Dorning.

Ethanol Foes Warn 2020 Democrats of Dangers in Iowa’s Corn Vote: Environmentalists are taking their case that corn-based ethanol is bad for the planet to the state that makes more of it than any other: Iowa. They are bird-dogging presidential candidates such as Sen. Warren and Sen. Booker at rallies and town halls, trying to dissuade them from making politically convenient pro-ethanol pledges to get votes in corn country. Their message: biofuels are driving environmental harms, from disappearing wetlands to algae blooms in the Gulf of Mexico.

As Democratic 2020 candidates flock to Iowa this July 4 — Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), Pete Buttigieg, and Biden will be there — biofuel foes are challenging conventional wisdom that ethanol support is untouchable in Iowa. So far, their efforts aren’t working. Read more from Jennifer A. Dlouhy.

What Else to Know Today

Trump Revamps July 4 With Speech, Fighter Jets, Military Tanks: Fighter jets and military tanks will set the scene for an Independence Day speech by Donald Trump on the National Mall as the president puts himself at the center of a reimagined July 4 celebration.

Trump will speak from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial on Thursday evening in what’s billed as an apolitical event that comes as the 2020 presidential campaign is heating up. The “Salute to America,” as Trump calls it, will feature flyovers and an expanded fireworks show that will briefly ground commercial flights. Read more from Josh Wingrove.

Trump Picks Two Fed Nominees Likely to Support Easier Policy: After a yearlong assault on the Federal Reserve and its chairman, Trump has tapped two wildly different economists to the central bank’s board who seemingly have one important thing in common. They’re both likely to support the president’s call for lower interest rates.

One, Christopher Waller, is the more conventional choice drawn from within the Fed’s own ranks. The other, Judy Shelton, has spent decades outside mainstream economics and has already faced criticism for some of her unconventional views on monetary policy. Waller is director of research for St. Louis Federal Reserve Bank President James Bullard, who was the only dissenting vote in favor of a rate cut at the Fed’s meeting in June. Shelton, who has been an informal adviser to Trump, has publicly s aid the central bank should reduce rates. Read more from Josh Wingrove and Rich Miller.

UN Expert Says No to Riyadh G-20: The murder of Jamal Khashoggi by Saudi officials in Istanbul was a “state killing” that should prompt world leaders to reconsider having the Group of 20 summit in Riyadh next year, according to the UN expert who investigated the columnist’s death. “The killing of Mr Khashoggi met all of the characteristics of a state killing,” Agnes Callamard, the United Nations expert assigned to investigate Khashoggi’s death, said at the Brookings Institution. That means the G-20 gathering “doesn’t happen or i t moves elsewhere” so nations aren’t “complicit” in the crime. Read more from Jarrell Dillard and Glen Carey.

Court Refuses to Delay Obamacare Lawsuit: The New Orleans-based federal appeals court set to hear arguments July 9 in the legal fight over Obamacare denied Republicans’ request to delay arguments in the case. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit gave the coalition of conservative states challenging the law a few extra days to file an additional brief on whether the Democratic-led states and the House of Representatives have standing in the case. That question is whether they can appeal a district court ruling that declared th e entire Affordable Care Act unconstitutional. Read more from Lydia Wheeler.

Rule on Drug Prices in Ads Scrutinized: A federal judge posed tough questions yesterday for government attorneys as several pharmaceutical companies seek to avoid a new Trump administration rule requiring drug list prices in their television advertising. Judge Amit P. Mehta of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia said the government didn’t provide any solid evidence that the rule would achieve its goals of saving money or better informing customers. “I never once in my life thought about what the list price would be,” Mehta said. Read more from Valerie Bauman.

HIV Plan Sends $4.5 Million to Three Cities: Trump’s plan to end the HIV epidemic in the U.S. will find its footing in Baltimore; East Baton Rouge Parish, La.; and Dekalb County, Ga., the administration said yesterday. The three communities hard-hit by the HIV epidemic will receive $1.5 million each in federal funding to help reduce new infections and jump start the president’s plan to end the spread of the disease in the next decade, HHS said.

The communities, which serve an estimated 56,000 people living with HIV, will be pilot sites for the broader HIV plan, which is set to roll out in full force next year. The announcement follows another HHS award July 1, giving about $1 million to 10 jurisdictions to support their early work to support the plan. Read more from Madison Alder.

To contact the reporters on this story: Brandon Lee in Washington at blee@bgov.com; Giuseppe Macri in Washington at gmacri@bgov.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Heather Rothman at hrothman@bgov.com; Loren Duggan at lduggan@bgov.com

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