Intensifying widespread fears that the recent addition of Justice Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court will solidify the judicial body’s power to act as a legal shield for President Donald Trump’s astonishingly corrupt administration, the high court ruled Monday night that Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross will not have to testify in a lawsuit challenging the White House’s overtly discriminatory move to add a citizenship question to the 2020 census.
Given that Ross appears to have lied under oath at least twice about the decision to add the citizenship question to the census — first about his central role in pushing for the addition, and then about the crucial advisory roles played by Trump’s racist former aide Steve Bannon and Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach — the Supreme Court’s order protecting Ross from sitting for a deposition was described as a “major blow” for the coalition of civil rights groups and state attorneys general working to stop the White House from rigging the census against immigrants and communities of color.
Vox’s Matt Yglesias argued in a tweet on Monday that the fundamental reason the Supreme Court decided to shield Ross from testifying is because the court “is run by Republicans who want to help other Republicans rig the 2020 census so they can elect more Republicans.”
The reason is the Supreme Court is run by Republicans who want to help other Republicans rig the 2020 Census so they can elect more Republicans. https://t.co/KFCegTm0rA
— Matthew Yglesias (@mattyglesias) October 23, 2018
While Ross will not have to face scrutiny for his apparently false claims — which the Daily Beast‘s Jay Michaelson argues “should be a national scandal” — the Supreme Court ruled that John Gore, acting chief of the Justice Department’s civil rights division, will have to sit for a deposition and the legal challenge was allowed to proceed.
No question that @SecretaryRoss should be deposed in this litigation given that he clearly misled Congress about why he added the citizenship question to the census. Good that plaintiffs live to fight another day on that and can depose John Gore and get all other discovery. https://t.co/6W1VUocDb0
— Vanita Gupta (@vanitaguptaCR) October 23, 2018
“We welcome the Court’s decision to allow us to complete discovery in the case, with the exception only of Secretary Ross’ deposition, which remains on hold pending further briefing,” Amy Spitalnick, the spokesperson for New York Attorney General Barbara Underwood, said in a statement. “We’ll get to the bottom of how the decision to demand citizenship status was made, as we continue our case to ensure a full and fair census.”
Reacting to the Supreme Court’s order, critics argued that the protection of Ross from testifying is a sign of things to come for a court pushed even further right by the confirmation of Kavanaugh:
— Murshed Zaheed (@murshedz) October 23, 2018
#Kavanaugh corruption undermining democracy started.
Supreme Court shields Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross from answering questions in census controversy https://t.co/MNo0n51n7n
— Just Another Joe (@DebasisG2017) October 23, 2018
According to the civil rights organizations challenging the White House’s census changes, the addition of a citizenship question would promote fear among already underrepresented minority and immigrant communities and deprive them of much-needed federal funding.
“If implemented, this harmful and costly decision would have far reaching implications for Latinos and all Americans, depressing response rates and threatening the fair and equitable distribution of political representation and billions of dollars in federal funding,” Arturo Vargas, chief executive officer of the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials (NALEO) Educational Fund, argued in a statement in August. “We will continue to fight against the addition of this question in both Congress and the courts.”