The ACLU has won its legal war with the Trump administration over a census citizenship question, but it’s not backing down from its demand that certain administration officials be sanctioned for allegedly false testimony in the case.
In a court filing Tuesday evening, the ACLU alleged that top Trump administration officials in the Justice Department and Commerce Department “engaged in litigation conduct that is nothing less than a fraud on the Court.”
“Through the use of false or misleading testimony, they obscured evidence suggesting that the true purpose of Secretary Ross’s decision to add a citizenship question to the 2020 Census—suppressing the political power of minority immigrant communities,” the filing said.
The ACLU is requesting that the court order 60 days of discovery — or let the ACLU piggyback on the discovery that may move forward in a separate census case — “to determine the scope of potentially sanctionable conduct and the identities of the culpable parties.”
Among the officials the ACLU is accusing of “false and misleading testimony” is DOJ official John Gore, who led the Department’s civil rights division while the administration was considering adding the question and who penned the official justification — which the Supreme Court has ruled was pretextual — for why the question was needed.
Additionally, the challengers said that Mark Neuman, who served as an outside advisor for the Commerce Department on the issue, outright “lied” in his deposition for the case.
Both are accused of obscuring the role that the now-deceased GOP gerrymandering consultant Thomas Hofeller played in allegedly crafting the bogus rationale for the question.
However, the conduct raised in the filing goes beyond what was just revealed about Hofeller, whose private files made it to the challengers’ hands only in May.
The filing suggests that James Uthmeier, an attorney who worked for the Commerce Department during its census change efforts, may have misled the court about his contacts with the White House about the census citizenship question issue, which he admitted in an interview with Congress.
The ACLU also pointed to Uthmeier’s acknowledgement to Congress that he began working on getting a citizenship question added in around March and April of 2017. “The Administrative Record does not reflect Uthmeier working on the question before late June 2017,” the filing said.
The ACLU is also pointing to the absence in the administrative record of Uthmeier’s communications with a far right law professor, which he also admitted in congressional interview.
The filing also raised the possibility that other Commerce officials — including the Department’s General Counsel Peter Davidson and Earl Comstock, its policy director — failed to provide documents relevant to the case.
The ACLU is now seeking that the court order the government to turn over certain discovery withheld in the case. The group also wants to subpoena files from a computer of Hofeller’s now in the possession of his business partner.
The ACLU wants to depose Neuman, Gore, Uthmeier, and Davidson, as well as Christa Jones, a Census Bureau official who was in contact with Hofeller, including about the census citizenship question issue.
Read the filing below: