Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Monday bashed the move by a district judge — which was upheld by an appellate court — to order that Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross sit for a deposition in the Census citizenship case.
Sessions called the decision by U.S. District Judge Jesse Furman a move “to hold a trial over the inner-workings of a Cabinet Secretary’s mind,” getting laughter from the Heritage Foundation audience where the attorney general was giving a speech on alleged judicial overreach Monday evening.
The Justice Department’s appeal of the order is currently in front of the Supreme Court.
In his speech, Sessions said that “an increasing number of judges are ignoring the boundaries and view themselves as something akin to roving inspectors general for the entire Executive branch. ”
He diverted from his prepared remarks to diss the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, a left-leaning appellate court that has blocked various Trump agenda items. (This particular Census citizenship case issue came up through the 2nd Circuit.)
“You have to wait to you get to the Supreme Court to get a fair ruling on this,” Sessions said.
He brought up the deposition order in the Census citizenship case, and said, “The court believes this is proper because it wants to examine [the] Secretary’s motives.”
“But the Census question—which has appeared in one form or another on the Census for over a hundred years—is either legal or illegal,” he said. “Tell us judge: one side or the other, and we’ll take the appeal.”
(The last time a citizenship question appeared on the version of the census that went to all households was in 1950; since then, it has either appeared on a long-form version of the survey, which went out to far fewer households, or on the American Community Survey, a likewise smaller scale survey that goes out on a rolling basis.)
“The words on the page don’t have a motive; they are either permitted or they are not,” Sessions continued. “But the judge has decided to hold a trial over the inner-workings of a Cabinet Secretary’s mind.”