A collection of the most salient exchanges from Wednesday’s bombshell hearing in which the Justice Department reversed course and said it had been “instructed” to try to get the citizenship question back on the 2020 census:
The following exchanges are as they appear on the court transcript:
U.S. District Judge George Hazel: [T]his morning I saw a tweet that got my attention. I don’t know how many federal judges have Twitter accounts, but I happen to be one of them, and I follow the President, and so I saw a tweet that directly contradicted the position that Mr. Gardner had shared with me yesterday.
Josh Gardner, DOJ attorney: Your Honor … I’ve been with the United States Department of Justice for 16 years, through multiple Administrations, and I’ve always endeavored to be as candid as possible with the Court. What I told the Court yesterday was absolutely my best understanding of the state of affairs …
Gardner: The tweet this morning was the first I had heard of the President’s position on this issue, just like the plaintiffs and Your Honor. I do not have a deeper understanding of what that means at this juncture other than what the President has tweeted. But, obviously, as you can imagine, I am doing my absolute best to figure out what’s going on …
Judge Hazel: I assume, although maybe I’m wrong about this, that the parties aren’t suggesting I can enjoin the President of the United States from tweeting things. Maybe you are suggesting that. But I will say my initial reaction to that is to have some concern.
Joseph Hunt, assistant attorney general for the civil division: We at the Department of Justice have been instructed to examine whether there is a path forward, consistent with the Supreme Court’s decision, that would allow us to include the citizenship question on the census. We think there may be a legally available path under the Supreme Court’s decision. We’re examining that, looking at near-term options to see whether that’s viable and possible.
Hunt: And so to the extent we can identify an option for that to work, if we continue to examine the decision and believe that we have a viable path forward to that work, our current plan would be to file a motion in the Supreme Court to request instructions on remand to govern further proceedings in order to simplify and expedite the remaining litigation and provide clarity to the process going forward.
Judge Hazel: If you were Facebook and an attorney for Facebook told me one thing, and then I read a press release from Mark Zuckerberg telling me something else, I would be demanding that Mark Zuckerberg appear in court with you the next time because I would be saying I don’t think you speak for your client anymore.
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