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Critics see Trump’s thumb on scale for 2020 census

The 2020 U.S. Census will add a question

The 2020 U.S. Census will add a question about citizenship status, a move that brought swift condemnation from Democrats, who say it would intimidate immigrants and discourage them from participating. March 15, 2010. Credit: AP / Ross D. Franklin

Down for the count

The Trump administration says it has the best of motives for adding a question to the 2020 census asking people about their citizenship.

Somehow, according to the explanations from Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, collecting such data will help protect the rights of minority voters.

“Laughable” and “contemptible” is how California Secretary of State Alex Padilla described that rationale. His state and New York are among those that will sue to block the decision.

New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman said the question will make immigrants more fearful about cooperating with the census. By law, even immigrants without documentation are supposed to be counted.

Undercounts will cause places with significant immigrant populations to lose federal funds and legislative seats that are based on population. Voter demographics make clear who would gain: Republicans and red states.

Sanders said the citizenship question has been “included in every census since 1965, with the exception of 2010, when it was removed.” That’s not exactly true. While it has been included in smaller-sample surveys, it has not been in the full Census since 1950.

Harder line on Muslims?

Trump’s choice of John Bolton as national security adviser and Mike Pompeo as secretary of state elevates two figures who have had ties with anti-Islam groups, Politico reports.

Bolton chairs an organization that produces harshly critical commentary about Islam and Muslim immigrants. He also has been an associate for decades of Pamela Geller, the Long Island-based activist who has claimed that Muslims are attempting to impose sharia law in the U.S.

But Bolton’s views have also been more nuanced. When Trump during the campaign proposed his Muslim ban, Bolton said the idea was “completely wrong” and “just not consistent with our views about America and how we should operate.”

Pompeo has accused U.S. Muslim leaders of being “potentially complicit” in terrorist attacks and, like Bolton, has consorted with conspiracy theorists. But during his confirmation hearings for CIA director, he pledged not to tolerate discrimination against Muslim employees.

Janison: The presence

For candidates in this year’s elections, comparisons to Trump are looking unavoidable.

In New York’s Democratic primary for governor, Andrew M. Cuomo has pounded away at the president. His insurgent foe, Cynthia Nixon, says Cuomo “cleaned up Albany about as well as Donald Trump has drained the swamp.”

For vulnerable Republicans in Congress, the dilemma is how to get Trump’s fans behind them without driving away the less enamored. See Dan Janison’s column for Newsday.

Fortune of soldiers

Trump is serious about trying to get the Pentagon to fund the construction of a Mexico border wall, and he has talked about his idea with Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and House Speaker Paul Ryan, The Washington Post reports.

But there’s a tall obstacle: Redirecting military funds to pay for the wall would require an act of Congress, which just refused to give Trump the $25 billion he wanted.

Agreeable about disagreeing

Mattis predicted Tuesday that he and Bolton will develop a working partnership even though they have different world views.

“That’s the normal thing you want, unless you want groupthink,” said Mattis. A retired Marine general, Mattis has been a strong advocate for diplomacy with North Korea and retaining the Iran nuclear deal.

That’s why it’s ‘executive time’?

When Sanders was asked at her briefing Tuesday why Trump, the avowed counterpuncher, stays quiet about Stormy Daniels, she pointed out he “has a country to run.”

“Sometimes he chooses to specifically engage and punch back, and sometimes he doesn’t,” Sander said.

What else is happening

  • The U.S. and South Korea have reached a trade deal. It spares South Korea from Trump’s steel tariffs in return for capping its steel imports to 70% of current levels and making it easier for U.S. motor vehicles to be sold there.
  • An AP-NORC poll puts Trump’s approval at 42%, up from 35% in February. The president got his best marks for his handling of the economy.
  • Trump’s private Boeing 757 is currently undergoing maintenance at Long Island MacArthur Airport, reports Newsday’s Rachel Uda. As president, Trump currently travels in Air Force One, not the private jet.
  • Politico says its investigation found that by many measures, the Trump administration responded far more aggressively to help Texas than Puerto Rico after last year’s hurricanes.
  • The Trump administration is ending a program begun in 1999 that allows citizens of Liberia living in the U.S. to avoid deportation. But it’s allowing a one-year “wind-down” period to ease their return. The program began during a civil war in the country.
  • A National Security Council spokesman said Trump did not discuss the poison attack on an ex-spy in England during his call with Vladimir Putin because he didn’t want to tip off his plans to expel Russian diplomats.
  • As seen on TV, now in the White House: Former Disney Channel star Caroline Sunshine, 22, has been hired as a press assistant.

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