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Trump administration is trying to keep census documents secret

September 16, 2020. Summarized by summa-bot.

The Trump administration is trying to get a federal judge to help shield thousands of internal documents about the 2020 census from the public.

The more than 8,800 records, plus an undisclosed number due for release later this week, document the administration's controversial move to cut off the census at the end of September, rather than the planned October 31.

But in an odd maneuver to stop documents from being released, the Justice Department has essentially asked Judge Lucy Koh to rule against the administration.

Justice Department attorney Alexander Sverdlov made a multi-step proposal at a Monday hearing: First, Koh would rule the documents are required for the government to win its case.

And then third, because the administration had not produced required documents, "the government loses" its effort to block a preliminary injunction.

"If this court wants to enter a preliminary injunction, it can do so," to stop the government from cutting off the census early, said Brad Rosenberg, another Justice Department attorney.

Koh said at the hearing she is "very disappointed and surprised" that the government released over the weekend only a small portion of 8,800 documents that were due.

Rosenberg said "there are questions of impossibility with regard to our ability to review and log the number of documents that are involved," but both he and Sverdlov declined to say whether the government could produce all of the documents by September 30.

Melissa Sherry, an attorney representing the groups suing the government, said she is concerned the government "cherry picked" a set of "very irrelevant documents. "

Last year, revelations from documents cast doubt on the administration's rationale for adding a question about citizenship to the census, which critics said could have discouraged people from responding.

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