Congress

Trump will announce executive order on census and immigration on Thursday afternoon

Bid to add citizenship question comes amid legal challenges

President Donald Trump announced Thursday morning he would talk about the census and immigration in the Rose Garden in the afternoon amid the controversy over Alex Acosta, his secretary of Labor. (Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images)

Updated 10:35 a.m. | President Donald Trump on Thursday afternoon will announce an executive order on adding a citizenship question to the census, according to a source familiar with the plan.

Earlier Thursday, the president announced he would hold a Rose Garden news conference about his push to add a citizenship question to the census. Any such order almost immediately would be challenged in court. Federal judges have been hesitant to allow the Justice Department to replace attorneys working on lawsuits looking to block a citizenship question.

The Constitution states that the census must be carried out.

Trump tweeted that the news conference will take place after the White House’s first social media summit. He already has been criticized for inviting conservative personalities who have push conspiracy theories and false statements.

His media appearance also comes as he tries to put distance between himself and former friend Jeffery Epstein, who was charged Monday in Manhattan on child sex-trafficking charges. Epstein previously served time in Florida for charges stemming from sex acts and girls as young as 14.

A long list of Democratic lawmakers have called on Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta to resign for a plea deal with Epstein that he approved as a U.S. attorney in Florida in 2007 that was widely seen as too light.

Epstein served 13 months in a Florida county stockade but was able to leave the facility for up to 16 hours a day.

Acosta on Wednesday held a lengthy news conference in which he defended the deal, saying he approved it to get Epstein “behind bars.”

He never apologized to the victims, saying it was unclear if a criminal trial would have led to a conviction.

[Senate Republicans tiptoe around Acosta, largely defer on his future]

Trump said Tuesday he broke off his friendship with Epstein 15 years ago. But he gave a 2002 interview in which he praised Epstein and even alluded to his affinity to young girls.

Epstein, a billionaire financier, also had ties to former President Bill Clinton.

Trump on Tuesday praised Acosta’s performance as Labor boss, but signaled he might remove him.

On Wednesday night during a California swing, Vice President Mike Pence opted against stating clearly that Acosta would remain in his post. He merely told reporters that top White House officials appreciated Acosta taking questions on the controversy but added the Labor secretary serves at the pleasure of Trump.

Since taking office over two years ago, Trump has mastered the art of changing the narrative and driving news coverage.

His expected announcement of an executive order to add a citizenship question to the census appears yet another way he is trying to divert news coverage from an issue he views as negative for him and his presidency.

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