Pelosi: Trump census question push aims to ‘make America white again'

Speaker accuses GOP of trying to suppress the vote

By Clare Foran and Ashley Killough, CNN
Getty Images

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) speaks during her weekly news conference on Capitol Hill on May 2, 2019, in Washington, D.C.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Monday criticized President Donald Trump's continued push to add a citizenship question to the upcoming 2020 census, saying that it is part of an effort to "make America white again."

Speaking at a press conference in San Francisco on election security, Pelosi accused Republicans of trying to suppress the vote and gerrymander districts so that "just their people vote and not the general population."

"That's why they're fighting the census," she said.

Pelosi repeatedly called the effort "disgraceful" and invoked a phrase she had previously used to knock Trump's immigration policies.

"But this is about keeping -- you know, Make America, you know his hat -- Make America White Again. They want to make sure that people, certain people, are counted," she said.

The Trump administration has been pushing to add a citizenship question to the census, an effort that is still ongoing despite the fact that late last month the Supreme Court dealt a major blow to it by blocking the addition of the question for the time being.

After the Commerce Department announced last year that a citizenship question would be included the move sparked controversy and a high-stakes court battle as critics argued that asking about citizenship status will lead to an inaccurate count and intimidate noncitizens.

"What they want to do is to put a chilling effect so that certain populations will not answer the form," Pelosi said.

The Democrat-led House Oversight Committee voted last month to hold Attorney General William Barr and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross in contempt of Congress over a dispute related to the addition of a citizenship question to the 2020 census.

In the case of criminal contempt, however, the next step would be a vote on the House floor, which hasn't happened yet -- though Pelosi predicted it would.

"That's another place where you'll probably see a contempt action on the part of the House of Representatives on the Trump administration," she said.

Census data serves as the basis for decisions about how to allocate federal resources and draw congressional districts.

The Trump administration said last week that it would not ask about citizenship status on the census, appearing to back off the contentious effort to reinstate the question. But the next day, the President tweeted that the effort would keep "moving forward," creating uncertainty over what would happen in Washington.

Barr said Monday the administration would decide in the "next day or two" on which option to take on the census.

"What you saw on the part of the administration with the citizenship question, it's disgraceful," Pelosi said at her press conference.

"The Supreme Court did not rule in their favor because they said the administration did not give sufficient evidence as to why the census citizenship question should be there," she added. "So they kicked the can, and then the administration said, 'OK we won't put it on there,' and then the President injected himself into this."

CNN's Ariane de Vogue and Kevin Liptak contributed to this report.

The-CNN-Wire ™ & © 2019 Cable News Network, Inc., a Time Warner Company. All rights reserved.