From the Left

/

Politics

Conservative justices don't think truth matters

Dana Milbank on

Dishonesty is the coin of the realm for President Trump. Various of his former officials have been convicted of lying. Judge Amy Berman Jackson, sentencing former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, nobly proclaimed that "court is one of those places where facts still matter," but that's not always true:

In embracing Trump's "travel ban," the Supreme Court accepted the administration's pretext and determinedly ignored extensive evidence of Trump's anti-Muslim bias.

The census was different for Roberts, who, as he has done in a few politically charged cases, sided with the court's liberal justices in an apparent effort to protect the court's credibility.

The Census Bureau's own experts strongly resisted the citizenship question, saying it would suppress participation by households with noncitizens -- even legal ones -- by about 8% and cause a 2.2 percentage point drop-off in participation. Emails made public after the Supreme Court heard the case show that the architect of the plan saw the move as "advantageous to Republicans and non-Hispanic whites." One of the judges who originally heard the case issued a further ruling this last week that the new evidence points to a "possible, if not likely, conclusion that the decision-makers adopted [the architect's] discriminatory purpose."

The chief justice, though not touching the recent evidence, argued that while courts generally don't second-guess policymakers' motivations, there is an exception for a "strong showing of bad faith." Ross himself had changed his story, eventually admitting that he nudged the Justice Department to request the citizenship question -- as cover for a move he had pushed from the start with White House encouragement.

The law, Roberts wrote, requires "that agencies offer genuine justifications for important decisions, reasons that can be scrutinized by courts and the interested public. Accepting contrived reasons would defeat the purpose of the enterprise."

Justice Clarence Thomas, joined by both Trump appointees, Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh, took a position similar to Alito's: The truth is irrelevant. Ridiculing the majority's view that Ross "must not be telling the truth," Thomas protested:

 

"Pretext is virtually never an appropriate or relevant inquiry for a reviewing court to undertake."

That acceptance of pretext fits Trump's worldview. Trump tweeted after the ruling that he wants to "delay the Census, no matter how long" to get the question resolved. Who cares if the Constitution says otherwise?

The administration previously claimed the deadline to finalize the 2020 census was this month. But this, apparently, was another lie.

========

Follow Dana Milbank on Twitter, @Milbank.

(c) 2019, Washington Post Writers Group

 

Comments

blog comments powered by Disqus
 

Social Connections

Comics

Lee Judge Kirk Walters Nick Anderson Mike Smith Clay Bennett Paul Szep