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White House defends census citizenship question

White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders. Photo: Win McNamee / Getty Images

White House press secretary Sarah Sanders defended the administration's plans to include a controversial question about citizenship status in the 2020 census, saying it's "necessary for the Department of Justice to protect voters."

Why it matters: The move announced by Commerce Department late Monday sparked immediate outrage from Democrats, civil rights groups and liberal state attorneys general who argue it would discourage non-citizens from responding, resulting in a less accurate population count.

"It contains data necessary for the Department of Justice to protect voters and specifically to help us comply with the Voting Rights Act."
— Sarah Sanders

The decision was made "at the departmental level" with assistance from the Justice Department but the White House supports it, said Sanders, who later added that she's not aware of how non-citizens would be affected.

Other highlights from the briefing:

  • Opioid crisis: The White House plans to open an exhibit next month to educate visitors about the impact of the opioid crisis. It will include an installation of a wall of 22,000 engraved white pills with faces of those lost to prescription drug overdoses.
  • On Trump silence after Stormy Daniels interview: "The president has denied the allegations. I have nothing further... We've addressed it, we've addressed it extensively and there's nothing new to add."
  • On the border wall: Trump "still has plans to look at potential ways" for Mexico to pay for proposed border wall.
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