Donald Trump delivered his controversial ”Salute to America” address in Washington, DC, on Thursday amid hammering summer storms, his speech managing to avoid partisan politics but marred by an extraordinary gaffe in which he claimed the 1775 revolutionary army “took over the airports”.
The president also promised to “plant a US flag on Mars” and encouraged young Americans to sign up for military service, despite receiving no fewer than five deferments himself preventing him from serving in the Vietnam War.
While the event featured the Air Force flypast and spectacular fireworks display Mr Trump had promised, it was also defined by an unseemly brawl breaking out between protesters and members of the alt-right militant group Proud Boys after the former set fire to the stars-and-stripes in front of the White House.
The president meanwhile saidon Friday he may issue an executive order over his 2020 Census demands. The US Constitution specifically assigns the job of overseeing the census to Congress, limiting the authority of the president over it, which could complicate an effort to add the question via presidential missive.
“We’re working on a lot of things including an executive order,” Mr Trump told reporters outside the White House as he left for his resort in Bedminster, New Jersey.
In a court filing in response to a Maryland-based federal judge’s deadline, the Department of Justice indicated it has not yet come up with a new legal rationale for adding the question after being blocked in the Supreme Court on 27 June.
US District Judge George Hazel said on Wednesday that if the administration did not reach a decision he would press ahead with considering allegations based on newly discovered evidence that the decision to add the question was motivated by racial bias.
The Justice Department said in its court filing it objects to the case moving forward.
Critics have called the citizenship question a Republican ploy to scare immigrants into not participating and engineer a population undercount in Democratic-leaning areas with high immigrant populations. They say that officials lied about their motivations for adding the question and that the move would help Trump’s fellow Republicans gain seats in the US House of Representatives and state legislatures when new electoral district boundaries are drawn.
Mr Trump on Friday said the “number one” reason for adding the question was for the drawing of electoral districts, which is not the legal reason the administration gave for adding it.
He and his supporters say it makes sense to know how many non-citizens are living in the country. His hard-line policies on immigration have punctuated his presidency and 2020 re-election campaign.
Additional reporting by Reuters. Please allow a moment for our liveblog to load