That was true only in the narrowest of senses. Evidence in the lawsuits shows that interest in the question dated to the fall of 2016, when a transition team preparing for the Trump presidency added it to a list of issues to consider. That suggestion came from Mr. Hofeller, the mastermind of a string of gerrymanders drawn in 2011 that locked the Republican Party into a decade of control in state legislatures nationwide.
Mr. Ross has repeatedly said that he decided to add a citizenship question only after the Justice Department requested it, saying better citizenship data would assist Voting Rights Act enforcement. Evidence in the lawsuits has showed, though, that Mr. Ross pressured the department to request the citizenship question, not the other way around.
Adding the question appeared to be a top priority for the commerce secretary.
Less than two weeks after taking office in 2017, Mr. Ross tasked an aide with researching whether recent censuses had asked about citizenship (they had not) and whether noncitizens were included in population counts used for redistricting (they were).
That April, at the request of Mr. Trump’s chief strategist, Stephen K. Bannon, Mr. Ross talked about the census with Kris Kobach, at the time the Kansas secretary of state and a virulent opponent of immigration. In a subsequent email, Mr. Kobach told Mr. Ross that adding a citizenship question was essential to solve “the problem that aliens who do not actually ‘reside’ in the United States are still counted for congressional apportionment.”
Mr. Ross later said he did not act on Mr. Kobach’s advice.
It was not until December that the Justice Department formally requested a citizenship question in a three-page request saying that adding the query was “critical” to getting precise enough data on noncitizens to enforce the Voting Rights Act.
In the months that followed, expert analysts there concluded that the question would deter at least 630,000 households with millions of residents from filling out the census form, and offered Mr. Ross alternatives that they said would produce much the same data. Both public comments on the proposal and the response from businesses and experts were almost uniformly opposed to adding the question.
Mr. Ross, however, was undeterred, and the Commerce Department later said that his wooing of the Justice Department was not evidence of skulduggery, but a civics-book example of how policy is made.
“Executive branch officials discussing important issues prior to formulating policy is evidence of good government,” a spokesman, Kevin Manning, said in a statement. “Executive branch officials worked together to ensure that Secretary Ross received all of the information necessary to make an informed decision.”