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Trump weighs ousting commerce secretary Ross: report

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President Donald Trump is considering removing Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross after the administration failed to add a question on citizenship to next year's census, NBC news reported on Monday.

[WASHINGTON] President Donald Trump is considering removing Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross after the administration failed to add a question on citizenship to next year's census, NBC news reported on Monday.

Mr Ross was at Mr Trump's side on Thursday as he announced he had abandoned the effort to add the citizenship question after the Supreme Court effectively blocked them from doing so last month.

Citing multiple anonymous sources, NBC News said Monday that Mr Trump told aides and allies he was considering whether to fire Mr Ross "as soon as this summer."

A Commerce Department spokesman said Monday that Mr Ross remained in his position and was busy overseeing the response to Hurricane Barry, after accompanying Mr Trump on campaign stops as recently as Friday.

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"He has shepherded the Department of Commerce into a new era, where, under the President's leadership and direction, we have better supported American businesses from unfair trading practices and have reinforced our national and economic security at long last," the spokesperson told AFP by email.

The census case was widely seen as a stinging setback for Mr Ross.

In court proceedings, federal judges found he had been untruthful in claiming he wanted to add the question at the Justice Department's request as part of efforts to enforce the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

Opponents slammed the effort as a bid to tilt the balance of power in Congress to Republicans by discouraging non-whites from responding to the census, which is conducted every 10 years and used to decide the number of representatives granted to states.

Initially a key figure in Mr Trump's aggressive trade policies, Mr Ross in recent months has not had a visible role in crucial talks with China.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin on Monday praised Mr Ross.

"I have every reason to think Secretary Ross is doing a good job. I never heard anything otherwise," Mr Mnuchin told reporters at the White House.

"Secretary Ross has been an important part of the trade team. Again, this has been an integrated team, and I think the president is very pleased on trade."

Mr Ross has also suffered other public setbacks since joining Mr Trump's cabinet, with the Office of Government Ethics refusing to certify Mr Ross' financial disclosures after he failed to divest certain assets as promised.

The Trump administration has seen record turnover, with four departments now led by interim cabinet members. Labor Secretary Alex Acosta resigned on Friday in the fallout from his prior handling of a sex crimes case involving the prominent investor Jeffrey Epstein.

AFP