Just before he became president, a report came out indicating how Donald Trump’s Justice Department would be treating Civil Rights. The Hill on Thursday offered a sneak peek of the blueprint for Trump’s DOJ, one major upshot being a reduction in funding for its civil rights division.
If it was already clear before the inauguration that Trump and Attorney General nominee Jeff Sessions are likely to short shrift the issue, on Friday it became more so.
It was reported on Friday that John M. Gore, an attorney at the Jones Day firm, would be leading the DOJ’s Civil Rights Division as the deputy assistant attorney general for civil rights. (Update, Jan. 27, 2017: It was reported this week that Thomas E. Wheeler would actually ultimately be named as acting head of the division and not Gore.)
This is indicative for a number of reasons of the disregard with which Trump’s administration will treat civil rights enforcement.
First and foremost, as Deputy Director for the Center for American Progress Action Fund Igor Volsky noted, Gore was one of the defense attorneys who argued in court on behalf of North Carolina's discriminatory and economically disastrous anti-transgender bill HB2. (Update, Jan. 27, 2017: CAP originally maintained and we originally reported that Gore defended the bill itself, but they have since said that was a mischaracterization.) Instead, he defended the University of North Carolina against litigation that challenged HB2.)The bill blocks transgender people from using public bathrooms that align with their gender identity. (Gore pulled out of the case last week and this appears to explain why.) As Slate’s Mark Joseph Stern has written, the bill has received mixed reviews in federal court. Gore was helping the school defend itself against a litigation filed by LGBT legal groups and U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch that challenged HB2. Basically, he was on the side of discrimination in the country’s most high-profile LGBTQ rights case of the past year.
Secondly, as Richard Hasen notes over at the Election Law Blog, one of Gore’s main areas of expertise appears to be defending redistricting plans against claims of civil rights violations, with his online bio boasting of a number of successful such defenses.
Thirdly, in one of the most high-profile civil rights cases he litigated in recent years, the state of Florida was found to have violated the National Voter Registration Act with a systemic purge of voters it suspected of being non-citizens. As the New York Times wrote of Florida’s voter restriction attempt:
The program to identify and remove noncitizens from the rolls prompted a national outcry and several lawsuits in 2012 because it was riddled with mistakes and was being pushed through months before the election. A number of people on the lists, which were sent by the state to county election supervisors, were, in fact, citizens (including the two lead plaintiffs in the lawsuit).
And as MSNBC’s Zachary Roth wrote:
The Miami Herald found that “Hispanic, Democratic and independent-minded voters are the most likely to be targeted,” while whites and Republicans were the least likely.
Again, Gore was helping defend the state of Florida and this illegal law that blindly purged voters.
And now he’s going to be responsible for defending the civil rights of Americans, including enforcement of the Civil Rights Act, the Voting Rights Act, the National Voter Registration Act (the one that Florida was found to be violating when he defended the state), and the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, among others.
It also seems relevant—considering that Trump’s Cabinet is going to be the whitest, most male one in nearly three decades—that this department has in recent years more often than not been run by a woman and/or a person of color. Gore looks like this.
Civil Rights under President Trump: enforced by white cisgender men, for white cisgender men.
*Correction, Jan. 27, 2017: This post originally reported that Gore had defended the anti-transgender bill HB2 in court and that he would be the acting head of the division. Neither is the case.