New civil rights chief at Justice Department has spent his career undermining civil rights

Both the interim head and the nominee have remarkably poor records when it comes to civil rights law.

, President Donald Trump listens as Attorney General Jeff Sessions speaks in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington on Feb. 9, 2017. Credit: (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
, President Donald Trump listens as Attorney General Jeff Sessions speaks in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington on Feb. 9, 2017. Credit: (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
President Donald Trump listens as Attorney General Jeff Sessions speaks in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington on Feb. 9, 2017. Credit: (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
President Donald Trump listens as Attorney General Jeff Sessions speaks in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington on Feb. 9, 2017. Credit: (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

Thomas Wheeler, the Assistant Acting Attorney General in charge of the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) division that handles policing, discrimination, and voting rights cases, announced he would be leaving his position after just 6 months.

John Gore, a Republican lawyer in Washington, will serve in the interim until Trump’s nominee for the position, Eric Dreiband, secures a hearing. Gore most notably represented the University of North Carolina system after it was sued by the Obama administration over the state’s HB2 bathroom bill. Gore is a former partner at Jones Day—the law firm from which the Trump administration has pulled at least 14 attorneys from to join the president’s team, including the White House Counsel Don McGahn. According to Election Law Blog, Gore’s now-deleted bio on the Jones Day website stated Gore had been “actively involved in redistricting litigation” in private practice and listed six cases in which he defended state governments accused of violating the Voting Rights Act through gerrymandering.

Gore represented Florida Governor Rick Scott in a case over his administration’s attempt to purge the state’s voter rolls of potential noncitizens before the 2012 election. The move disproportionately affected Florida’s Hispanic community, which made up only 13% of the 11.3 million active registered voters in Florida at the time, yet were 58% of those identified as potential noncitizens. A federal appeals court ruled in 2014 the purge was found to have violated the National Voter Registration Act (NVRA), which prevents purging of voter rolls 90 days before an election.

Many believe the Trump administration, with its recent creation of a Voter Election Commission urging states to turn over large amounts of voter data, will gut the NVRA. In a June photo with Trump, chair of the Voter Election Commission and Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach was photographed holding a memo of desired policy goals, including a bullet point to amend the NVRA.

Gore will not permanently maintain the job: Trump nominated Washington labor lawyer Eric Dreiband to serve as assistant attorney general in the civil rights division, but hasn’t yet been confirmed. Dreiband, however, also has a poor record on civil rights, and many activists have already voiced their opposition to Dreiband’s nomination.

“Whoever leads the ‘crown jewel’ of the Justice Department must have deep relationships with stakeholders and marginalized communities, and have a deep, abiding faith in our nation’s civil rights laws,” said Vanita Gupta, head of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights and a former leader of the civil rights division under President Obama. “They must respect the laws that touch everyone, rights that people have literally died for. They must respect the role of what has been called the conscience of the federal government. In all those regards, Eric Dreiband is woefully unqualified to lead the Civil Rights Division.”

Dreiband, also a former Jones Day attorney, has represented a tobacco company in an age discrimination case and Bloomberg in a pregnancy discrimination case. In his most high-profile case, Dreiband defended Abercrombie & Fitch in a Supreme Court case when the clothing retailer was sued for refusing to hire a 17-year-old Muslim woman because her headscarf was in violation of the company’s dress code, a case which Dreiband lost.