Justice Department Staffing Up For Its Ill-Conceived Affirmative Action Investigation

In Emails Released Through Joint FOIA Request Made By Lawyers’ Committee And American Oversight, Head Of Civil Rights Division Solicits Staff For Investigation

The Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division at the U.S. Department of Justice sought government attorneys on loan for its investigation into higher education affirmative action programs, an email released through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request revealed.

The July 17, 2017 email from Acting Assistant Attorney General John Gore underscores that the unprecedented investigation into race conscious admissions policies is a top priority for the Civil Rights Division, marking a sharp departure from the Division’s central mission to promote equality through the rule of law.  The email was released in response to a FOIA request made by the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law and American Oversight.

The Justice Department previously confirmed its investigation through a FOIA response, which news reports revealed was focused on the admissions practices of Harvard University.

“These latest materials  provide further confirmation that the Justice Department is redirecting agency resources towards mounting a large-scale campaign aimed at attacking efforts to promote racial diversity at colleges and universities,” said Kristen Clarke, President and Executive Director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law.  “At every stage of this administration’s first year, the Justice Department has made clear its hostility to civil rights enforcement.  However, attacking efforts to promote racial diversity, work that has long been at the heart of the agency’s work, shows that this Justice Department has lost its way.”

“Personnel decisions reflect priorities – and this listing clearly indicates that the Trump administration’s priority is to launch a politically motivated investigation into some of America’s most diverse institutions of higher education. Instead of wasting taxpayer money on this wild goose chase, the White House and the Department of Justice’s Civil Right Division should focus on their core mission, and help combat the frightening rise of extremism that we’ve seen over the past year,” said Austin Evers, Executive Director of American Oversight.

In August, news reports indicated that the Justice Department was preparing to launch an investigation into race-conscious admissions policies at colleges and universities.  Because nonpartisan, dedicated career attorneys within the Civil Rights Division refused to work on the unprecedented project, the Washington Post reported that “political leadership within the department” would lead the investigation, emphasizing its partisan focus.  The July 17, 2017 email from John Gore, released as part of the joint FOIA request made by the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law and American Oversight, confirms this reality.

“We are moving forward with detailing some attorneys to initiate a Title VI investigation of a university’s admissions policy under the front office’s supervision,” Gore wrote in the email.

The Justice Department’s response to the joint FOIA request, which includes the email from Acting Assistant Attorney General Gore, is available online.

The FOIA request, made on August 30, 2017, is also available online.