Trump's Pick to Head DOJ Civil Rights Division Embodies 'Disdain for Civil Rights'

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Trump's Pick to Head DOJ Civil Rights Division Embodies 'Disdain for Civil Rights'

Groups slam Eric Dreiband as nominee who "has spent the vast majority of his career defending corporations accused of employment discrimination"

Marchers walk through the Homewood neighborhood during their Black Brilliance Collective: March and Gathering August 19, 2017 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Marchers walk through the Homewood neighborhood during their Black Brilliance Collective: March and Gathering August 19, 2017 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo: Jeff Swensen/Getty Images)

"Especially considering where this administration is when it comes to minority rights, this nomination does not look good."
—Sen. Mazie Hirono

Civil rights organizations are raising alarm ahead of a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing Wednesday on President Donald Trump's nominee to head the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division, Eric Dreiband, who groups argue has an "overwhelmingly anti-civil rights record" and is therefore "unfit" for the position.

CNN summarized Dreiband's history:

Civil rights groups are concerned about Dreiband's work since 2005 as a labor attorney for prominent Washington law firms Akin Gump and Jones Day, where he is currently a partner. Dreiband has defended companies like R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company in an age discrimination case, Bloomberg in a pregnancy discrimination lawsuit, CVS Pharmacy in an employee severance agreement lawsuit brought by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

Dreiband also represented the University of North Carolina when it faced lawsuits after deciding to enforce the state's anti-transgender "bathroom bill," which was later repealed.

In a letter addressed to Sens. Diane Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) on Tuesday, Lambda Legal and 46 other national, state, and local LGBTQ groups argued that the nomination of Dreiband "embodies this Justice Department's lack of commitment to defending the civil rights of LGBT people," and said it is yet another indication of Trump's "disdain for civil rights."

Trump's Department of Justice "appears not only to have abandoned its obligation to defend civil rights, but has decided instead to use its authority to inflict additional harm on communities already under attack, including (but certainly not limited to) the LGBT community," the groups wrote, urging the Senate to oppose Dreiband's confirmation.

"In its first six months, the Trump administration has exhibited an open hostility to core civil rights principles."
—Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights
The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights similarly blasted the nomination of Dreiband in a letter (pdf) signed by over 70 organizations last week, arguing that Dreiband "has spent the vast majority of his career defending corporations accused of employment discrimination."

"In its first six months, the Trump administration has exhibited an open hostility to core civil rights principles," the groups concluded. "Dreiband is the wrong person to lead the Civil Rights Division."

In a statement on Wednesday, Vanita Gupta, president and CEO of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights and former acting head of the DOJ's Civil Rights Division, concluded: "The leader of that division must have an allegiance to civil rights, and not to the president or a political party. This is particularly true given the Trump-Pence administration’s open hostility to, and demonstrated record of undermining, our core civil rights."

After meeting with Dreiband ahead of Wednesday's hearing, lawmakers echoed the concerns of civil rights groups.

Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), following Dreiband's attempts to "convince her" of the strength of his civil rights record, concluded that she remains "concerned" about Dreiband's nomination, "considering he spent most of his professional life defending the people accused of discriminatory acts."

"Especially considering where this administration is when it comes to minority rights," Hirono concluded, "this nomination does not look good."

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