Butterfield: Trump’s DOJ Picks Weaken Civil Rights Protection

Jan 26, 2017
Press Release

WASHINGTON, D.C.Congressman G. K. Butterfield (NC-01) today released the following statement regarding President Donald Trump’s actions to weaken the U.S. Department of Justice:

“President Trump’s nomination of Senator Jeff Sessions as Attorney General was the first indication of the lack of respect this Administration will have for the protection of civil and constitutional rights.  John Gore’s appointment to run the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division adds insult to injury.  These picks are shameful and further indicate the attack on civil rights and voting rights that are to come from this Administration. 

“The Attorney General is the chief lawyer for the United States government, responsible for the fair enforcement of the law on behalf of all Americans. However, during his time in the Senate, Jeff Sessions has demonstrated ambivalence toward preserving and expanding the law to protect minority communities.

“The Attorney General is responsible for enforcing the provisions implemented under the Violence Against Women Act.  In 2013, Senator Jeff Sessions voted against the reauthorization of this landmark Act.  The Department of Justice Civil Rights division is tasked with enforcing the Voting Rights Act.  Senator Sessions has opposed the full enforcement of the Act, calling it ‘intrusive,’ and has blocked legislative efforts to ensure racial equality for minority communities under the law.  As Attorney General, Sessions will be expected to aggressively investigate and prosecute hate crimes pursuant to federal hate crime laws.  In 2000 and 2002, Senator Sessions voted against expanding the list of federally recognized hate crimes to include groups such as the LGBT community.

“The Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department oversees the civil rights and inclusion of all Americans, particularly groups most vulnerable to discrimination.  It has the key duties of fighting voting restrictions, prosecuting hate crimes, and investigating police misconduct.  John Gore will now be in charge of the division within the Department of Justice that previously came to the aid of North Carolina and other states with a history of discriminatory practices.

“Mr. Gore most recently worked as a partner at a law firm where he consistently worked to defend states accused of violating civil rights protections, including defending redistricting plans in Florida, New York, South Carolina, and Virginia against claims of civil rights violations and racial gerrymandering.  He worked to defend the expansion of voter ID laws in several states and also defended Florida Governor Rick Scott in a case where the Florida Secretary of State undertook an effort to incorrectly purge voter rolls of people who were later found to be eligible to vote by a federal court.

“Gore also served as a lead attorney defending North Carolina’s discriminatory HB 2 law in court until his recent appointment to the Justice Department.  This bill was designed to attack the transgender community and has proven to be an economic disaster for the state, costing North Carolinians billions of dollars.

“With these picks, it is apparent what voting rights and equal protection means to Donald Trump.  The picture is clear that President Trump is weakening the Justice Department by selecting individuals whose primary relevant experience is in direct conflict with the American people’s best interests.”  

Congressman G. K. Butterfield is a former attorney in eastern North Carolina, where he practiced for 14 years protecting civil rights and voting rights.  Butterfield served as Resident Superior Court Judge for the First Judicial Division for 13 years before being appointed by then-Governor Mike Easley to the North Carolina Supreme Court in 2001.

Butterfield took congressional office in 2004, and currently serves as Vice Chair of the Congressional Voting Rights Caucus and is the immediate past Chair of the Congressional Black Caucus.