Black Caucus Chairman, other racial caucuses, demand justice from Trump Administration

By Jane Kennedy

richmondattri-caucus.jpg
 New Congressional Black Caucus Chairman Cedric Richmond (D-La.) joins with members of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus and the Congressional Hispanic Caucus to demand justice for all Americans from the Trump Administration. 

(TriceEdneyWire.com) – The Congressional Tri-Caucus this week held a press conference to highlight red line issues they’re demanding the administration of President Donald J. Trump not cross.

Led by Congressional Black Caucus Chairman Cedric Richmond(D-La.), Monday’s conference was initially called to express the lawmakers’ objections to the pending confirmation of Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions, Trump’s controversial pick to head the U.S. Department of Justice. Sessions has been under fire for his previous stances on civil rights and racial issues. The Tri-Caucus is comprised of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus (CAPAC), the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC), and the Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC).

However, moments before the afternoon press conference began, Vice President Mike Pence cast a history making, tie-breaker vote to confirm another one of President Trump’s most contentious nominees – incoming Education Secretary Betsy DeVos.

DeVos, a Michigan billionaire, faced fire from teachers unions and public education advocates and lawmakers on both sides of the aisle primarily because of what many considered to be a shocking lack of qualifications to serve at the helm of the Education Department and her advocacy of anti-public school policies. Republican Sens. Lisa Murkowski (Alaska) and Susan Collins (Maine) voted against her nomination, forcing the vice president to break a tie for a cabinet confirmation for the first time ever.

“It’s unprecedented that a vice president has had to help confirm a nominee for secretary of Education. I expect that Mrs. DeVos will have an incredibly harmful impact on public education and on Black communities nationwide,” Richmond said. “The Congressional Black Caucus will be watching her actions very closely and if she proves to be as extreme as advertised, we will fight her every step of the way.”

The Louisiana lawmaker had equally harsh words for Sessions, whose confirmation unlike DeVos’, is expected to win unanimous Republican support. Echoing sentiments expressed when he testified at one of Sessions’ confirmation hearings, Richmond declared that the Alabama senator is not a friend of Lady Justice or of communities of color.

Sessions was famously denied a federal judgeship in 1986 when the very chamber he now serves failed to clear him through committee because of accusations of racism. According to the CBC’s Richmond and the chairs of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus and the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus, little if anything has changed about Sessions’ views on race and he cannot be counted on to provide equal justice for all.

In his remarks Richmond noted the Alabama lawmaker’s disdain for the Black Lives Matter movement and his publically stated belief that consent decrees, such as the one received by the Ferguson, Missouri, police department to provide citizens relief from civil rights violations, are a ‘dangerous exercise of raw power.’ Richmond also questioned whether he can be relied upon to enforce and protect voting rights for all Americans.

“Those are just some of the issues that we have with Sen. Sessions and his record and no matter how much time has passed, history has not changed and his actions have not changed,” Richmond said.

Democrats are both flummoxed and frustrated by many of Trump’s cabinet picks, some of whom, like Sessions, have records that are seemingly contrary to the mission of the agencies they’ve been chosen to lead, or who like DeVos, are also woefully unfamiliar with their agency’s key issues, policies and laws. The latter, said California Rep. Barbara Lee, “is just another example of the Trump administration not understanding that we’re a country of the people, by the people, and for the people.”

So, they also are preparing themselves to go to battle against any attempts to go backward and to forcefully challenge controversial and discriminatory proposals in committee rooms. Confirmation, Richmond warned, does not end the fight.

“We’ve been through fights our entire career and we will use our positions on our various committees, our role as oversight, our role as appropriators and everything else to make sure that we hold this administration accountable. And one thing we will do is make sure that there’s daylight and transparency and that we call out the things that are done in the dark and done with discriminatory purpose,” he said.  “And, we’re going to make sure that we hold this administration to the standard of the presidency and make sure that they understand that the role of president is that you’re president for all of America.”

 

 

 

John Gore, lawyer who defended racial gerrymandering picked to head DOJ Civil Rights Division

 

By: Lee Fang, The Intercept

John Gore who has worked to defend laws that critics say are designed to weaken the voting rights of African-Americans and other minorities, was selected by President Donald Trump to serve as a senior civil rights official at the Department of Justice.

Gore’s new role as Trump’s choice for deputy assistant attorney general of the Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department is notable because he will lead the division that oversees civil rights laws, including voter suppression issues. Trump and his nominee to lead the Justice Department, Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama, are strong supporters of voting restrictions such as voter identification.

The appointment of Gore represents a dramatic break from the the civil rights legacy of the outgoing Obama Justice Department, which has filed suits against voter restrictions in Wisconsin, Texas, North Carolina, and other states. Under Obama, the civil rights division was restructured to take on more cases, with former Attorney General Eric Holder describing the team as the agency’s “crown jewel.”

In stark contrast, Gore has worked to defend Republican redistricting laws in Virginia, South Carolina, New York, and Florida — including maps that opponents say were drawn to maximize Republican seats in Congress and frequently employed a strategy of packing African-American voters into a single district to dilute their voting power in neighboring districts.

In Florida and Virginia, Gore also intervened on behalf of Republicans to defend new voter ID laws, rules civil rights group have assailed for reducing participation rates among African-Americans.

In Virginia, for example, Gore was one of the main attorneys working to defend a 2011 Republican map that moved black voters from four different districts into Virginia’s 3rd Congressional District, a majority African-American district held by a Democrat that encompasses the areas around Richmond, Hampton Roads, and Newport News. The strategy appeared designed to weaken Democratic chances in the four neighboring districts, all held by Republicans, by lowering the number of African-Americans, who tend to vote for Democratic candidates.

A brief filed by the local NAACP argued that the map’s “high concentration of African-American voters” represented a “racial gerrymander” that violated voters’ due process rights. The GOP legislature argued that politics, not race, was the motivating factor in drawing the boundaries.

Federal courts overturned the GOP map, creating new borders that added African-American voters to the 4th Congressional district, which was previously represented by a white Republican. In 2016 the district for the first time elected an African-American Democrat.

In 2015, a resident of Virginia challenged the state’s newly passed law requiring a photo identification to vote, arguing that because minority groups were less likely to have a photo ID, the law “disproportionately suppresses the vote of African-Americans and Latinos in Virginia.”

A legal team from the law firm Jones Day, including Gore, filed an amicus brief in support of the voter ID law. The brief claimed that although the voter ID law might lead to a “relative shortfall in minority participation,” the true difference was attributable to “different levels of electoral interest or underlying socio-economic disparities,” and therefore the state’s actions were legal.

In December 2016, a federal appeals court upheld the photo ID law, ruling that “there was no evidence to suggest racially discriminatory intent in the law’s enactment.”

As Buzzfeed reported, just hours after Jones Day announced that Gore would be leaving for the administration position, the Justice Department moved to delay a hearing sought by the Obama administration to challenge the Texas voter ID law, one of the strictest in the country. The Justice Department noted that it sought a delay “because of the federal government’s change in administration, which took place on January 20, 2017.”

On Monday, during his evening meeting with congressional leaders, President Trump reiterated the false claim that millions of undocumented people voted in the last election, costing him the popular vote.

 

Police arrest NAACP protesters at Senator Jeff Sessions’ Mobile office

By Prescotte Stokes III, AL.com

protestors-sitting-in-sessions-officeProtestors sitting in Sessions office

            Six people including NAACP President and CEO Cornell William Brooks have been arrested during a sit-in staged at the Mobile office of Sen. Jeff Sessions. The group was protesting Sessions’ nomination by President-elect Donald Trump to be U. S. Attorney General.

While there were about 30 protesters at the sit-in when it began around midday on Tuesday, many of them left before the arrests were made by the Mobile Police Department just before 7:00 p.m. The NAACP and other organizations held similar protests outside Senator Sessions offices in Birmingham, Montgomery, Huntsville and Dothan.

The remaining members that were arrested were: Alabama State Conference President, Benard Simelton, Humanity in Action Fellow, Devon Crawford, the President of Mobile Chapter 5044, Lizzetta McConnell, National Director of the Youth and College Division of NAACP, Stephen Green and Joe Keffer.

NAACP President Cornell William Brooks tweeted shortly before 6:30 p.m. that he believed he and others occupying the office were soon to be arrested.”The building manager has requested that we leave. And the police have just arrived. We are about to be arrested.”

Earlier today, Brooks joined Alabama NAACP President Bernard Simelton to rebuke Sessions — President-elect Trump’s nominee for Attorney General. The national organization and the Mobile chapter said they would sit in Sessions’ office until he withdraws his attorney general nomination or they get arrested.

“As a matter of conscience and conviction, we can neither be mute nor mumble our opposition to Sen. Jefferson Beauregard Sessions becoming attorney general of the United States,” Brooks said in a statement.  “Sen. Sessions has callously ignored the reality of voter suppression but zealously prosecuted innocent civil rights leaders on trumped up charges of voter fraud. As an opponent of the vote, he can’t be trusted to be the chief law enforcement officer for voting rights.”

Shortly after the press conference held by the NAACP at Sen. Sessions Mobile office located at 41 West I-65 Service Road North, Sarah Isgur Flores, spokeswoman for Sen. Sessions released this statement.

“Jeff Sessions has dedicated his career to upholding the rule of law, ensuring public safety and prosecuting government corruption.  Many African-American leaders who’ve known him for decades attest to this and have welcomed his nomination to be the next Attorney General.  These false portrayals of Senator Sessions will fail as tired, recycled, hyperbolic charges that have been thoroughly rebuked and discredited. From the Fraternal Order of Police and the National Sheriffs Association to civil rights leaders and African-American elected officials, to victims’ rights organizations, Senator Sessions has inspired confidence from people across the country that he will return the Department of Justice to an agency the American people can be proud of once again.”

According to Mobile County jail records all six of the arrested members have been charged with second-degree criminal trespassing. McConnell, the President of Mobile Chapter of the NAACP has a court date set for her charge on January 30 at 8:00 a.m.