•   
  •   
  •   

US 'Big, big shifts': How Biden's civil rights pros have reoriented the Justice Department

14:50  20 october  2021
14:50  20 october  2021 Source:   cnn.com

'Civil War' Trends on Twitter After Iowa Trump Rally Attendee's Remarks Go Viral

  'Civil War' Trends on Twitter After Iowa Trump Rally Attendee's Remarks Go Viral "I see a civil war coming. I do. I see civil war coming," a Trump supporter attending a Saturday rally in Des Moines said.Trump held a rally at the Iowa State Fairground in Des Moines on Saturday. At the event, Trump supporter Lori Levi told MSNBC that she believes the U.S. is headed for a "civil war." Levi criticized Democrats and Republicans, saying most members of the GOP are "as weak as they possibly could be in Congress.

The Justice Department's Civil Rights Division has launched several major investigations under President Joe Biden, an aggressive start after years of neglect during the Trump-era.

Kristen Clarke wearing a suit and tie: U.S. Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division Kristen Clarke speaking during a news conference at the Department of Justice on August 5, 2021 in Washington, DC. © Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images U.S. Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division Kristen Clarke speaking during a news conference at the Department of Justice on August 5, 2021 in Washington, DC.

In the early months of the administration, the department announced investigations into three major police departments -- a 180-degree turn from the last administration, which was highly skeptical of such systemic reviews. The Biden Justice Department has also launched an investigation into Georgia's prison system for alleged civil rights violations.

White House under pressure to act on voting rights, but it's not ready to blow up the filibuster

  White House under pressure to act on voting rights, but it's not ready to blow up the filibuster The White House is under mounting pressure to get results on voting rights legislation, but sources tell CNN the Biden administration still isn't ready to try to jam it through the Senate by force -- even though the Senate's latest voting bill is expected to falter yet again on Wednesday. © Alex Wong/Getty Images U.S. President Joe Biden (R) speaks as Vice President Kamala Harris (L) listens during an event on Senate passage of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act in the East Room of the White House August 10, 2021 in Washington, DC. The Senate has passed the bipartisan infrastructure bill with a vote of 69-30.

The most recent, publicly announced investigation was launched in Texas, where five juvenile detention facilities are being examined for systemic physical or sexual abuse of children.

Kristen Clarke, Biden's civil rights chief, highlighted the racial disparities in juvenile detention systems.

"Nationally, Black children are over four times more likely to be incarcerated than White children," Clarke said last Wednesday. "And the disparity is even greater in Texas, where Black children are over five times more likely to be incarcerated."

The moves showcase the reorientation of priorities now that a Democratic administration -- with several Justice Department leaders with deep backgrounds in civil rights -- is in charge.

Cardinals' J.J. Watt: Texans 'not the same organization that I remember'

  Cardinals' J.J. Watt: Texans 'not the same organization that I remember' J.J. Watt spent his first 10 NFL seasons in Houston, and his Cardinals will host the Texans this week.Understandably, Watt discussed facing his former employer while speaking with reporters Thursday.

The boldest of these moves is, perhaps, a review of DOJ police funding that was announced last month. The review relies on a piece of civil rights law known as Title XI, that is often described as the sleeping giant of civil rights law, Bill Yeomans, a former acting assistant attorney general for civil rights told CNN.

"It can be incredibly powerful and it's been underutilized," said Yeomans, now a lecturer at Columbia Law School.

He and other former DOJ officials told CNN that, under past Democratic administrations, embracing the tool as leverage for civil rights compliance had been discussed but never executed. The review will evaluate how the department is meeting its obligations, under Title XI, to "ensure that public funds are not furthering race discrimination," Associate Attorney General Vanita Gupta said last month during an event at the Texas Tribune Festival.

Fact-checking Biden's CNN town hall in Baltimore

  Fact-checking Biden's CNN town hall in Baltimore President Joe Biden participated Thursday in a CNN town hall in Baltimore, taking questions from anchor Anderson Cooper and local residents about his legislative agenda and a variety of other topics. © Heather Fulbright/CNN President Joe Biden, right, and CNN anchor Anderson Cooper, speak during a CNN town hall in Baltimore, Maryland, on October 21, 2021. Biden made some false claims, along with making other claims that could have used additional context.

Gupta, who led the civil rights division under President Barack Obama, is now the No. 3 leader at the department, a role that gives her oversight of not just of the civil rights division, but other influential parts of the agency, including the civil division and the police grant-making process.

"The kind of vantage point that I have over the department is different and unique," Gupta said at the Texas Tribune Festival.

Justice Department opens civil rights investigation into Phoenix police

  Justice Department opens civil rights investigation into Phoenix police Attorney General Merrick Garland announced a civil rights probe into the Phoenix Police Department, including the agency's use of force.The inquiry marks the third police agency, in addition to Minneapolis and Louisville, that has become the focus of a federal investigation into a pattern and practice of unconstitutional policing.

"These are big, big shifts that we're seeing," Sherrilyn Ifill, the president of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, told CNN. "I don't think there's ever been a Title XI comprehensive review by the Department of Justice."

'Able to hit the ground running'

Under President Donald Trump, leadership took a tough line in favor of police departments; then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions all but froze the type of systemic investigations into police departments -- known as "pattern-or-practice" investigations -- that have been reinvigorated under Attorney General Merrick Garland.

The Trump Justice Department also elevated religious freedom concerns, supporting legal challenges to Covid public health restrictions that states and localities imposed on churches, while the civil rights division did little on voting rights over the course of Trump's presidency.

Number of joint Biden-Harris appearances plummets: Report

  Number of joint Biden-Harris appearances plummets: Report Joe Biden and Kamala Harris appeared together publicly 18 times in February after rising to the White House on a promise to be a partnership. But in October they only had one joint press event.When Biden picked Harris to be the first female and woman of color to be vice president he strongly indicated she would be an equal partner in his administration.

Beyond the typical shift in emphasis that comes in the Democratic administration, the Biden leadership team had expertise rooted in civil rights -- Gupta is the first associate attorney general with a civil rights background -- as well as deep previous experience at the department.

Clarke started her legal practice as a career attorney at the DOJ civil rights division she now leads. She also led the civil rights bureau at New York state attorney general office and later took the helm of the private legal group, Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law.

Biden's selection of Gupta and Clarke -- as well as Pamela Karlan, another civil rights attorney whose current position as principal deputy assistant attorney general of the division did not require Senate confirmation -- signaled that racial justice and voting rights, among other civil rights issues, would be of top priority at the department.

Gupta and Clarke faced bruising confirmation battles, with Republicans mostly united against them.

Within the civil rights the community, the expectations for what the Biden leadership team could do were high, said Jon Greenbaum, senior deputy director for the Lawyers' Committee.

"The whole idea of this team was, what you're what you're able to do is, you're able to hit the ground running, probably in a way that's been unprecedented, in terms of the people that are in these positions," Greenbaum told CNN.

Presidents and popes over the years: Gifts, gaffes, grief

  Presidents and popes over the years: Gifts, gaffes, grief WASHINGTON (AP) — When President Joe Biden meets with Pope Francis on Friday, he won’t kiss the ring. Biden, who has met with Francis three times and with two previous popes, has said he eschews the traditional sign of respect because his mother told him not to — that no one is “better” than him. In their meeting, the two are expected to discuss issues like the COVID-19 pandemic and climate change as equals. Biden, only the second Catholic president in U.S. history, often speaks publicly about his faith and attends Mass every weekend.

'Taking care of unfinished business'

A week in mid-September encapsulated what this new leadership team would yield. In addition to the police grant review and the announcement of the Georgia prison investigation, the department unveiled a retooled approach to overseeing consent decree monitors, as well as new limits on chokeholds and no-knock warrants.

The prison investigation expands upon the efforts by previous administrations to probe potential civil rights violations in Georgia's penitentiary system, as an investigation, launched when Gupta led Obama DOJ civil rights division, into the treatment of transgender prisoners in Georgia remains ongoing.

"It's a really strong sign that Vanita is going to take care of unfinished business," said Julie Abbate, a former DOJ official who is now the National Advocacy Director for Just Detention International, which focuses on ending sexual abuse in detention.

"Not just go back to the way things were, but make things even better than they were before, because the way things were under Obama, it was the floor if anything," Abbate said.

The DOJ's fresh look at its standards for consent decree monitors -- i.e. the people who are tasked with ensuring police departments are complying with civil rights agreements they've reached with the department -- came after Gupta held more than 50 stakeholder meetings

The department is seeking to bring more transparency into the fees monitors are paid, as well as more oversight around the speed with which departments are being brought into compliance.

COVID-19, corporate taxes, Iran nuclear deal on Biden's agenda for Day One of G-20 summit

  COVID-19, corporate taxes, Iran nuclear deal on Biden's agenda for Day One of G-20 summit The G-20 summit that opened Saturday in Rome will mark the first time in two years that some of the world's most powerful leaders have met in person.Biden arrived at the modernist, cloud-shaped convention center in Rome where the Group of 20, or G-20, is meeting and was welcomed by Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi. A few minutes later, he joined other leaders for a traditional "family photo.

"We want to incentivize constitutional policing, and compliance as quickly as possible," Gupta said at the Texas Tribune Festival, explaining the move. "This is about making sure our communities can be safe and people's civil rights are protected."

'To think that they're done... no way'

Even with the new developments, civil rights advocates said that some of the moves -- like the new DOJ policy banning the use of chokeholds unless lethal force is authorized-- should only be the start of a broader approach.

Noting that courts have already deemed chokeholds a use of lethal force, Jonathan Smith, the executive director of the Washington Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs, said the DOJ's new policy was "not a major step forward."

"It is critically important to articulate in policy that chokeholds should not be used," Smith said. "But it really was not a dramatic move or innovation."

The announcement of the policy raised questions, among prisoners' rights advocates, about the lack of transparency around the practices of the US Bureau of Prisons. Federal prisons house a relatively small segment of the US prison population, but still set the tone for the US government's ability to influence state and local penitentiary systems.

"That would be a good thing for Vanita and Kristen Clarke, and the attorney general to do, is to create transparency in the policies that the BOP is following, and how exactly are you banning these types of practices," Abbate said.

"They've addressed like the 1% of the issue and to think that they're done, with that especially with the BOP, no way," she added.

COVID-19, corporate taxes, Iran nuclear deal on Biden's agenda for Day One of G-20 summit .
The G-20 summit that opened Saturday in Rome will mark the first time in two years that some of the world's most powerful leaders have met in person.Biden arrived at the modernist, cloud-shaped convention center in Rome where the Group of 20, or G-20, is meeting and was welcomed by Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi. A few minutes later, he joined other leaders for a traditional "family photo.

usr: 1
This is interesting!