As U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions, a conservative Alabamian, was named Friday as Donald Trump’s nominee for attorney general, many advocates and legal scholars are worried that the U.S. Justice Department’s civil rights division, its “crown jewel” under President Obama, faces an uncertain future and dramatically different focus under the Trump administration, reports the Los Angeles Times. They predict the Justice Department in the coming years will be less likely to sue states over voting restrictions that target the poor or minorities, to hold police departments accountable for abuses or fight in court for the rights of transgender people.
Also vulnerable are Justice Department guidelines set under President Obama that sought more lenient sentences for nonviolent offenders and restricted racial profiling and surveillance of Muslims. Such a radical shift of priorities would come as the country continues to grapple with the aftermath of widespread unrest and frustration sparked by the killings of unarmed black men by police officers in cities and towns across the nation. Civil rights groups are particularly anxious that such changes might follow an election in which Trump’s candidacy was enthusiastically backed by the alt-right movement, white supremacists and hate groups with long histories of seeking to repress minorities.