November 3, 2020
Last week we shared a copy of a letter we co-signed with other statewide advocacy organizations that requested the members of the NYS Congressional delegation condemn and formally request the Trump Administration rescind a recent Executive Order prohibiting diversity and inclusion training in some organizations that receive federal grants. Here’s an update on how it’s playing out (to date) in the halls of government in Washington.
Trump Executive Order Forcing Cancellation of More Diversity Events, DOJ Groups Say
“The dangerous consequences of suspending more than just trainings have already begun to play out,” DOJ groups wrote to a top department official.
By Jacqueline Thomsen November 03, 2020 at 05:40 PM The National Law Journal
Groups for diverse staff at the Justice Department have scrapped more events over concerns they would violate President Donald Trump’s recent executive order prohibiting diversity and inclusion training, after DOJ officials determined the order would apply to other events hosted at the department.
Leaders of those groups held a call Oct. 29 with Assistant Attorney General for Administration Lee Lofthus and other officials in the DOJ’s Justice Management Division—which provides internal guidance to agency staff—about the department’s interpretation of the order, according to an email sent Tuesday to members of one of the affinity groups.
That meeting evidently did not lead to any immediate action on the DOJ’s belief the order applies to not just trainings but also programs, activities and events related to diversity and inclusion. In a letter sent Tuesday to Lofthus, the groups detailed the cancellation of events they believed didn’t fall within the scope of Trump’s order, and urged officials to narrow their interpretation of the directive.
“The dangerous consequences of suspending more than just trainings have already begun to play out,” the groups wrote, pointing to the DOJ Gender Equality Network canceling an event with former U.S. attorney for D.C. Jessie Liu and acting ATF Director Regina Lombardo on the gender gap in leadership.
Liu stepped down as D.C.’s top prosecutor earlier this year while being considered for a Senate-confirmed role at the Treasury Department. However, she joined Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom after the Trump White House pulled her nomination.
The DOJ Association of Black Attorneys was “forced” to turn down an offer to co-sponsor an event with the National Black Prosecutors Association, the letter states, and the group had to “table a town hall meeting related to increasing diversity at the department.”
Another affinity group, DOJ Association of Hispanic Employees for Advancement and Development, preemptively canceled a town hall for members “due to the fear that it would violate the interim guidance,” according to the letter.
DOJ GEN, DOJ ABA, DOJ AHEAD, DOJ Pan Asia, DOJ Pride and Blacks in Government, Edward Woods Jr. Chapter all signed Tuesday’s letter.
The letter was included in an email sent to members of DOJ GEN on Tuesday afternoon, which also described the meeting. Stacey Young, president of the group, referred a request for comment to the Justice Department’s press office. A Justice Department spokesperson did not immediately return a request for comment.
Young wrote in the email to her organization that JMD officials at the meeting said they believed the order “goes beyond trainings.” She said the groups “countered that that’s an unfaithful interpretation of the EO’s plain text and is also out of step with other agencies’ implementation guidance documents.”
Young wrote that JMD officials did commit to considering the groups’ points before issuing a final guidance on the executive order.
Trump last month issued the executive order blocking trainings that suggest there are biases within the federal workforce on the basis of race and gender. In Tuesday’s letter, the DOJ affinity groups acknowledged that the preamble of the order “does object in broad terms to what it describes as ‘offensive and anti-American race and sex stereotyping and scapegoating.’”
“However, the scope of the directives contained in the executive order, as well as in the OMB and OPM memoranda, is carefully cabined to trainings,” the letter continues. “JMD’s expansion of those directives to ‘programs, activities, and events’ is at odds with the plain text of the directives.”
The groups also argued that other federal agencies are not taking as wide of a lens on the order, including a report from Reuters indicating that the State Department is only suspending trainings in response to Trump’s action.
“We want to emphasize, as we did on our call with you, our appreciation of your consistent support of us in the past, and we are grateful for your consideration of our concerns now,” the groups wrote in Tuesday’s letter. “If continuing this conversation would help as you move forward in your implementation of the executive order, please let us know.”
Trump’s executive order is now the subject of at least two federal lawsuits: One, filed Thursday by the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund in Washington, D.C., and another from attorneys with Ropes & Gray and the Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund, filed Monday in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California.
Both federal complaints allege that Trump’s order violates free speech and due process rights enshrined in the Constitution, and asks a federal judge to declare the order unlawful.