jerry2313/iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — A top Justice Department official has a message for those feeling uneasy about Donald Trump’s election: Do “not give into fear and anxiety.”
“Wait and see what happens,” Vanita Gupta, the head of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, said at an event in Washington today promoting gay, lesbian and transgender issues.
African-American, Latino and Muslim groups have expressed concern that Trump’s rhetoric on the campaign trail — widely criticized for being racist and discriminatory — will be reflected in his administration. Anti-Trump protests have erupted in cities across the country.
Gupta was asked whether she’s concerned Trump will nominate leaders to the Justice Department who are “anti-civil rights.”
“Right now, there’s a lot of uncertainty to say the least,” she responded. “Uncertainty produces anxiety and fear. And I can’t say what will happen.”
She noted that the Civil Rights Division is filled with “career lawyers” who “are so incredibly mission-driven in the work that they are doing,” and she said what they have done under the Obama administration will carry on in the years ahead.
“There are communities and individuals that are relying on the work of those career lawyers to do that, and these are men and women who are used to … working upstream,” Gupta added. “My hope is that … there is an awareness and a sensitivity to the importance of the Civil Rights Division’s work.”
But she emphasized there’s “so much that we don’t know.”
“I don’t even know who’s going to be the head of the DOJ transition team at this point,” she said, referring to the unexpected departure of former Justice Department official Kevin O’Connor, who was handling the Justice Department transition for Trump.
Other Trump supporters have also been fired from their transition posts in what is a suspected purge of officials brought in by New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who himself was demoted in recent days as head of the entire transition effort.
Last week, former and current federal prosecutors had welcomed news that O’Connor — described as having “a good reputation” among career attorneys in government — would be helping to shape the next Justice Department, sources told ABC News.
Speaking with ABC News before O’Connor’s departure became public, at least one of Trump’s Democratic critics, Rep. John Larson, D-Connecticut, said O’Connor’s role in the transition would “go a long way toward easing people’s concerns.”
“Equal justice under the law — he is the personification of that,” Larson said of O’Connor, a Republican. “While we may not agree on everything philosophically, I know the values he [would] bring to that decision-making process.”
In fact, “He would be my choice for attorney general,” Larson said.
Now, O’Connor is out of the mix.
Names like Jeff Sessions, the conservative Alabama senator with a long record in legal affairs and federal law enforcement, and Rudy Giuliani, the former New York City mayor, are being floated as a potential next attorney general.
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