As a nationally recognized leader in the civil rights movement, Vanita Gupta has the backing of several policing associations and justice organizations ahead of her confirmation hearing today in the Senate Judiciary Committee to be the Associate Attorney General, the number three position in the Justice Department. Gupta, however, faces vociferous criticism from several Texas Republicans, including Judiciary Committee member John Cornyn.
Cornyn’s criticism of Gupta could very well tie into his own history with the nominee when she was a lawyer with the NAACP Legal Defense Fund and he was the Texas Attorney General.
On July 23, 1999, nearly a third of the Black male residents of Tulia, Texas were arrested in one of the largest drug stings in Texas history. The entire saga was justice gone awry: one of the arresting officers had a history of using racial slurs, and much of the evidence was severely lacking.
As the state’s chief law enforcement official, Cornyn appeared in no rush to launch an investigation that could clear the convictions of those in Tulia who were wrongfully detained. After mounting pressure from groups like the ACLU and the NAACP, Cornyn finally opened an investigation over three years after the initial arrests.
Gupta was the former head of the Civil Rights Division in the Justice Department under President Obama. During the Trump administration, Gupta became the head of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, which united over 200 civil rights organizations.
On Twitter, Cornyn claimed that Gupta believes that all police officers are “systemically racist.” He even argued with Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo, who backs Gupta’s nomination, about the context of testimony to the Senate in 2020. Cornyn also called her a “radical.”
Cornyn isn’t the only Texas Republican against Gupta’s nomination. Ken Paxton, the current Texas Attorney General, joined four other AG Republican counterparts to call on President Biden to withdraw Gupta’s name for consideration.
Gupta’s opening remarks were released by the Senate Judiciary Committee earlier:
“As a lifelong civil rights lawyer, I have committed my career to ensuring that the promises made in the Constitution are kept, and that our federal laws are fairly and impartially applied. That commitment to fairness under the law is the same one I saw every day from the career lawyers at the Department of Justice when I led the Civil Rights Division. If confirmed, I will aggressively ensure that the Justice Department is independent from partisan influence.”
Photo: Lonnie Tague / Wikimedia Commons