What Does the Justice Department Look Like Under a  President Trump?

Under President Donald Trump, the Department of Justice could move away from focusing on civil rights issues and give police more leeway.

The Department of Justice in Washington, D.C., is shown on Nov. 3, 2016. Mark Wilson/Getty Images

Throughout his campaign, President-elect Donald Trump stressed the need for more law enforcement in America, and under his direction, the Justice Department could see a drastic shift in priorities that would reinforce those ideals.

Under President Barack Obama, the Justice Department built an aggressive Civil Rights Division, but according to legal analysts and Trump’s public statements, the department could take a more hands-off approach toward police departments accused of using excessive force and loosen restrictions on surveillance of Muslim communities, the Washington Post reports.  

Trump, who was endorsed during his candidacy by the Fraternal Order of Police, has taken a tough stance in support of law enforcement. He said that Chicago police should be much tougher than they are right now, and he told the International Association of Chiefs of Police that the federal government would stay out of law enforcement’s business. He has been critical of Obama’s clemency efforts and said he would renew surveillance on mosques.

As the Post reports, this is the antithesis of an Obama Justice Department, which has supported broad changes in the criminal-justice system, partnered with Muslims in the fight against terrorism, scrutinized police departments and investigated high-profile incidents of police officers killing people.

Civil rights advocates, including the Rev. Al Sharpton, president of the National Action Network, are bracing for the worst.

“This is a guy who will have no problem targeting civil rights leaders, targeting reporters,” Sharpton said in an interview with the Post. “We’ve got to get ready to fight. This is serious.”

As the Post reports, the Justice Department’s priorities and policy positions often switch when a Republican takes over from a Democrat, and vice versa.

“The Civil Rights Division gets whipsawed more than any other part of the Department of Justice when the White House changes parties,” Bill Yeomans, who spent most of his 26-year career with the DOJ in the Civil Rights Division, said in an interview with the Post. “This promises to bring a dramatic shift in priorities and ideology.”

A lot of what happens at the Justice Department will depend on who Trump selects as his attorney general. There are also questions as to whether he will decide to investigate presidential rival Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server while she was secretary of state.

According to the Post, Sharpton and others are strategizing on how to apply pressure to Trump and his advisers and have influence over the selection of attorney general, which is the Cabinet position most vital to civil rights issues.

Read more at the Washington Post.

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