Center for American Progress

RELEASE: Attorney General Jeff Sessions Is Taking Civil Rights Enforcement Back to the 1980s, Says Vanita Gupta
Press Release

RELEASE: Attorney General Jeff Sessions Is Taking Civil Rights Enforcement Back to the 1980s, Says Vanita Gupta

Washington D.C. — Following last week’s announcement from the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) to investigate and sue universities for implementing affirmative action admissions policies, Michele Jawando and Igor Volsky, co-hosts of the “Thinking CAP” podcast, sit down with Vanita Gupta, the former head of the DOJ’s civil rights division and president and CEO of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights. She assesses Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ performance so far at the department, and how it compares to the civil rights progress made while she was at the helm of the civil rights division in the Obama administration.

“A lot of the steps that have been taken: the retreat on police reform, the rolling back and changing positions of voting rights enforcement, LGBT rights, criminal justice reform. [Sessions] has taken very clear steps to either take us back to the 1980s discredited criminal justice policies or to undo civil rights progress,” says Gupta on the Thinking CAP podcast. “I do feel a sense of whiplash going from a time when we were aggressive about civil rights enforcement, to a time where it does feel dangerously close to a politicization of that work.”

During her tenure in the Obama administration, Gupta led the civil rights division of the DOJ in presiding over investigations in police departments after the unrest in Ferguson, Missouri, and Baltimore, and made strides toward more progressive criminal justice reform. On the podcast, Gupta speaks about her experience at the DOJ; the progress made under her leadership and how she continues to fight for civil rights today at the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights; even as Sessions attempts to undo much of the progress she made.

Thinking CAP is a 25-minute weekly podcast from the Center for American Progress, with new episodes released every Thursday. The program breaks down the issues and ideas surrounding the ongoing resistance movement and inserts bold progressive ideas and values into the political conversation.

The podcast is available on Apple PodcastsSoundCloudStitcherGoogle Play, and CAP’s website.

For more information or for information on guest booking, please contact Sally Tucker at 202.481.8103 or