Bloomberg, former RNC chair Steele back Biden pick for civil rights division

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President Biden’s pick to lead the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) Civil Rights Division has earned the backing of several former Republican officials, including former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and former Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele.

Bloomberg and Steele were among a handful of officials to write to the top senators on the Judiciary Committee in support of Kristen Clarke, Biden’s nominee for assistant attorney general for civil rights. 

The letters, which were sent to the committee last month, were obtained first by The Hill on Tuesday.

“I am confident she will be a vigorous and energetic enforcer of our nation’s laws in service of the American people,” Bloomberg wrote in a letter to Sens. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), the chairman and ranking member of the committee, respectively.

“She well understands the essential truth my father taught me as a young boy: that discrimination against anyone threatens all of us. And she knows we cannot allow bias and bigotry to debase our society, our economy, or our institutions,” added Bloomberg, who served as the Republican mayor of NYC before running in the 2020 Democratic presidential primary as an independent.

Steele, a frequent critic of former President Trump, led the RNC from 2009-2011. He endorsed later Biden in 2020, and worked with anti-Trump PAC The Lincoln Project during the presidential election.

Steele voiced his support for Clarke, citing his time working with her when she was head of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law.

“Her willingness to engage and work with people regardless of partisan affiliation is precisely what makes her uniquely qualified to serve in this critical role,” Steele wrote.

“On so many issues that I have discussed with her, she always looks for opportunities to bring different communities of color together while tackling our nation’s thorniest challenges of inequality,” he added.

Michael Chertoff, who served as former President George W. Bush’s Homeland Security secretary, wrote to the committee that he worked with Clarke on the National Task Force on Election Crises and praised her commitment to protecting the right to vote.

Other backers of Clarke’s nomination included Trey Grayson, who previously served as Kentucky’s secretary of state and unsuccessfully ran in the GOP Senate primary in 2010, as well as Sal Nuzzo, vice president of the conservative think tank The James Madison Institute.

Biden announced in January his intent to nominate Clarke as assistant attorney general for civil rights. She is most recently the president and executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, and she served as head of the civil rights bureau of the New York state attorney general’s office.

If confirmed, Clarke would be the first Senate-confirmed woman and woman of color to head the Civil Rights Division.

She would take on the job at a pivotal point, as Republican legislatures around the country have proposed measures to tighten voting restrictions and as Asian Americans continue to face an increase in hate crimes and discrimination.

The country is also still reeling from the aftermath of the killing of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and other Black Americans last year, which set off massive protests in cities around the nation.

Tags Anti-Asian hate Chuck Grassley Civil Rights Division Department of Justice Dick Durbin Donald Trump Hate crimes Joe Biden killing of Black Americans Kristen Clarke Michael Bloomberg

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