By Charlie Savage
WASHINGTON — The Trump administration is preparing to redirect resources of the Justice Department’s civil rights division toward investigating and suing universities over affirmative action admissions policies deemed to discriminate against white applicants, according to a document obtained by The New York Times.
The document, an internal announcement to the civil rights division, seeks current lawyers
interested in working for a new project on “investigations and possible litigation related to intentional race-based discrimination in college and university admissions.”
The announcement suggests that the project will be run out of the division’s front office, where the Trump administration’s political appointees work, rather than its Educational Opportunities Section, which is run by career civil servants and normally handles work involving schools and universities.
The document does not explicitly identify whom the Justice Department considers at risk of discrimination because of affirmative action admissions policies. But the phrasing it uses, “intentional race-based discrimination,” cuts to the heart of programs designed to bring more minorities to university campuses.
Supporters and critics of the project said it was clearly targeting admissions programs that can give members of generally disadvantaged groups, like black and Latino students, an edge over other applicants with comparable or higher test scores.
The project is another sign that the civil rights division is taking on a conservative tilt under President Donald Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions. It follows other changes in Justice Department policy on voting rights, gay rights and police reforms.
Roger Clegg, a former top official in the civil rights division during the Reagan and George H.W. Bush administrations who is now the president of the conservative Center for Equal Opportunity, called the project a “welcome” and “long overdue” development as the United States becomes increasingly multiracial.
“The civil rights laws were deliberately written to protect everyone from discrimination, and it is frequently the case that not only are whites discriminated against now, but frequently Asian-Americans are as well,” he said.
But Kristen Clarke, the president of the liberal…