Analysis warns Trump DOJ is casting a long shadow over Biden admin

Analysis warns Trump DOJ is casting a long shadow over Biden admin
Bill Barr and Donald Trump in February 2019, Wikimedia Commons

More than 16 months into Joe Biden's presidency, his Department of Justice and other agencies continue to defend and advance legal positions held by the Trump administration, an analysis by a leading government watchdog revealed Monday.

Former President Donald Trump and his DOJ "consistently made a mockery of the law throughout his four years in power," the Center for Economic and Policy Research's Revolving Door Project asserted. "And while their laughable reasoning and indefensible positions were struck down at a historic rate, many cases were still waiting for Biden. Sixteen months into Biden's presidency, an alarming number remain, either in some form of pause or advancing forward with the Biden administration adopting Trump's position."

Revolving Door Project researcher Hannah Story Brown said in a statement that "one-third of the way through Biden's presidency, it's becoming clear how long a shadow the Biden administration is willing to let Trump-era legal positions cast."

She added that the president and Attorney General Merrick Garland's "adherence to an outdated and often breached norm of consistency between attorneys general is undermining this administration's deepest commitments even as Trump's judicial appointees continue to shred legal norms and sabotage democracy."

The Revolving Door Project analysis contains a detailed—but noncomprehensive—list highlighting the Biden administration's defense of Trump-era cases and positions across a wide range of subjects and departments.

The DOJ is defending Trump in a defamation lawsuit over a sexual assault accusation; is seeking to dismiss lawsuits against the former president and his officials for violently removing racial justice protestors ahead of a 2020 Washington, D.C. photo-op; and is trying to keep documents affirming alleged improprieties related to the Trump International Hotel from the public eye.

On immigration, the Biden administration continued to misuse Title 42, a provision of the Public Health Safety Act first invoked by Trump as the coronavirus pandemic began in March 2020. More than one million asylum-seekers have been deported under the policy, the majority of them during Biden's tenure.

The Biden administration also continues to defend the violation of unaccompanied migrant children's legal rights under the Migrant Protection Protocols program, has appealed a court's decision in Gomez et al. v Trump et al. ordering the issuance of more than 9,000 diversity visas, and has caved to Republican pressure and withdrawn from settlement talks with migrants whose families were separated at the border.

Biden's DOJ and Department of Education are defending Trump-era Education Secretary Betsy DeVos' repeal of a rule that helped prevent for-profit colleges exploit students, while shielding DeVos from testifying in a case involving a class-action lawsuit brought by defrauded student borrowers. The Education Department also continues to seek dismissal of a lawsuit by former California Attorney General Xavier Becerra challenging DeVos' Distance Education and Innovation regulations.

On the environmental front, Garland's DOJ is defending Trump-era fossil fuel projects including Enbridge's Line 3 tar sands pipeline despite Biden's pledge to combat the climate emergency.

The Biden administration is also upholding a doctrine barring military service members who were raped from suing the government, is failing to defend voting rights, and is endorsing an expansion of police power. It is also delaying gender-affirming surgery for a transgender woman prisoner despite a court order and the threat of judicial sanction, defending the Department of Homeland Security's authority to conduct warrantless searches of electronic devices, and upholding a Social Security provision that denies Puerto Rico residents benefits.

"The Biden administration must move quickly to drop, reverse, or settle the cases that Trump left behind," Revolving Door Project asserted. "And—we would have thought this wouldn't need to be said—the administration should adopt Trump's positions about as often as a stopped clock is accurate."

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