Ryan Reilly for HuffPo:
Under President Barack Obama, the Justice Department spent the better part of a decade battling a strict voter ID law in Texas, which several federal judges found to be discriminatory. Now, in the Trump era, the acting head of the department’s Civil Rights Division is a Republican attorney who offered Texas officials guidance as they wrote the disputed law.
Thomas E. Wheeler, an Indiana lawyer who previously served as general counsel to Vice President Mike Pence when Pence was governor of Indiana, was named the acting head of the Civil Rights Division this week. For the time being, he is the person charged with overseeing the implementation of federal law on issues like voting, police conduct, housing discrimination and disability rights. He heads a division full of employees with big worries about the future of civil rights enforcement.
The Obama Justice Department had taken the position that the 2011 Texas law ― signed by former governor and likely Trump Cabinet member Rick Perry ― not only discriminated, but was passed explicitly to discriminate, against black and Latino voters. The latest step in the convoluted legal battle was set to be a hearing before a federal judge on Jan. 23, this past Monday.
Then, hours after President Donald Trump’s inauguration last week, the Justice Department asked for a delay in the case due to the change in administration, likely to give the department’s new leaders time to re-evaluate its position. But Wheeler won’t be involved in that decision. A Justice Department official told The Huffington Post that Wheeler is recused from the case.