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Scott Howell: Vanita Gupta should be confirmed as associate attorney general

Nominee is the target of false charges from conservative groups.

(AP Photo/Susan Walsh) Associate Attorney General nominee Vanita Gupta speaks during an event with President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris at The Queen theater in Wilmington, Del., Thursday, Jan. 7, 2021.

Vanita Gupta, President Joe Biden’s nominee for associate attorney general, is a classic American success story. The daughter of Indian immigrants, Gupta obtained a B.A. magna cum laude from Yale University and then graduated at the top of her class from the New York University School of Law.

Rather than pursuing a lucrative career in private practice, Gupta dedicated her life to serving others. In her work with the NAACP Legal Defense Fund and the ACLU, Gupta protected the rights of some of the most vulnerable in our society. Following her time with the ACLU Gupta was appointed by President Barack Obama to be the assistant attorney general for civil rights, a position in which she worked with both civil rights groups and law enforcement groups to heal wounds in communities across the nation and help individuals understand and protect their rights. Gupta is an extremely qualified public servant and the Senate should move quickly to confirm her as associate attorney general.

Despite her qualifications and years of public service, Vanita Gupta has been unfairly maligned with half truths and outright lies in a bid by far-right politicians and political groups to disrupt Biden’s agenda. Far-right political groups like the Judicial Crisis Network have accused Gupta of supporting efforts to defund the police. This is an outright lie. Gupta has never stated support for defunding the police. In fact, Gupta has been endorsed by a wide range of law enforcement organizations and leaders in the field, including the former Bush Administration Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff.

Even staunch conservatives have and continue to voice their support for Gupta. Grover Norquist, the leader of Americans for Tax Reform (one of the most conservative organizations in the country) said that he has “come to know and respect Ms. Gupta through [their] common work on criminal justice issues” and has “found her to be strongly qualified, effective, principled, and driven by a desire to seek common purpose and consensus.”

It’s evident that Gupta is uniquely positioned to unite Americans in her capacity as associate attorney general. She has a history of working to unify disparate groups in order to solve community problems. In her work on criminal justice reform, Gupta has worked with community, religious and law enforcement organizations to help ex-convicts repair their lives and avoid recidivism. She has a proven track record of overcoming challenges through consensus, hard work, and sound policy.

If 2020 has shown us anything, it’s that there are huge challenges that we face as a nation. Racial injustice, disagreements over free speech and religious freedom, political tribalism, hate and contempt are tearing our nation apart. Now is the time to come together and work to overcome these challenges. We may oftentimes disagree, and disagree vehemently, but we all have the same goal a better, stronger America for ourselves and our families. If we are to achieve that common goal, we need to have leaders that will work by consensus, that will listen to all sides and seek to unify us. Vanita Gupta is that leader.

Scott Howell Courtesy photo

Scott N. Howell is a retired business executive, former Utah Senate minority leader and served as a surrogate for the Biden/Harris Utah campaign.

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