Vanita Gupta was born to Indian immigrant parents in Philadelphia on November 15, 1974. She is married to Chinh Q. Le, legal director of the D.C. Legal Aid Society.
Since 2010, Gupta’s father, Rajiv L. Gupta, has been the board chairman of Avantor, a chemicals-and-materials company based in Pennsylvania. Vanita Gupta herself owns between $11 million and $55 million of stock in the company.
Beginning in the early 2000s, Avantor sold acetic anhydride, a chemical compound which is used in the production of cigarette filters. But when the company commissioned some Mexico-based subsidiaries to produce and distribute acetic anhydride in that country, some quantities of the compound – which was typically sold in jugs small enough to load into the trunk of a car — were diverted into the possession of Mexican drug cartels that used it for the manufacture of high-grade “china white” heroin and methamphetamine. This was made possible by the fact that the chemical was virtually unregulated in Mexico prior to late 2018.
Vanita Gupta graduated from Yale University in 1996 with a degree in History and Women’s Studies. She then worked briefly as a community organizer at the Harvard School of Public Health, where she was also the public policy coordinator for Violence Prevention Programs. Next, Gupta attended the New York University (NYU) School of Law, where, during her third year, she joined the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund (NAACP-LDEF) with a Soros Justice Fellowship (funded by George Soros‘s Open Society Institute). After earning her Juris Doctor degree from NYU in 2001, Gupta took a job with the NAACP-LDEF.
From 2004-06, Gupta served as a consultant for George Soros’s Open Society Institute.
From 2005 to 2021, Gupta served as an advisory committee member for South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT), a leading proponent of abolishing the U.S. Immigration & Customs Enforcement agency (ICE).
Gupta is a proud disciple of critical race theory (CRT), an academic discipline which: (a) maintains that society is divided along racial lines into (white) oppressors and (black) victims, similar to the way Marxism frames the oppressor/victim dichotomy along class lines; and (b) contends that America is permanently racist to its core, and that consequently the nation’s institutions and legal structures are, by definition, racist and invalid. In 2005, Gupta wrote in the Fordham Law Review that “critical race theory, as an analytical tool, helps us understand that underneath the insidious veneer of such code words and mottos as ‘the rule of law,’ ‘colorblindness,’ ‘equal justice for all,’ and ‘equal protection,’ the law is contingent upon the social and political realities of inequality and racial power.” She also wrote that critical race theory “must … be a tool for reforming and transforming … the very systems in place that are destroying our communities and maintaining the subordination of people of color.”
In 2007, Gupta was hired as a staff attorney by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). That same year, on the ACLU’s behalf, she filed a lawsuit accusing the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency (ICE) of providing substandard conditions in the detention centers that housed children whose parents were asylum seekers who had crossed America’s southern border illegally.
Gupta went on to serve as the ACLU’s deputy legal director, and then as director of the organization’s Center for Justice, where she fought for criminal-justice reform measures designed to enhance prisoners’ rights and inspire opposition to capital punishment. Gupta also helped lead the ACLU’s National Campaign to End Mass Incarceration, an initiative founded on the premise that nonwhite minorities comprise a disproportionately high percentage of prisoners nationwide because the American justice system is thoroughly infused with racism.
In August 2013, Gupta wrote in an op-ed published by The New York Times: “Both political parties embraced draconian policies like mandatory minimum sentences, three-strikes laws and wide disparities in sentences for possession of crack versus powder cocaine. […] Those who seek a fairer criminal justice system, unclouded by racial bias, must at a minimum demand that the government eliminate mandatory minimum sentences, which tie judges’ hands; rescind three-strikes laws, which often make no distinction between, say, armed assault and auto theft; amend ‘truth in sentencing’ statutes, which prohibit early release for good behavior; and recalibrate drug policies, starting with decriminalization of marijuana possession and investment in substance-abuse prevention and treatment.”
Gupta wants almost all bail requirements eliminated; she would abolish almost all mandatory minimum prison sentences, even for repeat offenders; and she would set a maximum criminal sentence, except in extremely rare circumstances, of 20 years.
In 2015, Gupta oversaw the production of the federal report on the conduct of the Ferguson (Missouri) Police Department following the highly publicized police shooting of Michael Brown, which had sparked a series of protests and violent riots in a number of U.S. cities. As InfluenceWatch.org notes: “The report alleged a culture of racism and exploitation in the department, claiming that police aggressively pursued fines and asset forfeiture as a means of raising revenue.” Gupta later led similar investigations into the police departments of Baltimore and Chicago.
On May 19, 2015, Gupta spoke at the Colorado Lawyers Committee Annual Lunch. In the course of her remarks, she condemned the racism that she claimed was part-and-parcel of the American criminal-justice system:
“Eric Garner. Michael Brown. Tamir Rice. John Crawford. Walter Scott. Freddie Gray. These names and many others have become familiar to us under tragic circumstances in recent months. Their deaths and those of other unarmed African American men and women in encounters with police officers, have provoked widespread responses across the country and have fueled the Black Lives Matter movement. In communities of color, in particular, the reaction has been stark and sobering. […]
“The pain, anger, frustration—the lack of trust in the police—is real, and it is profound. Again and again, people have told me that young people are losing faith in our justice system and view law enforcement as preying on them rather than protecting their loved ones. They talk about how the police don’t value their rights, or indeed, their lives. They talk about being tired of being viewed as criminals first, human beings second. […]
“The consequences of distrust between law enforcement and the communities they serve can be devastating. Where people perceive the criminal justice system to be arbitrary, biased and unfair, they are less likely to cooperate with law enforcement, making us all less safe. The distrust and alienation experienced in some communities can build into a powder keg of resentment, ready to be ignited by a single tragic incident. We have seen this over and over—in Watts in 1965, in Los Angeles in 1992 and most recently, in Ferguson in 2014.
“It’s worth asking, first, how did we get here? And second, what are we going to do about it?
“Let’s start with the first question and consider the source of the mistrust. Mistrust can’t be explained away as the kneejerk reaction of the ill-informed or the hyperbolic. It’s in part the product of historical awareness about the role that police have played in enforcing and perpetuating slavery, the Black Codes, lynchings and Jim Crow segregation. As FBI Director James Comey noted, ‘At many points in American history, law enforcement enforced the status quo, a status quo that was often brutally unfair to disfavored groups.’
“It is also the product of lived experience, of negative interactions that individuals — or their family members, friends, or neighbors — have had with law enforcement. Something as quietly humiliating as being mistreated during a traffic stop, or being followed in a retail store. These stories can circulate through a neighborhood — or these days, across the nation via the web and social media — and they can build up over time into a painful narrative that divides community members and police.
“The lack of trust also undeniably results from our criminal justice policies over the last few decades, and the concentrated impact they have had on communities of color and people living in poverty. Law enforcement practices such as the stopping and frisking of young black men based on stereotypes. Sentencing policies that result in mass incarceration, particularly of people of color. And the devastating consequences that convictions have had on individuals’ ability to find work, secure stable housing and reintegrate as full members of society. These are deliberate policy choices that we made over the last several decades. We bear the responsibility to confront their consequences.”
In February 2016, the city of Charlotte, North Carolina passed an ordinance allowing people who simply claimed to be transgender, to use the bathrooms and shower rooms of the gender with which they identified. The state legislature responded the following month with a Public Facilities Privacy & Security Act, which preserved the single-sex status of restrooms and shower rooms in public schools and government buildings. Gupta subsequently led a federal lawsuit against the North Carolina state government, challenging the bill. At a May 9, 2016 press conference, she said: “Transgender men are men — they live, work and study as men. Transgender women are women — they live, work and study as women.”
On September 20, 2016, Gupta spoke at the Southern Center for Human Rights Symposium on the Criminalization of Race and Poverty. Among her remarks were the following, in which she emphasized what she saw as the racism that permeated America’s justice system:
“The fitting title for this symposium – ‘Decriminalizing Race and Poverty: What’s Working and What You Can Do’ – urges us to recognize the impact of our collective efforts and to address the unfinished work ahead. That work is urgent and the facts are stark. More than 2 million people are behind bars in America today – a figure that’s grown dramatically since the 1970s. According to a recent report from The Sentencing Project, African Americans are incarcerated in state prisons at a rate more than five times that of whites. And more than 60 percent of all inmates in county jails are defendants awaiting trial: many of them have committed non-violent offenses and are there simply because they cannot pay bail.”
Also during her tenure with Obama’s DOJ, Gupta heard appeals regarding voter-identification laws (which she opposed) in Texas and North Carolina, and she wrote a federal condemnation of solitary confinement as a form of punishment.
On March 23, 2017, the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights announced that Gupta had been chosen to lead both the LCCHR and its sister organization, the Leadership Conference Education Fund.
In the summer of 2017, it was reported that President Trump’s Department of Justice (DOJ) was preparing to launch a campaign against affirmative action policies in higher education. Gupta characterized the Trump Administration’s position as “disturbing.”
In June 2017, Gupta published a blog condemning a new law signed by Texas governor Greg Abbott that effectively banned sanctuary cities in that state by allowing local law-enforcement officials to be criminally prosecuted and removed from office for carrying out sanctuary policies, such as ignoring detainer requests by the Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency. Gupta described the new law as an “unwise piece of legislation.” Moreover, she submitted an affidavit in support of the ACLU’s lawsuit that sought to block it.
In August 2017, Gupta co-authored an opinion piece in the Huffington Post which questioned the notion that non-citizens should face deportation as a consequence for criminal behavior. Said the piece: “The narrative of fear and vitriol must be changed. We all make mistakes. To suggest that [a criminal alien’s] infraction makes him less American and less desirable to remain in the U.S. is an unduly harsh and an unjust assessment. In this country of immigrants, we can do better.”
In the wake of a violent and deadly confrontation in August 2017 between neo-Nazis and Antifa anarchists in Charlottesville, Virginia, Gupta blamed President Trump and his supporters for the incident. “Supporters of white supremacists, violent extremism, racial bigotry, and neo-Nazis should not serve in the White House or at any level of government,” she said. “The president should fire Stephen Bannon and Sebastian Gorka or any staffers who stoke hate and division.”
In September 2017, Gupta praised Democrat congressman Tony Cárdenas for introducing The Reverse Mass Incarceration Act of 2017 in the U.S. House of Representatives. Based on a 2015 proposal by the Brennan Center for Justice (BCJ), the bill was, by BCJ’s telling, “essentially the reverse of the ‘1994 Crime Bill.’” “Instead of incentivizing states to increase prison populations,” said the Brennan Center, “the legislation would pay states to decrease them, while keeping down crime.” Said Gupta: “We applaud Congressman Cardenas for introducing The Reverse Mass Incarceration Act of 2017…. [T]his legislation will use federal money to encourage states to reduce both crime and unnecessary incarceration. At a time when we have an Attorney General who seeks to continue the unwise practice of privatizing prisons and putting more and more people in them, Congress must reform our criminal justice system and do more to address mass incarceration.”
On September 19, 2017, Gupta addressed the Democratic Policy and Communications Committee (DPCC) on the subject of the alleged Republican “assault” on voting rights in America. Among her remarks were the following:
“Voting rights in America are under assault, plain and simple. The most devastating blow to voting rights in the modern era occurred in 2013 when, in the Shelby County v. Holder case, five justices of the Supreme Court struck down the most powerful provision of the Voting Rights Act: the preclearance system. This system had empowered the Justice Department for half a century to block discriminatory voting restrictions in states and localities with the most troubling histories of discrimination, before they were able to do any damage. […]
“The Shelby County decision emboldened states to pass voter suppression laws, such as those requiring photo identification, cutting back on early voting hours, and eliminating same-day registration. […] Thankfully, federal courts struck down the Texas and North Carolina laws … [but] by the time such laws were invalidated, elections had occurred and hundreds of thousands of voters had been disenfranchised. And despite many litigation victories, the vast majority of voting restrictions are still in effect. Today, 34 states in America – nearly 70% – have voter ID laws. […]
“And then we have President Trump’s so-called Advisory Commission on Election Integrity, which was ostensibly set up to justify the President’s absurd allegation that millions of people voted illegally in the 2016 election. Of course, the real reason the commission was created was to restrict the right to vote in America. Working hand-in-hand with other civil rights organizations, the Leadership Conference has mounted a nationwide effort to challenge this sham commission. The fact that the commission is led by Vice President Pence and the discredited Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach tells you all you need to know about its agenda. Secretary Kobach and other commission members have built their careers trying to restrict voting rights in America. […]
“We must put forward an affirmative legislative voting rights agenda as well. The Voting Rights Advancement Act (VRAA) is the centerpiece of that agenda. This bill would effectively overturn the Shelby County decision and create a new coverage formula – one that we believe will pass Supreme Court muster – and restore Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act to its full and proper strength. […]
“We also support the Voter Empowerment Act, which has been introduced by Senator [Kirsten] Gillibrand in the Senate and civil rights icon Congressman John Lewis in the House. This comprehensive legislation would dramatically enhance the right to vote. Among other things, the bill would require a minimum of 15 days of early voting in federal elections, permit same-day voter registration, count all provisional ballots, prohibit voter caging practices, ensure equal allocation of polling place resources, modernize our voter registration system by making it available online, and restore the voting rights of formerly incarcerated people. […]
“Finally, I would like to say a word of support for Senator [Patrick] Leahy’s Automatic Voter Registration Act. Here is how AVR works: eligible citizens who interact with government agencies are registered to vote unless they decline, and agencies transfer voter registration information electronically to election officials.”
Over the years, Gupta has argued that religious freedom should, at times, be sacrificed so as to avoid discriminating against LGBT individuals. In 2017, for instance, she argued that Christian business owners should be forced to provide their services, if requested, for causes to which they are morally opposed. Regarding the case of Colorado Christian baker Jack Phillips, who declined to create a custom cake for a same-sex wedding and was subsequently sued by the Colorado Civil Rights Commission for discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation, Gupta likened the case to segregation-era cases where business owners routinely denied all service to people because of their race. Wrote Gupta in a blog post: “On that principle, there ought to be no question that Colorado’s law allowing Charlie Craig and David Mullins to buy a wedding cake from any bakery they choose – notwithstanding that they are gay – should trump claims by a bakery that providing the cake would violate the owner’s religious beliefs. At times, the free exercise of religion yields to other foundational values, including freedom from harm and from discrimination.”
In 2018, Gupta argued in favor of raising the national minimum wage to $15 per hour, saying: “Raising wages is a moral question: do we value the people who are the engine of our economy or not? The answer must be yes.” “The majority of people who would benefit from the policy changes we recommend are women, especially women of color, who are overrepresented in the low-wage workforce,” she added.
But the Washington Free Beacon pointed out the hypocrisy of Gupta’s stated position on minimum wages:
“[Gupta] owns up to $1 million in stock in a company chaired by her father that pays its Mexican workforce as little as $1.30 an hour…. [She] owns at least $500,000 in Aptiv PLC, an international auto parts manufacturer chaired by her father. In contrast with Gupta’s advocacy for a $15 an hour minimum wage, the company pays some of its Mexican employees hourly rates as low as $1.30, according to active job listings reviewed by the Washington Free Beacon. One job posted on Indeed.com, for example, offers a line operator role at a Zacatecas plant that pays the U.S. dollar equivalent of $260 a month for a 50-hour per week job. […]
“Other positions currently advertised by the company include a full-time general operator job that pays $290 a month and a production line operator position that pays $274 a month. […] Vanita Gupta served as a limited liability partner of an Aptiv subsidiary while her father was on the board. From April to November 2011, she was an officer for the United Kingdom-based Aptiv International Holdings, which remains a subsidiary of Aptiv.
“In addition to paying its Mexican workforce far below what Gupta argues is a ‘livable wage,’ the company … according to available SEC filings, paid a 3 percent effective tax rate last year. By comparison, the current corporate tax rate is 21 percent.”
In a February 2018 letter addressed to the members of the U.S. Senate, Gupta exhorted them to reject President Donald Trump’s nomination of Ryan Bounds, an Assistant U.S. Attorney for the District of Oregon, to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. Specifically, Gupta was troubled by what she described as some objectionable things that Bounds, during his days as an undergraduate university student in the 1990s, had written in a series of op-eds published by the Stanford Review regarding the concept of “multiculturalism.” Said Gupta in her letter:
“[Bounds] was highly critical of his classmates who joined racial affinity groups and of university efforts to make students of color feel welcome on the historically discriminatory and non-diverse campus. Mr. Bounds didn’t just criticize such efforts, he did so with a mix of insensitivity and disdain that calls into question his temperament and ability to be impartial. On at least two occasions, he likened the university’s multicultural efforts to Nazi Germany.”
Also in her letter to the senators, Gupta cited the following written remarks by Bounds as evidence that he was now, in Gupta’s estimation, temperamentally unfit to serve as a federal judge:
In her letter to the senators as well, Gupta, unambiguously equated conservatism with racism, emphasizing that although “Mr. Bounds has not published his opinions on race … since college,” “the conservative views he embraced are hardly a distant relic. He has continued to champion conservative causes throughout his legal career.” Moreover, Gupta demonstrated her disdain for the concepts of limited government and separation-of-powers when she criticized Bounds for supporting what she (Gupta) described as “a conservative doctrine that embraces a restricted role for the judiciary” and “the notion of a federal government limited by and confined to its enumerated powers.”
On September 4, 2018, Gupta joined a “candlelight vigil” outside of the Senate confirmation hearing where senators were debating whether or not to confirm Brett Kavanaugh, President Trump’s nominee for Supreme Court Justice. She was joined by representatives of leftist organizations like the National Women’s Law Center, Planned Parenthood, the Center for American Progress, and the National Center for Transgender Equality. “The hearings that are happening upstairs is an outrage,” Gupta said to her fellow protesters. “The soul of our very nation is at stake, and yet, Republicans are refusing to provide to the American public … the kind of access to Kavanaugh’s background that is so important to our being able to judge his qualifications. But based on what we’ve seen, we know that he is one of the greatest threats to civil and human rights right now.” Gupta further claimed that the Kavanaugh hearing was “making a mockery of our Democracy.”
Gupta has been highly critical of The Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994, which provided billions of federal dollars for the hiring of additional police officers, the construction of new prisons, the funding of crime-prevention programs, and the provision of additional funds for the FBI, the DEA, the INS, United States Attorneys, the Treasury Department, border control initiatives, and criminal alien deportations and incarcerations. Also among the bill’s specific provisions were:
In June 2019, Gupta told The New York Times that the 1994 crime bill “created and calcified massive incentives for local jurisdictions to engage in draconian criminal justice practices that had a pretty significant impact in building up the national prison population.”
Gupta spent some time as a co-teacher of the Racial Justice Clinic at New York University. In the fall of 2020, she became a member of NYU Law School’s board of trustees.
Gupta spoke out in support of the Supreme Court’s June 2020 decision in the case of Medical Services v. Russo, where the Court ruled that a Louisiana state law which would have required doctors performing abortions to have admission privileges at a hospital located no farther than 30 miles from the abortion clinic, was unconstitutional. Said Gupta regarding this case: “The Supreme Court reaffirmed today that every individual should have the right to make their own decisions about their health, their families, their lives, and their futures. This is a victory for tireless abortion advocates from Louisiana and around the country and is a rebuke of efforts intended to make abortion impossible to access.”
Gupta also said: “[D]epending on where they live, too many people in America face insurmountable obstacles to obtaining an abortion. Congress must pass the Women’s Health Protection Act” — a proposed law that would subject state abortion laws to greater legal scrutiny — “to ensure [that] reproductive freedom is available to all.”
In 2020, Gupta argued that the Little Sisters of the Poor — an order of Catholic nuns who care for low-income elderly people – should not be be granted a religious exemption from the Obamacare mandate requiring employers to provide their workers with health insurance that covers the costs of contraception, sterilization, and abortifacients. “Religious freedom does not create a license to discriminate,” said Gupta. When the Supreme Court eventually ruled that the Little Sisters were entitled to receive the exemption they sought, Gupta said: “This troubling decision allows employers and universities to refuse to provide contraceptive coverage based on religious or moral opposition.”
In 2020, Gupta described the Republican National Convention as three nights of “racism, xenophobia, and outrageous lies.”
In a June 3, 2015 speech at the University of Chicago’s Institute of Politics, Gupta said that the deaths of “unarmed African American men and women in encounters with police officers have provoked widespread responses across the country and have fueled the Black Lives Matter movement.”
On June 6, 2020 — when the the COVID-19 pandemic was in high gear — Gupta tweeted about attending a BLM rally in Washington, D.C. In her tweet, she shared pictures of the crowd and wrote: “Glad to be here with my son. Needed this energy right now. Powerful, righteous, multiracial, focused. #BlackLivesMatter.” Three days later, Gupta talked about the rally during a Knight Foundation “Vision” discussion where she said: “Understanding the nationwide protests after Ferguson [in 2016], what feels different to me right now is that these [more recent police] killings [of George Floyd and other blacks] happened amidst a time when there was another pandemic of COVID-19 … I think of it as a confluence of two pandemics. I was out there on Saturday in the middle of Washington, D.C., with just this incredible energy, multiracial — it is a little weird to see the mainstreaming of Black Lives Matter, but 16th Street being renamed and just the level of energy … I think people are demanding a lot more in this time.” Added Gupta: “I got into the Justice Department actually two months after Michael Brown had been killed, but the Justice Department was investigating the Ferguson Police Department … I mean, the kind of post-Ferguson movement, that was the birthing of Black Lives Matter and the Movement for Black Lives, and I think that the activism from those movements has been really what has changed the tenor of where we find ourselves today.”
In a June 8, 2020 tweet, Gupta credited BLM for galvanizing Congress to consider passing the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act. “Because of national outrage over the police killing of Black people and activism from Black Lives Matter & the Movement for Black Lives across the nation, Congress is acting,” she wrote. Testifying before the House Judiciary Committee two days later, Gupta said: “It is imperative that we get this right and that Congress’s response in this moment appropriately reflects and acknowledges the important work of Black Lives Matter.”
At a June 16, 2020 U.S. Senate hearing on police use of force, Gupta said: “While front-end systems changes are important, it is also critical for state and local leaders to heed calls from Black Lives Matter and Movement for Black Lives activists to decrease police budgets and the scope, role, and responsibility of police in our lives.”
In August 2020, Gupta told Glamour magazine that she and her allies had a very palpable “sense of how lucky we are to uplift the Movement for Black Lives and people who’ve been working on the Black Lives Matter movement for years.”
In September 2020, Gupta praised the Democratic presidential nominee, Joe Biden, for his repeated characterizations of America as a nation infested with white racism. “I hear him talking about systemic racism and structural racism in a way that sounds differently than before,” she said of Biden. “I just think that the nation is in a different place today than we were post-Ferguson, in large part because of the Black Lives Matter movement.”
After the September 2020 death of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg, Gupta stated that the Trump Administration’s push to fill her vacated seat on the Court before the upcoming presidential election could force Democrats to consider possible measures like expanding the Court and packing it with leftists if Joe Biden were to win the White House and Democrats were to take control of the Senate. “Nothing is off the table,” Gupta told the Associated Press. “The legitimacy of the Court and our democracy is at stake.”
On January 7, 2021, incoming President Joe Biden nominated Gupta to serve as the United States Associate Attorney General.
At Gupta’s Senate confirmation hearing in March 2021:
(a) Republican Senator John Cornyn asked the nominee if she still held her previously stated opinion that the National Rifle Association (NRA) is an “extremist advocacy organization.” Refusing to answer the question directly, Gupta said she would “bring no prejudgments about the National Rifle Association or any other organization to my duty to fully, fairly, and impartially enforce the law.” However, her record on the Second Amendment showed that in the past, she had: (a) attacked judicial nominees for having membership in the NRA; (b) opposed concealed-carry permits; (c) supported bans on semiautomatic firearms; (d) favored magazine capacity limits; and (e) advocated a ban on the private transfer of firearms.
(b) Gupta said: “I believe that we all have implicit bias. It doesn’t mean that we are harboring any racism at all, these are unconscious assumptions and stereotypes that can get made.” This prompted Republican Senator Tom Cotton to ask her, “Against which races do you harbor racial bias?” Gupta answered: “I am quite aware that I know that I hold stereotypes that I have to manage. I am a product of my culture. It’s part of the human condition. And I believe that all of us are able to manage implicit bias, but only if we can acknowledge our own, and I am not above anyone else in that matter.”
(c) Gupta also said, during her testimony, that “[t]here is not an institution in this country that isn’t suffering from institutional racism.” Senator Cotton subsequently asked her: “Ms. Gupta, does the Biden White House suffer from institutional racism?” Gupta replied: “Senator, given the history of this country — of slavery and the long period of Jim Crow and the ongoing scourge of racial discrimination — I think that it remains very much a live problem in America today, and that the effort to address racial discrimination in all of its forms, discrimination of any sort, is something that all of us have to work at in the institutions we are a part of.”
(d) Gupta repeatedly stated that she did not “support defunding the police.” Rather, she claimed that “at every point in [her] career,” she had advocated in favor of increased resources for law enforcement. But in fact, she had expressed support on more than once for the defunding of police departments and the reallocation of that money to community programs. For example:
(e) Gupta was asked whether she supported the “decriminalization of all drugs,” to which she replied emphatically, “No, Senator, I do not.” Likewise, in a statement she wrote in response to written questions from the Senate, Gupta said that she had “never advocated for the decriminalization of all drugs.” But these claims were untrue. In a September 2012 op-ed in the Huffington Post, Gupta had written: “States should decriminalize simple possession of all drugs, particularly marijuana.”
(f) Gupta was questioned about her well-known opposition to capital punishment. She stated that despite her own personal objections to the death penalty, she was able to put her feelings aside and support the proper enforcement of the law as it was written. “I also know how to enforce the law,” Gupta explained. “And I did so when I was in the Justice Department before, when [white supremacist] Dylann Roof committed the heinous act [of mass murder] against nine [black] parishioners at the Charleston [Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal] Church. And that prosecution and conviction happened under my watch.” But in fact, the imposition of the death penalty against Roof actually happened over Gupta’s strident objection. As contemporaneous 2016 reports in The Washington Post noted, then-Attorney General Loretta Lynch approved prosecutors seeking the death penalty for Roof “over the objections of some advising her, including … Vanita Gupta, the head of the Justice Department’s civil rights division.”
(g) Gupta refused to say whether she believed it was fair for high-school girls to be forced to compete in athletic events against biological males who claimed to be transgender females. Republican Senator Tom Cotton reminded Gupta that when she was serving in the Obama DOJ’s Civil Rights Division, she had provided guidance instructing schools not to treat transgender students differently than other students. “So it means, for instance, that a biological male informs the school that he now identifies as a female the school would be required to allow him to participate on girl’s athletic teams,” said Cotton. “Is that correct?” Gupta replied: “Senator, President Biden has been very clear and forthright about his support to protect all LGBTQ people in an executive order. He’s asked federal agencies to look at and consider application of the Bostock [Supreme Court] decision and other federal statutes as long as it’s consistent with the law, and if I am confirmed I believe in supporting the dignity and well being of all people in accordance with all federal laws and the Constitution.”
Cotton then asked Gupta if she knew the name of the fastest female track-and-field sprinter in history. “No, I do not,” Gupta answered. “The late great Florence Griffith Joyner, Flo-Jo to millions of her fans,” Cotton then said. “No woman has ever run faster in [the 100 and 200 meter] races than she has. But you know who has? Seventy-six high school boys in America in 2019. Do you really think it’s fair for high school girls, given the innate physical differences, to have boys who can beat the fastest women in the history of the world — transition to female identity and then compete against them in their sports?” Gupta replied: “Senator, I believe that LGBTQ people have the right in dignity to identify as they see fit, as do all Americans and if I am confirmed I will be enforcing federal civil rights laws and the constitution and upholding that value.”
(h) Gupta would not directly answer questions asking what restrictions on abortion, if any, she favored. When Republican Senator Ted Cruz, for instance, asked if she believed that the government could ban the late-term procedure commonly known as partial-birth abortion, Gupta responded that “my duty, if confirmed, will be to federal laws and the Constitution.” “Roe versus Wade is established precedent and has been reaffirmed numerous times by the courts,” she added.
(i) Gupta was confronted about harsh rhetoric she had used in the past against Republicans and conservatives, such as the aforementioned remarks she had made about Brett Kavanaugh in 2018. On another occasion, Gupta had compared Senator Mitch McConnell to Lord Voldemort, the main antagonist in J. K. Rowling’s series of fictional Harry Potter novels. And on yet another occasion, she had indicated that she “liked” a Twitter post calling former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley a “snake.” Said Gupta at her confirmation hearing: “I regret the harsh rhetoric that I have used at times in the last several years. I think the rhetoric has gotten quite harsh over the last several years, and I have fallen prey to it. I wish I could take it back. I can’t. I can pledge to you today that if I am confirmed, you won’t be hearing that kind of rhetoric from me.” She also asked the senators to consider what she described as her lifelong track record as a believer “in the importance of building consensus,” and as a “deeply pragmatic person and relationship builder.”
On April 21, 2021, the U.S. Senate confirmed Gupta as Associate Attorney General in a 51-49 vote. Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski was the only Republican who voted in favor of her confirmation. Gupta was officially sworn in to her new post the following day.
At a December 6, 2021 press conference, Gupta joined Attorney General Merrick Garland in announcing that the Department of Justice was suing the Republican-governed state of Texas regarding the electoral maps of Texas’ Congressional Districts, which had been recently redrawn following the 2020 national census. According to DOJ, the manner in which those Districts had been redrawn discriminated against black and Latino voters, thereby violating the Voting Rights Act. Asserting that this was “not the first time Texas has acted to minimize the voting rights of its minority citizens,” the DOJ complaint read: “Decade after decade Texas has enacted redistricting plans that violate the Voting Rights Act.” Neither Gupta nor Garland mentioned the fact that while Texas had gained two Electoral College seats as a result of its population growth since 2020, it was actually Democrats who were likely to benefit disproportionately from the redistricting. Specifically, the state had replaced 5 highly competitive Districts with 5 Democrat-leaning Districts in Congress, while also adding 2 Republican-leaning Districts.
Among Gupta’s remarks at the press conference were the following:
“Our complaint today alleges that the redistricting plans approved by the Texas state legislature and signed into law by the Governor will deny Black and Latino voters an equal opportunity to participate in the voting process and to elect representatives of their choice, in violation of the Voting Rights Act. Our complaint also alleges that several of those districts were drawn with discriminatory intent.
“Texas’ 2021 redistricting plans were enacted through a rushed process, with minimal opportunity for public comment, without any expert testimony, and with an overall disregard for the massive minority population growth in Texas over the last decade. Texas’ population grew by 4 million people from 2010 to 2020, and 95% of that growth came from minority populations. Despite this significant increase in the number and proportion of eligible Latino and Black voters in Texas, the newly enacted redistricting plans will not allow minority voters an equal opportunity to elect representatives of their choice. Instead, our investigation determined that Texas’ redistricting plans will dilute the increased minority voting strength that should have developed from these significant demographic shifts.
“For example, Texas will gain two new Congressional seats because of its population growth, almost all of which is due to growth in the state’s minority population. However, Texas has designed both of those new seats to have white voting majorities.
“The congressional plan also deliberately reconfigured a West Texas district to eliminate the opportunity for Latino voters to elect a representative of their choice. This is the third time in three decades where Texas has eliminated a Latino electoral opportunity in this same district, despite previous court determinations that this violates the law.
“And the State House plan eliminated Latino electoral opportunities by manipulating or eliminating districts where Latino communities previously had elected their preferred candidates.
“These redistricting plans will diminish the opportunities for Latino and Black voters in Texas to elect their preferred representatives. And that is prohibited by federal law.
“The complaint asks the court to prohibit Texas from conducting elections under the challenged plans and asks the court to order Texas to devise and implement new redistricting plans that comply with Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act. The complaint also asks the court to establish interim plans pending a lawful state redistricting.”
Neither Gupta nor Garland made any mention of the redistricting practices of any Democrat-governed states.
On a number of occasions. Gupta has lobbied on behalf of “dark money” interests – i.e., nonprofit groups’ spending on ads that urge the election or defeat of particular political candidates but do not reveal the identities of the donors – vis-a-vis a host of issues at the Leadership Conference for Civil and Human Rights. These included issues related to finance, government, health, housing, immigration, law enforcement, crime, labor, civil rights and civil liberties, education, telecommunications, welfare, federal budget appropriations, small business, family, abortion and adoption, and the Constitution.
As of March 2021, Gupta’s net worth was between $42 million and $187 million.