A lawsuit accusing the Department of Education of discrimination in its revision of college sexual assault guidelines is now using as ammunition President Donald Trump’s defense of his former staff secretary, Rob Porter.
Porter resigned from his White House job earlier this month after his security clearance was held up by accusations of domestic violence from both of his former wives. Trump, however, praised Porter and implied he may have been “falsely accused.” Porter denied the women’s accusations.
Trump’s comments are now being cited in the lawsuit as evidence of the administration’s “disbelief of women and girls” and its “disregard for gender-based violence.” The lawsuit challenges new guidelines on sexual assault claims at universities.
Three civil rights organizations filed the suit last month in the Northern District of California against the Education Department and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos for rolling back protections for students who report sexual assault.
The suit was amended Wednesday to include the details of Porter’s resignation and Trump’s comments. Another member of the administration, speechwriter David Sorenson, also stepped down this month amid allegations of domestic abuse, which he has denied.
As the reports of Porter’s alleged abuse were made public, “President Trump defended Mr. Porter, and White House Chief of Staff John Kelly stated that Mr. Porter is a man of ‘integrity,’” the amended suit now states.
“After Porter and Sorensen’s resignations, Trump tweeted: ‘Peoples [sic] lives are being shattered and destroyed by a mere allegation. There is no recovery for someone falsely accused — life and career are gone. Is there no such thing any longer as Due Process?’” the suit adds.
The lawsuit argues that this “animus towards women gives license to and encourages executive branch decision-makers who share the same discriminatory views to perpetuate those views in their work.”
This anti-woman bias is apparent in DeVos’ new policy in September rolling back protections for those in public kindergarten through college claiming sexual assault and increasing protections for those accused, the lawsuit says. DeVos said that the Obama administration hadn’t ensured the rights of the accused.
DeVos raised the standard of proof for accusers from a “preponderance of evidence” to “clear and convincing evidence.” The new guidelines also allow even cases of sexual assault to be settled by mediation.
The suit argues that DeVos and Candace Jackson, the acting assistant secretary for civil rights, hold “discriminatory stereotypes” about women and are convinced that many who report sexual abuse or assault “misunderstood a harmless romantic advance,” are lying or just came to regret a “consensual sexual encounter.”
Shortly before the Education Department changes were made, Jackson flippantly dismissed “90 percent” of school sex assault reports in an interview with The New York Times.