Thomas Wheeler, who has been leading the Justice Department’s civil rights unit, informed staffers there Thursday that he would be leaving the post, according to two sources familiar with the communication.
The job put Wheeler, an Indiana lawyer who is personally and professionally close to Vice President Pence, in the middle of a number of controversies, including the Trump administration’s turnaround on guidance regarding transgender students, the decisions to close investigations of police officers without criminal charges and shifting legal positions on voting rights and other cases.
During his short tenure, Wheeler made fighting hate crimes a priority. In May, he said, “Any serious effort to combat violent crime in America must include hate crimes.”
He highlighted a series of prosecutions this year alone, including the conviction of a Tennessee man in February for plotting to attack a mosque and Muslim community in upstate New York, the sentencing of an Idaho man for beating a gay man to death in 2016 and the sentencing of Dylann Roof to death in January for murdering nine African-American worshippers at the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, S.C. (NPR)