Under former President Donald Trump, the U.S. Department of Justice opened an investigation into racial justice training conducted by Seattle for city employees.
Under President Joe Biden, who took office nine days ago, that investigation has been closed.
The investigation, Justice Department lawyers and Trump administration officials previously said, was based on “public reports” and “press reports” about trainings on “critical race theory” and “white privilege.”
But, on Thursday, the Justice Department concluded there was nothing further to investigate.
“The Department of Justice has concluded its investigation and has decided to close the matter without further action,” Deputy Assistant Attorney General Gregory B. Friel wrote on Thursday to Seattle City Attorney Pete Holmes.
Friel’s letter was only four sentences long.
“This was a politically motivated investigation both without merit and without heart,” Holmes said in a prepared statement Friday. “City employees were not and are not excluded from participating in voluntary training sessions because of their racial self-identification.”
Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan linked the opening and closing of the investigation directly to the shift in presidents.
“Elections matter, and President Biden is taking actions to help our nation and our city,” Durkan said in a prepared statement. “Former President Trump and his administration constantly targeted Seattle with politically motivated attacks and litigation.”
Trump, Durkan said, “targeted Seattle because it moved to defend our immigrant and refugee communities and because our commitment to Race and Social Justice includes racial equity training.”
On Biden’s first day in office he revoked a Trump executive order that had sought to ban diversity and inclusion training for federal contractors and grant recipients.
Word of the DOJ investigation came last fall, in the midst of the presidential campaign, and as Trump had spent months both criticizing and targeting Seattle. As the investigation was announced, Trump also sought to withhold federal funding from Seattle and other cities his administration labeled “anarchist jurisdictions.”
The trainings the DOJ had been asking about are among several courses regularly offered to city employees by Seattle’s Race and Social Justice Initiative. Led by the Office for Civil Rights, the initiative is an effort started in 2005 to “end institutionalized racism and racial disparities” in Seattle government.
Though the trainings on internalized superiority and inferiority were designed for employees based on race, the sessions were neither mandatory nor exclusionary, according to Seattle officials. Those and similar sessions have been conducted with city employees for many years.
Mariko Lockhart, director of the Seattle Office for Civil Rights, said in a written statement that the Trump administration investigation “was part of a broader campaign to strengthen the White Nationalist movement and agenda.”
Her office, she said, “will continue to work to end racism and discrimination.”