Abby Fisher Case Strategist Edward Blum Reacts to Rumors Trump May Tackle Affirmative Action

Edward Blum, the legal strategist who helped bring a landmark case on affirmative action in college admissions before the U.S. Supreme Court in 2015, says he’s not involved in the Trump administration’s reported efforts to investigate the effects of such policies on white students. In fact, he says he’s not much concerned with politics at all.

Blum is arguably the go-to guy for fighting race-conscious admissions rules in higher education. He’s the director of the Project on Fair Representation, a legal defense fund program, and the nonprofit Students for Fair Admissions. He has been called an “unlikely race-blind mastermind” and the “brains behind the effort to get the Supreme Court to rethink civil rights.”

Related: How much is race a factor in college admissions?

But Blum tells Newsweek he’s not a part of the Justice Department project described in The New York Times and The Washington Post reports this week that say it’s recruiting people to look into discrimination against white students. Blum says he’s unsure what will happen next.

“My fingerprints are nowhere near any of this,” he says. “This was brought to my attention when I read The New York Times story.”

Though the reports have been disputed by anonymous officials who have spoken to outlets such as The Daily Caller, it’s already had an effect: It gave new life to the ongoing debate over affirmative action.

Blum is at the center of that discussion. Last year, he was key in Fisher v. the University of Texas. That case was built around Abigail Fisher, a white woman who missed the cutoff for automatic admission to UT-Austin in 2008 and was rejected after officials reviewed her application in a process that factored in race. Fisher claimed the school discriminated against her and violated the equal protection clause in the 14th Amendment.

The case came before the Supreme Court in 2013, and the justices said the lower courts needed to apply strict scrutiny in evaluating the affirmative action policy’s intent to improve diversity. Attorneys argued it before the justices again in December 2015. This time, the Supreme Court came back with a 4-3 ruling that the affirmative action program was legal. Then-President Barack Obama praised the June 2016 decision, saying he was “pleased that the Supreme Court upheld the basic notion that diversity is an important value in our society.”

This week’s reports may indicate Trump is directing the White House away from that stance. Blum says he can’t predict how the new administration may affect cases he has in the works, including a 2014 lawsuit claiming Harvard University is discriminating against Asian-Americans.

“All that I know is that we’re in the middle of very important litigation,” he says.

Blum adds that he thinks the most encouraging recent development on affirmative action came just after the Fisher decision last summer, when Gallup released poll results showing 70 percent of Americans thought students should be accepted to colleges based solely on merit.

“It’s not that affirmative action was more popular during the Obama administration and is now less popular during the Trump administration,” Blum says. “America has made up its mind about the fairness of race in university admissions.”

The Justice Department did not respond to Newsweek’s request for comment.

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