DOJ shuts down question from CBS News about affirmative action

Last Updated Nov 29, 2017 7:22 PM EST

At a Justice Department news conference Wednesday, CBS News legal correspondent Paula Reid was repeatedly cut off by a DOJ spokesperson as she attempted to ask Attorney General Jeff Sessions about the Civil Rights division's investigations into systemic discrimination.

As the Justice Department considers whether to bring a lawsuit against Harvard University for discriminating against Asian-American students, Reid asked Sessions why this is a priority for his Justice Department -- at a time when the Civil Rights division is halting most other discrimination investigations. It was a question his spokesperson advised the attorney general not to answer. He complied and offered no response.

Reid was reprimanded by the spokesperson for asking a question that was not on the topic of the news conference, which was on anti-opioid law enforcement initiatives. She pointed out that Sessions had already fielded off-topic questions from another reporter on Roy Moore and the Alabama Senate race and on sanctuary cities. 

Harvard has been ordered to comply with a Dec. 1 deadline to turn over evidence in the Civil Rights division's investigation, and so far, the university has not cooperated. 

White House press secretary Sarah Sanders has in the past denied reports that the Justice Department might sue universities over affirmative action. In August, she said reports of possible lawsuits against universities are "based entirely on uncorroborated inferences from a leaked internal personnel posting in violation of Department of Justice policy." She was referring to a story first reported by the New York Times that the Trump administration intended to use Civil Rights division resources to investigate and sue universities over affirmative action admissions policies that put white applicants at a disadvantage.