The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights was set to vote on a 131-page draft report about the Obama administration’s decision to drop the Black Panther voter intimidation case today — but a partisan Democratic member prevented the commission from doing its job. Michael Yaki walked out of the meeting before the vote, preventing the commission from reaching quorum, a procedural motion designed to stall for time. A report now seems unlikely to be released until after the midterm elections.
However, the left-wing blog Talking Points Memo obtained a leaked copy of the report, which details credible allegations of Justice Department evasion, dissembling, and possible perjury before the commission. The document reveals a commission at the end of its rope dealing with a “recalcitrant” administration that refuses to investigate “serious allegations” of selective and racially discriminatory law enforcement, harassment of dissenters, and a politically controlled Justice Department bowing to the demands of left-wing pressure groups rather than the dictates of justice. (And contrary to TPM, “Much of the commission’s draft report is” not in fact “based on an anonymously sourced story” that appeared in the media. As the report makes clear, several DoJ career officials exposed a pattern of wrongdoing in the decision making process that reached at least as high as the Attorney General of the United States, Eric Holder.
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The stakes could scarcely be higher. The draft report notes, “If the testimony before the Commission is true,” the Justice Department’s handling of the case would “encompass inappropriately selective enforcement of laws, harassment of dissenting employees, and alliances with outside interest groups, at odds with the rule of law.”
Among its most serious allegations, it presents a conflict over the testimony of Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights Thomas Perez that could indicate perjury. Perez testified under oath before the commission on May 14 that the decision to drop the voter intimidation case against the New Black Panther Party after the case had essentially been won was simply “a case of career [Justice Department] people disagreeing with career people.” He testified there had been no “political leadership involved in the decision not to pursue this particular case.”
His testimony was a catalyst for both Christopher Coates and J. Christian Adams to ignore a Justice Department gag order and correct the record.
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And the report makes clear, at least five separate officials have corroborated aspects of Adams’ and Coates’ testimony.
Political Officials May Have Dropped Case
Perez’s testimony asserted that Acting Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights Loretta King and Assistant Deputy Attorney General Steve Rosenbaum made the call on their own, unbidden, and both were “career” officials. Both claims seem false.
The draft report notes, “At the time the decisions were made with regard to the litigation, however, both Ms. King and Mr. Rosenbaum were temporarily serving in political position…It has been argued that, under the Vacancies Reform Act, Ms. King and Mr. Rosenbaum were, in fact, political appointees.”
But they are the veritable tip of the iceberg of political influence.
The report cites the work of Judicial Watch in securing the Vaughn Index, which describes the DoJ’s internal communications regarding the decision to dismiss the case. “The index of withheld documents provided by the Department strongly suggests, contrary to the [Obama administration’s] assertion, senior political appointees outside the Civil Rights Division actively participated in the decision making regarding the litigation.”
The report specifically names Sam Hirsch as an example of political pressure. (This author provided extensive background on Hirsch here.) Hirch “provided direction” to Rosenbaum. Associate Attorney General Thomas Perrelli also consulted on the case with the office of David Ogden, the Deputy Attorney General and number two man in the department.
DoJ Official: “I Cannot Think of Any Other Instance”
A DoJ official told the commission under oath that the department’s political leadership would have had to be involved in a decision that so fundamentally offends the department’s standards. Acting Associate Attorney General Gregory Katsas testified, “I believe that [Ogden’s office] would have been actively involved in deliberations” about the case, because the case’s dismissal was “anything but straightforward.” The change, Katsas said, “amounted to nothing less than a decision by DoJ, following a change in presidential administrations, to reverse legal positions asserted in a pending case. Such reversals are extremely rare — and for good reason: they inevitably undermine DoJ’s credibility with the courts, and they inevitably raise suspicion that DoJ’s litigating positions may be influenced by political considerations.” He noted the scope — when the department “abandoned most of its claims after a default by all of the defendants…I cannot think of any other instance when that has occurred.”
These deliberations percolated up through the DoJ, all the way to Eric Holder himself. According to the Justice Department, “The Attorney General was made generally aware” of the decision by King and Perrelli, although the department insists Holder “did not make the decisions regarding any aspect” of the case. Neither did the president.
NAACP Makes the Calls?
More troubling than the idea that the Obama administration called off the case is another allegation in the report: that it did so by caving into pressure from more liberal activist groups. The report indicates the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund (LDEF) seems to have pressured the department to drop the case. Kristen Clarke of the NAACP-LDEF confirmed to two media outlets she contacted the department, telling one she asked when the case would be dismissed — but during sworn testimony before the Civil Rights Commission, she has either asserted she did no such thing or refused to respond to direct questioning. Someone is lying.
Faced with this level of exposure, the government is shutting down the investigation as much as it can. The commission notes, although communication with outside bodies like the NAACP “are not privileged,” the Obama administration has stonewalled its investigation and refused to allow employees to testify.
The report notes the refusal to turn over “management-level communications and decision making” has stymied its investigation, but “the timing, frequency, and captions of such communications cast considerable doubt on several of the Department’s claims.”
The draft report concludes, “These serious allegations deserve either to be proven or exposed as false,” and indicates the Justice Department has done nothing to “confirm, deny, or explain the specific allegations of misconduct raised by Mr. Coates and Mr. Adams.” The department was instead “recalcitrant” and “largely unresponsive to the Commission’s specific requests for information.”
The Justice Department Investigates Itself?
The proposed draft makes a number of recommendations to strengthen its investigation. Under its current structure, the Justice Department must enforce any claims made against it, so the DoJ can legally stop any investigation into its actions. The draft notes any investigation into the DoJ presents “a potential conflict of interest,” since the department knows “it will never enforce a subpoena against itself.” It states, “The record in this case proves the point.” A “recalcitrant” Justice Department has exerted “vague and unexplained assertions of privilege,” and ordered its officials not to respond to the commission’s subpoenas.
The draft report calls on lawmakers to allow the commission to secure a special council, or to hire lawyers to independently pursue the case on its own, if it is investigating the Justice Department.
A Cry for Help
This draft report should be seen for what it is: a cry for help. The commission is unable to do its job, because the Obama administration is acutely intent on subverting its investigation.
Rather than defer to a federal executive office, Congress should initiate a full and complete investigation effective immediately. We are joined in this call by National Review magazine — and by the common sense of this nation, which recognizes a cover-up at the highest levels, to protect violent street thugs who intimidated white voters they assumed would vote against Obama.
All those involved in the dropping of this case — which undermines the department’s reputation and is unprecedented in its history — should be questioned. Anyone involved in the department’s refusal to apply the law against white victims should be drummed out of office, up the and including the president of the United States.