A second career civil rights lawyer ripped a hole in the Obama administration’s lies about the Black Panther voter intimidation case this morning. Christopher Coates, who headed the Voting Rights division of the Justice Department, said the administration’s decision to throw out the case was “a travesty of justice” that reflected the “anger” of the president’s appointees and their “deep-seated opposition to the equal enforcement of the” law “for the protection of white voters.” This second witness contradicts the testimony of administration officials and calls into question whether the president has ordered the Department of Justice to deny equal justice to a whole segment of American citizens, an impeachable offense.
Coates’ testimony before the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights this morning contradicted the administration’s version of events in at least three regards. (Read Coates’ full testimony here.) On election day 2008, three members of the New Black Panther Party were accused of intimidating white voters in Philadelphia. Justice Department officials have sworn, under oath, that the case was dismissed based on the facts, that political leadership was not involved, and that the department is committed to colorblind enforcement of the law. Thomas Perez, the Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division, testified on May 14 that the decision was simply “a case of career people disagreeing with career people,” and no “political leadership involved in the decision not to pursue this particular case.” Coates put the lie to them.
He revealed the case’s dismissal “was not required by the facts” but “was intended to send a direct message” that race-neutral justice “would not continue in the Obama administration.”
He then cited two political appointees who foisted the new, racially divisive policy on the department: Loretta King and Julie Fernandez. Loretta King, whom Obama appointed Acting Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights, told Coates to stop asking job applicants if they would be willing to apply the law equally to all races and ethnicities, a cornerstone of American jurisprudence, “because she does not support equal enforcement of the provision of the [Voting Rights Act] and had been highly critical of the filing and civil prosecution of” a 2005 case against blacks in Mississippi who discriminated against whites. Coates added that Fernandez, Obama’s Deputy Asst. AG for Civil Rights, told employees “the Obama administration was only interested in bringing…cases that would provide political equality for racial and language minority voters.” She has made similar statements in public.
Fernandez said the Obama administration had no interest in forcing states to remove ineligible, incarcerated, fraudulent, or deceased voters from state voting rolls. Coates elaborated that eight states are currently in “major noncompliance,” and this could have “partisan consequences” by increasing the likelihood of “voter fraud” in “Democratic strongholds.”
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Coates’ testimony corroborated the work of former DoJ lawyer J. Christian Adams, who stated the president has made it policy not to pursue charges against minority groups accused of discriminating against white victims. Coates concluded his testimony by reminding the department, “we do not have the discretion to decide not to enforce the law based upon the race of the perpetrators or the race of the victims of the wrongdoing.”
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