The New Black Panther Party voter-intimidation case, which has rocked the Justice Department, will reach an important endpoint on November 19. At its regular business meeting tomorrow, the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights will consider a draft report on its investigation of the Department’s scandalously politicized handling of the case.
This case was unique in one vital aspect almost from its beginning — the existence of a visual recording of the New Black Panthers in their paramilitary, fascist-style uniforms, one holding a night stick, blocking the entrance to a polling place. That kind of direct evidence is very unusual in a voting rights case. It helped to graphically illustrate the preposterousness of the Obama administration’s dismissal of virtually the entire federal lawsuit the Civil Rights Division had commenced against the New Black Panther Party and several of its members. The feeble and completely non-credible explanations for the dismissal advanced by the Department’s political leadership only made the matter worse.
Most of the mainstream media initially ignored the lawsuit, despite all of the powerful evidence. That changed, however, with the dramatic and courageous testimony of former Voting Section lawyer Christian Adams (who resigned from Justice in disgust over its handling of the case) and former Voting Section Chief Christopher Coates (who was removed from his post by the Obama administration). Coates testified in defiance of orders from the Department’s senior leadership, who in a brazen act of lawlessness directed him not to comply with the subpoena issued by the Civil Rights Commission.
The draft report of the Commission that was leaked is devastating in its portrayal of the deviousness and politicization of the Obama Justice Department. The Department has misled the public, Congress, and the Commission from the very beginning.
For example, the Department claimed that career lawyers made the decision to dismiss the voter-intimidation case. But the report notes:
[The] record of communications within the Department appears to indicate that senior political appointees played a significant role in the decision-making surrounding the lawsuit. … [The Department’s repeated attempts to hide the involvement of Obama political appointees] raise questions about what the Department is trying to hide.
The Commission’s report concludes:
There is currently a conscious policy within the Department that voting rights laws should not be enforced in a race-neutral fashion. … [The testimony of Adams and Coates provided] specific examples of open hostility and opposition to pursuing cases in which whites were the perceived victims and minorities the alleged wrongdoers.
Further, the dismissal of the Panthers case was “the result of anger on the part of acting political appointees and other attorneys.” That anger arose from a “deep-seated opposition to the equal enforcement of the Voting Rights Act against racial minorities.” The testimony shows that Obama political appointee Deputy Assistant Attorney General Julie Fernandes specifically ordered a policy of ignoring violations of the voting rights laws. Efforts to obtain more evidence on this policy “have been met with extraordinary resistance by the Department.”
The report also summarizes the evidence on the refusal of the Justice Department to enforce important provisions of the National Voter Registration Act — provisions that require states to maintain and clean up their voter registration lists by removing ineligible voters. The Department has never specifically denied that Fernandes instituted such a policy. As the Commission says, the evidence raises “doubts as to whether officials within the current Civil Rights Division have unilaterally limited the types of cases the Division will enforce.”
The facts support Adams and Coates. The Obama administration has not brought a single case under the NVRA, and even dismissed a pending case that was filed during the Bush administration.
The evidence uncovered by the Commission, despite the lack of cooperation and active obstruction by the Justice Department, showcases:
… a Civil Rights Division at war with its core mission of guaranteeing equal protection of the laws for all Americans. … [Based on the testimony] the current conflicts extend beyond policy differences to encompass allegations of inappropriately selective enforcement of laws, harassment of dissenting employees, and alliance with outside interest groups, at odds with the rule of law.
The Commission’s report also makes plain the contempt the Justice Department shows for the rule of law, and its apparent belief that it does not have to comply with federal statutory requirements. It’s bad enough the Department refused to provide requested information and documents to the Commission despite a statutory mandate requiring the Department to “cooperate fully” with the Commission. But on top of that, it ignored legally issued subpoenas. As a former Justice Department lawyer, I can assure you that if an individual refused to comply with a Justice Department subpoena, the Department would do everything in its power to have that person jailed or found in contempt by a federal judge.
The Department even refused to provide the Commission with a log of the documents it was withholding, something that even a private party is absolutely entitled to when the Justice Department withholds evidence based on some asserted privilege. Of course, the Department did provide such a log to Judicial Watch. But that was only because Judicial Watch filed a FOIA lawsuit in federal court, and Justice could not risk being found in contempt by a federal judge. Justice had no such fear in the Commission’s investigation because the Commission must rely on the Justice Department to enforce its subpoena! As the Commission concluded, the Justice Department had “an inherent conflict of interest.”
This report was scheduled to be approved on October 29. But former Pelosi aide Michael Yaki, one of the Democratic commissioners, walked out of that meeting to kill the quorum. He held a press conference in the Commission’s hallway denouncing the report, continuing his efforts to help the Obama administration cover up its wrongdoing at the Justice Department. Sources tell me Yaki is maneuvering behind the scenes to convince President Obama to appoint him as the new chairman of the Civil Rights Commission when the current chairman’s term expires in December. Yaki seems to believe that helping the Obama administration bury the report of the Civil Rights Commission will help achieve partisan goals.
Hopefully, enough of the other commissioners will be at the November 19 meeting to maintain a quorum even if Yaki goes through his usual delaying tactics. And this report is not necessarily the end of this investigation. The new incoming majority in the House of Representatives should take over the investigation of the Civil Rights Division and the New Black Panther case through its oversight function. The Justice Department will have a much harder time defying Congress the way it ignored the Commission on Civil Rights.