Judicial Watch made an explosive announcement today about the Justice Department’s stonewalling in the New Black Panther voter intimidation case dismissal. Forced to bring a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit after DOJ rebuffed its public records request (so much for transparency), Judicial Watch obtained a privilege log from the DOJ last week.
It shows — in a rather dramatic way — that the DOJ has been untruthful about who was involved in the dismissal of the case.
In July, I complied with a subpoena and provided testimony to the United States Commission on Civil Rights. I did so in part because inaccurate statements had been made about the case by DOJ officials. Some of these statements falsely claimed that ethical rules mandated the dismissal of the charges against the New Black Panthers. This was nonsense.
But the real whopper? DOJ’s claim — repeated over and over again — that career civil servants were wholly responsible for the spiking of the case.
Today we learn, from the Department’s own records, that this claim is demonstrably false.
The privilege log produced in the FOIA litigation contains stunning entries. They show regular discussions and deliberations between the highest political officials inside the DOJ, including the deputy attorney general and the associate attorney general, about what to do with the case. This contradicts numerous statements made to Congress, the Civil Rights Commission, and to the public.
Some of these statements were under oath.
For example: on May 10, 2009, the third highest-ranking official inside the DOJ — Associate Attorney General Tom Perrelli — emailed Sam Hirsch, one of his deputies:
Where are we on the Black Panther case?
The description of the email contains a bombshell:
asking for update on the NBPP litigation between officials in the [Associate’s office] and noting the [deputy attorney general’s] current thoughts on the case.
The deputy attorney general is the second highest-ranking official in the Department. The use of the term “current thoughts” implies that there were prior thoughts and ongoing discussions with the second highest-ranking political official at DOJ about how to handle the case.
Further, the logs show dozens of communications between senior DOJ political officials in the two weeks prior to the dismissal of the case.
Congress and the public have been told — for over a year — that the dismissal of the New Black Panther case resulted from nothing more than a dispute between lowly career civil servants. Lapdog reporters have repeated this lie, if they even covered the case at all. The documents uncovered by Judicial Watch expose the ruse.
Rarely in our nation’s history have officials in the Department of Justice engaged in a dishonest misinformation campaign to Congress, the public, and other fact-finding tribunals. Thankfully, these few episodes have been confined to the darkest and most corrupt eras of the republic.
Sam Hirsch is a former Democratic Party operative, and one of the most partisan election law attorneys in the entire nation. He worked for the Democratic Party in numerous redistricting fights, trying to squeeze every last drop of partisan advantage from plans in places like Texas. He has led efforts to impose racial divisions on Hawaii by creating native classifications and powers — and he is proud of it. He was heavily involved in the Obama presidential campaign.
As deputy associate attorney general — a senior Obama political appointee — Hirsch emerges in the privilege logs as the fulcrum around which the New Black Panther case was dismissed. Throughout April and May 2009, Civil Rights Division political appointee Steve Rosenbaum engaged in extensive legal analysis with Hirsch. In turn, Hirsch had extensive communications with Associate Attorney General Perrelli about the case. The emails are sometimes described as “deliberations” between the senior political appointees. These are deliberations which the DOJ inferred never existed. Nothing more than a dispute between civil servants, they repeated without equivocation.
The privilege logs show at least thirteen communications between Hirsch and Perelli in the two weeks before the dismissal on May 15.
On April 30 alone, Hirsch and Rosenbaum communicated at least eight separate times about the case. This occurred the day before the Voting Section decided not to seek a final injunction, and instead asked the court for a two-week delay. Someone, somewhere, didn’t want the easily obtained victory by default. Perhaps it was now-resigned Deputy Attorney General David Ogden. After all, he had some “current thinking” he was eager to share. Perhaps it was someone else.
On May 8, the same day that the logs show the Voting Section provided its analysis supporting a full remedy against all four defendants, Rosenbaum immediately forwarded the Voting Section’s work to the associate attorney general’s office. It’s clear from the logs who was calling the shots — and it wasn’t the career civil servants. Rosenbaum looks like an errand boy, nothing more.