Rule of Law

Former DOJ Head Michael Mukasey Hits Obama's DOJ Voting Section

Former Attorney General Michael Mukasey delivered a sharp criticism of the Obama Justice Department, particularly the DOJ Voting Section, in a speech republished in Hillsdale College’s Imprimis. In a broadside aimed at the Obama-era DOJ, Mukasey hits the department’s biased and partisan law enforcement policies.

Mukasey’s speech should be required reading for every presidential campaign.

Mukasey revisits the dismissal of the voter intimidation case against the New Black Panther Party by Eric Holder and other political appointees shortly after the 2009 inauguration:

During the 2008 election, two members of the New Black Panther Party showed up at a polling place in Philadelphia dressed in black battle fatigues. …  In the waning days of the Bush administration, the DOJ’s Voting Section filed a lawsuit and won a default judgment. But in the spring of 2009, after the Obama administration took over, those handling the case were directed to drop it. The only penalty left in place was a limited injunction that barred the person with the nightstick from repeating that conduct for a period of time in Philadelphia. And when the Office of Professional Responsibility looked into the matter, their finding criticized the bringing of the case more than the dropping of it.

As one “handling the case,” the benefit of hindsight has revealed the New Black Panther dismissal as a sign of things to come. By 2015, we’ve grown used to outcome-driven law enforcement from the Justice Department. Laws are mere suggestions, not commands to this administration. If the Obama administration disagrees with a law, they simply refuse to enforce it.


In the New Black Panther case, the incoming Obama administration found it reprehensible that the civil rights laws would be used to protect anyone other than Democrat Party constituencies. While the Office of Professional Responsibility behaved as General Mukasey described, the Justice Department inspector general issued a report that documented the pervasive hostility inside the Voting Section to equal enforcement of the law to protect all Americans.

Simply, if the victims of civil rights violations are white, they don’t receive protection. This outcome is no accident. It is a result of beliefs held by civil servants working inside the Justice Department.

If a Republican wins the presidency, he or she would be well advised to listen to General Mukasey and implement fundamental changes to the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, particularly the Voting Section. Step One may will be remedial training on what the Rule of Law means. (PJ Media coverage of the New Black Panther dismissal can be found here, here, and here.)

The New Black Panthers would enter the national narrative many times after 2009 in places like Ferguson, Sanford and New York City. Naturally, each time it would seem that in those places, the Justice Department was taking sides before the investigations were complete. Naturally, over and over, the department was on the side of the New Black Panthers, even if it did not publicly embrace the gangsters. Again, Mukasey:

Consider as well the 2012 case of Trayvon Martin, a young man who was shot in an encounter with a neighborhood watch member. Notwithstanding that the shooter was not a member of any police department, and that he was acquitted of criminal responsibility in the incident — nevertheless, in the wake of the case the DOJ’s Civil Rights Division zeroed in on the police department of Sanford, Florida, where the incident occurred, suggesting discriminatory policing. A similar pattern — whereby a confrontation between a police officer and an African-American is followed by a Justice Department proceeding against the jurisdiction, regardless of the legal outcome or the equities of the incident—has been followed in cities such as Baltimore, New York, and Ferguson, Missouri.

Instead of combating violations of civil rights laws by the New Black Panthers, Mukasey notes we’ve seen the DOJ Civil Rights Division turned into a weapon against the administration’s pro-life opponents:

Contrast that response with the DOJ’s treatment of a 79-year-old protestor outside an abortion clinic who was sued by the Civil Rights Division’s Criminal Section for praying outside the clinic and urging entrants to reconsider abortion. When that protestor was pepper sprayed by an abortion supporter for exercising his First Amendment rights, the Criminal Section did nothing.

(PJ Media coverage on DOJ’s abuse of peaceful pro-life protesters is here.)

Every Republican presidential candidate, and the next attorney general, should listen to what Mukasey noted in his speech next:

One lesson to draw from all this is that personnel is policy. If you examine the resumés of people hired into the DOJ beginning in 2009, you will find that the governing credential of new hires was a history of support for left-leaning causes or membership in leftist organizations.

PJ Media did an exhaustive study of the resumes of lawyers hired by the Obama administration after taking power in 2009. The results are described in the Every Single One series.

Mukasey is right. Every single one of the attorney hires was a partisan or ideologue. You can access the PJ Media series here.) Again, this outcome was no accident. It was driven by a desire of those doing the attorney hiring to self-replicate their worldview inside DOJ.

These new hires are career civil service slots. Contrary to the assumption of many who have read Every Single One, these individuals cannot be easily dislodged, even by an aggressive attorney general in 2017. Many hired in 2009 through 2014 will have already vested past their probationary period and will be all but impossible to remove. Those still on probation will be defended from removal by nearly every layer of the DOJ bureaucracy.

The Department of Justice inspector general recommended that the Civil Rights Division change the criteria it uses to hire attorneys in light of the facts uncovered by PJ Media. As noted by the inspector general, Tom Perez (then the assistant attorney general) refused to follow the inspector general’s suggestion.

Finally, Mukasey took note of the rank partisanship inside the Voting Section where employees hung Obama campaign posters on their walls and doors:

By the time of the 2012 election, it was considered unremarkable for DOJ lawyers to display political posters on their office walls, and even outside their offices — something inimical to the spirit and mission of the Department of Justice.

Again, this is the Voting Section at DOJ.

It is the same gang of lawyers attacking Voter ID laws in Texas and North Carolina.


Attorney Office Inside DOJ Voting Section

Had someone hung posters for George Bush at the Voting Section when I was there in 2005, removal would have been strongly suggested, and the person would have been thought to have violated good judgment. But it’s no matter in the age of Obama, where everything is seen through a political lens. I published photos of more in my book Injustice.

Mukasey describes the scope of the rot inside the Justice Department Civil Rights Division. This rot isn’t merely a nuisance confined to one corner of the federal government. It is a rot with consequences for the country. As I noted in Injustice:

The stakes are high, because the Civil Rights Division wields enormous jurisdiction over the American economy.  … The Voting Section has enormous power over the systems of government adopted by states, counties, and cities. Furthermore, where you vote, how you vote, and for whom you vote are all impacted by Voting Section bureaucrats.

As the last two years of unrestrained civil disorder on American streets have demonstrated, how the Civil Rights Division treats our police officers has a direct impact on domestic tranquility.

The next president should not have an attorney general that comes to power with a deferential view toward the attorneys at the Civil Rights Division. The next attorney general must realize these bureaucrats have sown civil disorder, enabled a culture of lawlessness, and used their power as partisan weapons to advance their ideology. The history of the last seven years doesn’t deserve deference. It deserves a response.