Meet Radical Trump Prosecutor Matthew Colangelo

Prosecutor Matthew Colangelo (Andrew Kelly/Pool Photo via AP)

Manhattan District Attorney Alvin L. Bragg Jr. announced the appointment of Matthew Colangelo as a new senior counsel to Bragg to help prosecute President Donald Trump.  Bragg’s press releases about Colangelo make much of Colangelo’s time at the United States Department of Justice.


Bragg omits the fact that Colangelo was involved in some of the most ideologically driven election law decisions of the Eric Holder era – ranging from attacks on Voter ID laws to failing to enforce federal laws requiring states to maintain voter rolls.

In sum, Bragg has appointed a militant leftist attorney to prosecute Donald Trump in New York City.  A Harvard Law graduate, Colangelo has used his powers and position to advance far-left ideological aims. His abuse of power has cost taxpayers millions of dollars in one state.

For starters, Colangelo was part of a partisan effort to block South Carolina voter ID. I first wrote about this at PJ Media in 2012 here.  Colangelo, then serving as a deputy assistant attorney general in the Civil Rights Division overseeing the Voting Section, manipulated the internal process to block South Carolina from implementing voter ID.

As I reported at the time, career Voting Section lawyers recommended that South Carolina’s voter ID law be approved, but Colangelo smothered the career lawyer recommendation.

Back in 2012, all election laws in 16 states had to be approved by bureaucrats in the Voting Section at the Department of Justice, where I used to work. If the Department of Justice refused to approve a law, states could seek approval in federal court in the District of Columbia. The Supreme Court in 2013 struck down the oversight power of the Justice Department as being obsolete in the case Shelby County v. Holder.


In 2012, career Voting Section employees recommended that the South Carolina voter ID law be precleared because it did not discriminate on the basis of race. I wrote:

But according to DOJ staff familiar with subsequent events, Assistant Attorney General Tom Perez and Deputy Assistant Attorney General Matthew Colangelo then overruled the career staff and ordered that the Department of Justice object to South Carolina’s voter ID – precisely repeating the same behavior that Leahy and Obama had falsely accused the Bush Justice Department of conducting.

Colanglo was key to the effort to stop voter ID in South Carolina and opposed career Voting Section staff arguing that the law should be approved. As I wrote at the time:

Moreover, the career civil servants who recommended preclearance have significantly more experience in enforcing the Voting Rights Act than does Colangelo, a lawyer that one DOJ employee characterized to me as “seriously lacking” in any Voting Rights Act experience.

In other words, Colangelo acted more as a political lawyer.

Eventually a federal court held that Colangelo was wrong about South Carolina. Then-Judge Brett Kavanaugh wrote for a three-judge panel that “South Carolina’s new voter ID law is significantly more friendly to voters without qualifying photo IDs than several other contemporary state laws that have passed legal muster.” The Justice Department was even ordered by a federal court to pay South Carolina over $54,000 in legal costs for Colangelo’s decision to block the election integrity law.


The taxpayers of the Palmetto State got stuck with the rest of the bill – $3,500,000 in attorney fees to have the law approved by the federal court.

The Voting Section under Colangelo’s supervision ranged from the absurd to the ridiculous. In one fight with South Carolina, the Department used government time and money to nitpick over the size of the font that South Carolina used on their pleadings – it being 13-point instead of 12-point.

And the abuse of power didn’t start and end in South Carolina.

You can watch Colangelo here as the acting associate attorney general for environmental issues conducts a listening session on “environmental justice.” He was named immediately after the 2021 inauguration.

Colangelo also supervised the DOJ Voting Section when it attacked Florida’s efforts to prevent noncitizens from voting in 2012. In a lawsuit filed in 2012, the Department sought to stop Florida’s citizenship verification process. Florida’s secretary of state had obtained information indicating that a sizeable number of aliens were on Florida voter rolls. State election officials started the process of examining voter rolls and provided counties with guidance on how to start the process of verifying citizenship.

This was too much for Eric Holder’s Justice Department. The Colangelo-supervised Voting Section sued Florida for conducting regular list maintenance inside the federal freeze window 90 days before a federal election. It was better to run an election with hundreds of aliens on the voter rolls than to conduct an examination inside 90 days. After a reliable federal court in Tallahassee enjoined the process, Florida abandoned the examination after the election.


The Voting Section also filed a lawsuit and settlement against Rhode Island mandating that methadone treatment clinics be designated voter registration centers under federal law.

Around this time, the Voting Section was sending federal employees into Louisiana welfare offices wearing wires to record if welfare applicants were being offered voter registration opportunities. Finding insufficient offers, the Department sued the Louisiana secretary of state.  At the time, I wrote:

The second reason that these tactics are significant is they demonstrate the frenzied priorities of the Obama political appointees before November’s elections. Because of heavy lobbying by Acorn’s Project Vote, the DOJ is now engaged in an effort to stuff the voter rolls with the maximum number of welfare and food stamp recipients, and even public methadone treatment center users. Eric Holder is fighting to fill the voter rolls with these voters before November.

Donald Trump’s defense team should pay close attention to who is on the other side. A champion of unconventional tactics, Matthew Colangelo has a history of using his power to whip ideological foes, no matter the ultimate legal merit. He hasn’t had to pay the price for his actions, either. That was left to the taxpayers of South Carolina and the other victims—like clean elections in Florida.  Expect worse when it comes to President Trump.



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