Additional attendees at the hearing advise me that Chairman John Conyers did open the proceedings with a statement. On one hand, he defended the Justice Department, contending that career professionals made the decision to dismiss three Black Panther defendants and that it had turned over all “non-privileged” documents. But he also left the door open just a crack, indicating he would be willing to work with Reps. Lamar Smith and Frank Wolf but that the current motion seeking information from the Justice Department was “premature.” Perhaps the Democrats don’t want to be seen as helping to cover the tracks of those in the Justice Department who acted to dismiss a serious voter-intimidation case. Just in case the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights should turn up something, you see.
Following the hearing, Rep. Wolf issued a powerful statement that includes this:
I am deeply disappointed that Judiciary Committee defeated my resolution of inquiry on a party-line vote. There has been no oversight, no accountability and certainly no transparency with regard to this attorney general and this Department of Justice.
Where is the ‘unprecedented transparency’ that this administration promised? Where is the honesty and openness that the majority party pledged? The American people deserve better.
After ignoring my seven letters over seven months and failing to comply with subpoenas issued by the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, the attorney general continues to thwart all efforts to compel an explanation for the dismissal of U.S. v. New Black Panther Party. DOJ is claiming broad privileges – which many legal scholars question – in order to avoid disclosing any new information regarding this case. The committee’s failure to approve my resolution has set a troubling precedent. Is it going to continue to blindly defer to all unsubstantiated claims of privilege from the department?
He also added a few tidbits about the Justice Department’s responses: the department claimed “privilege” and redacted seven pages of a letter Wolf sent to Eric Holder and released publicly on July 31, 2009. It also withheld other letters that it previously said it was prepared to share.
Transparency, it seems, is not the order of the day.