Commentary Magazine


Did Thomas Perez Testify Truthfully?

J. Christian Adams, the former Justice Department attorney who was a key member of its New Black Panther litigation team, made a splash when he testified that the Civil Rights Division under Obama is hostile to filing civil rights cases that don’t follow the historic pattern — i.e., a white defendant violating minorities’ rights. (Helpful summaries are found here and here.) It is, if accurate, far more explosive than the dismissal of an isolated case, as egregious as the withdrawal of a default judgment against the New Black Panthers was.

The notion that civil rights laws can’t or shouldn’t be used against a minority defendant who seeks to deprive others of their civil rights is noxious to most Americans. According to Adams’s testimony, however, it is a commonplace at the Justice Department and was articulated by Julie Fernandes, the Deputy Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights.

Moreover, it raises a question as to whether Thomas Perez was being truthful to Congress and to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights when he testified under oath that he was unaware of any such sentiments. Before the Commission, Adams testified: “But Mr. Chris Coates and I and [Robert] Popper went and met with him the day before he testified here for about an hour, and we laid out all of our arguments and begged him not to testify inaccurately about the case.” He nevertheless testified that the case was unsupported by the law and the facts, and suggested the lawyers may have violated Rule 11, which provides for sanctions in the event of a frivolous legal action.

But that’s not all. A knowledgeable source tells me that at that same meeting, trial team head Chris Coates, who participated in the meeting by phone, explicitly warned him that there was a deep hostility to race-neutral enforcement of the law and he provided details to Perez. Sitting in the room with Perez were Adams and Popper. Perez had aides who were taking notes in the room. Nevertheless, under oath and before Congress and the Commission, Perez testified that he was unaware of such sentiments. If, indeed, he was briefed and then delivered this testimony, then he misled Congress and the Commission.

Now did he conduct a thorough investigation and find Coates unpersuasive? Well, the testimony before the Commission was the next day and I doubt there was time to commence — let alone complete — such an inquiry. Moreover, he denied having heard about such allegations. If he had been briefed the day before, this was patently untrue.

It is time for Congress to exercise appropriate oversight and get to the bottom of this issue. Moreover, since the Justice Department can’t investigate itself, I don’t see why a special prosecutor isn’t in order.

Now, two additional former DOJ attorneys have come forward to corroborate the hostility toward colorblind enforcement. Their affidavits can be read here. The witnesses are piling up and the stonewall is turning to rubble. We may finally be getting to the reason why Eric Holder’s Justice Department has done everything possible to keep members of the trial team from testifying. Their exposure is much greater than one case.