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Watching DOJ

Judicial Watch continues to document the New Black Panther Party scandal, which was first reported by conservative media and now has attracted mainstream coverage. (But not the Gray Lady, which may have a tough time explaining to her readers next year why House Judiciary Chairman Lamar Smith is issuing all those subpoenas. Imagine tuning into Mad Men for the first time after a couple of seasons; you see the dilemma — at some point, there’s no use trying to catch up.)

In the latest batch of disclosures, Judicial Watch tells us:

[I]t has obtained documents from the Obama Department of Justice (DOJ) that provide new evidence that top political appointees at the DOJ were intimately involved in the decision to dismiss the voter intimidation case against the New Black Panther Party for Self Defense (NBPP). These new documents, which include internal DOJ email correspondence, directly contradict sworn testimony by Thomas Perez, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division, who testified before the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights that no political leadership was involved in the decision. The new documents were obtained last week by Judicial Watch pursuant to a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit (Judicial Watch v. Department of Justice (No.10-851)).

You mean Perez gave false testimony to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights? Oh yes:

The new documents include a series of emails between two political appointees: former Democratic election lawyer and current Deputy Associate Attorney General Sam Hirsch and Associate Attorney General Thomas Perrelli. Both DOJ officials were involved in detailed discussions regarding the NBPP decision. …

Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division Thomas Perez testified before the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights that no political appointees were involved in the NBPP decision. Perez suggested that the dispute was merely “a case of career people disagreeing with career people.”

In fact, political appointee Sam Hirsch sent an April 30, 2009, email to Steven Rosenbaum (then-Acting Assistant Deputy Attorney General in the Civil Rights) thanking Rosenbaum for “doing everything you’re doing to make sure that this case is properly resolved.” The next day, the DOJ began to reverse course on its NBPP voter intimidation lawsuit.

We’re going to see where the e-mail trail leads. There will be several storylines. First, how far will the scandal go? The administration may try to “amputate” at the assistant attorney general level (Perez), but evidence already revealed suggests that the associate attorney general level (the #3 position) can’t escape. But of course, the key question will be whether Eric Holder himself will be shoved off the stage. (We are going to get that frank discussion on race he’s been pining for regardless.)

Second, we’ll see how much interference Democrats are willing to run for the White House. The administration’s toady commissioner Michael Yaki tried his best to derail the commission’s investigation but wound up only embarrassing himself as the evidence gushed forth. Will House Democrats be in the mood to follow that path — or is this a fine opportunity to display their “independence” from the White House?

And finally, we’ll find out how much the administration has learned and how beholden it is to liberal activists. The Obama team has two options: (1) admit fault, repudiate a race-specific view of civil rights enforcement (e.g., only whites can be defendants), come clean, and let heads roll; or (2) fight tooth and nail, keep stonewalling, and reassure the NAACP and other liberal civil rights groups that they will stick with the left-leaning party line (i.e., civil rights laws are there to protect only “traditional” victims).

This issue is not remotely the biggest headache the administration will have to face in the next two years, but it sure will be revealing. And quite entertaining, I suspect.



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