Commentary Magazine


Topic: Appellate Chief

What Did Eric Holder Know and When Did He Know It?

From the beginning of the New Black Panther Party scandal, the Obama Justice Department insisted that the decision to dismiss a case of egregious voter intimidation was made by career attorneys. Now we are learning that there was significant involvement by political appointees, including the attorney general himself. In a prepared testimony before the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, which opened its hearing today, Rep. Frank Wolf explained:

“According to the Appellate Division memos first disclosed in the Times article, Appellate Chief Diana K. Flynn said that ‘the appropriate action was to pursue the default judgment’ and that Justice had made a ‘reasonable argument in favor of default relief against all defendants.’

Flynn’s opinion was shared by a second Appellate Division official, Marie K. McElderry, who stated, ‘The government’s predominant interest is preventing intimidation, threats and coercion against voters or persons urging or aiding persons to vote or attempt to vote.’

Given these troubling disclosures, I have repeatedly called on the attorney general to re-file this civil suit and allow a ruling from the judge based on the merits of the case, not political expediency.  The career trial team should be allowed to bring the case again – per the guidance I obtained from the Congressional Research Service’s American Law Division in its July 30 memo – to allow our nation’s justice system to work as it was intended: impartially and without bias.

Sources within the department stated that Associate Attorney General Thomas Perrelli, a political appointee, in conjunction with the acting assistant attorney general for civil rights, Ms. Loretta King, and her deputy, Mr. Steve Rosenbaum, overruled the career attorneys in the Voting Rights section.  Earlier this week, the department finally acknowledged that the Attorney General was made aware – on multiple occasions – of the steps being taken to dismiss this case.”

Wolf may be referring to the Justice Department’s supplemental response to an interrogation from the Commission, a copy of which I have received. The Department confirms, “The Attorney General was generally made aware by the then-Acting Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights and the Associate’s staff that the Civil Rights Division was considering the appropriate actions to take in the New Black Panther Party litigation case.” The response states that Holder was “likely provided a brief update” but “did not make the decisions regarding any aspect” of the case. Did he weigh in? Did he advocate a position? Did his underlings? We don’t know.

But one thing is certain: if the case was significant enough to brief the attorney general on, you can bet that the decisions were approved if not instigated by political appointees. The veil is beginning to be lifted. Now it is time to put Holder and Perrelli under oath and find out what they knew and when they knew it. And then we can determine whether the Justice Department has been covering up the politicization of the enforcement of civil rights.

From the beginning of the New Black Panther Party scandal, the Obama Justice Department insisted that the decision to dismiss a case of egregious voter intimidation was made by career attorneys. Now we are learning that there was significant involvement by political appointees, including the attorney general himself. In a prepared testimony before the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, which opened its hearing today, Rep. Frank Wolf explained:

“According to the Appellate Division memos first disclosed in the Times article, Appellate Chief Diana K. Flynn said that ‘the appropriate action was to pursue the default judgment’ and that Justice had made a ‘reasonable argument in favor of default relief against all defendants.’

Flynn’s opinion was shared by a second Appellate Division official, Marie K. McElderry, who stated, ‘The government’s predominant interest is preventing intimidation, threats and coercion against voters or persons urging or aiding persons to vote or attempt to vote.’

Given these troubling disclosures, I have repeatedly called on the attorney general to re-file this civil suit and allow a ruling from the judge based on the merits of the case, not political expediency.  The career trial team should be allowed to bring the case again – per the guidance I obtained from the Congressional Research Service’s American Law Division in its July 30 memo – to allow our nation’s justice system to work as it was intended: impartially and without bias.

Sources within the department stated that Associate Attorney General Thomas Perrelli, a political appointee, in conjunction with the acting assistant attorney general for civil rights, Ms. Loretta King, and her deputy, Mr. Steve Rosenbaum, overruled the career attorneys in the Voting Rights section.  Earlier this week, the department finally acknowledged that the Attorney General was made aware – on multiple occasions – of the steps being taken to dismiss this case.”

Wolf may be referring to the Justice Department’s supplemental response to an interrogation from the Commission, a copy of which I have received. The Department confirms, “The Attorney General was generally made aware by the then-Acting Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights and the Associate’s staff that the Civil Rights Division was considering the appropriate actions to take in the New Black Panther Party litigation case.” The response states that Holder was “likely provided a brief update” but “did not make the decisions regarding any aspect” of the case. Did he weigh in? Did he advocate a position? Did his underlings? We don’t know.

But one thing is certain: if the case was significant enough to brief the attorney general on, you can bet that the decisions were approved if not instigated by political appointees. The veil is beginning to be lifted. Now it is time to put Holder and Perrelli under oath and find out what they knew and when they knew it. And then we can determine whether the Justice Department has been covering up the politicization of the enforcement of civil rights.

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