The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, I am informed, will be moving forward on two fronts with its investigation of the dismissal by the Obama Justice Department of the New Black Panther Party voter-intimidation case. Responses to the commission’s document requests and interrogatories are due on January 11. On January 15, the commission will meet and is expected to vote to schedule a February hearing in which it can begin to gather evidence and attempt to unearth what occurred behind the shuttered doors of the Obama Justice Department. At a hearing, one can expect witness testimony about the underlying incident, which took place on Election Day 2008 in Philadelphia; there will also be evidence presented concerning the intervention of Obama political appointees — at least to the extent that the Obama DOJ has complied with the written discovery requests.
As for the depositions of DOJ employees, sources tell me that unless an accommodation can quickly be reached with the Justice Department, the depositions will be reset in January. And those subpoenaed employees may then have ample opportunity to, if they desire, go to court seeking clarification as to whether a DOJ regulation invoked by the Obama administration to block their appearance (but which appears to apply to court proceedings, not to those of an independent body like the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights) bars their compliance with a subpoena issued pursuant to the commission’s statutory authority.
Meanwhile, Congress may also have something to say in January. The resolution of inquiry introduced by Rep. Frank Wolf has a clock ticking. The House Judiciary Committee must consider the resolution that calls for the Justice Department to provide information to Congress concerning the dismissal of the case. A Wolf adviser informed me: “We suspect that it will either be the last week of January or first week of February — they have 14 legislative days to consider, so it depends on the House schedule for January.” If the requisite number of committee members demand it, there will be a roll-call vote. Wolf’s adviser observed, “I suspect that the committee Republicans will call for and receive a roll-call vote.” We can expect that Democrats will vote it down on a straight party-line vote, but the debate is likely to be informative and provide the first chance for Congress to exercise any oversight responsibility in a serious matter of voter intimidation.
The mystery, however, continues for now: why did the Justice Department yank the case, and what is it now trying to hide? We may finally get some preliminary answers in January.