On May 14, 2010, Department of Justice Civil Rights Division Assistant Attorney General Thomas E. Perez testified before the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights about the DOJ’s decision to completely drop charges against the New Black Panther Party and two of its members for alleged voter intimidation in violation of the 1964 Voting Rights Act.
Perez was also questioned about the department’s decision to seek only narrow injunctive relief against a third defendant who wielded a billy club at the polls on Election Day 2008.
After his prepared remarks, Commissioner Todd Gaziano (who is also the Director of the Center for Legal & Judicial Studies at The Heritage Foundation) asked Perez: “Do you agree that the voting rights laws should always be enforced in a race-neutral manner?” Perez responded: “Yes, sir.”
Gaziano then asked: “It would be a problem for the Civil Rights Division if any political appointee or supervising attorney expressed the view that the voting rights laws should never be enforced against blacks or other racial minorities?” Perez eventually replied: “That is not our practice. We look at facts and the law.”
Finally, Gaziano pursued: “Let me ask my final question. If we uncovered strong evidence that a current supervising attorney or political appointee senior in your Division made statements that this administration will never bring a voting rights case or, to this effect, will never bring a voting rights case against blacks or other minorities, I hope that you will seriously investigate. And I hope you agree that it would be highly relevant to this investigation and that we should have access to the witnesses to such a statement.” Perez assured the Commission under oath: “If you have such a statement, bring such a statement to our attention.”
The Commission has since twice produced evidence that both supervising appointees and political appointees at the Justice Department have made clear statements that it is the policy of the Obama Justice Department not to enforce our nation’s laws in a race-neutral manner. First, on July 6, former Justice Department attorney Christian Adams confirmed that Deputy Assistant Attorney General Julie Fernandes told DOJ attorneys that under the Obama administration, the DOJ will never bring any cases against blacks or other national minorities under the Voting Rights Act. But the media ignored Adams’ testimony after the Obama administration and their leftists allies attacked him as a President George W. Bush era hire.
But then last Friday, a second DOJ attorney, former American Civil Liberties Union attorney Christopher Coates, testified before the Commission. He not only confirmed that Fernandes ordered DOJ attorneys only to enforce “traditional types of [voter intimidation] cases that would provide political equality for racial and minority language voters” but also informed DOJ attorneys that it was the policy of the Obama administration not to enforce anti-voter fraud laws since Obama “was not interested in that type of issue, but instead interested in issues that pertained to voter access.”
And that is not all. Coates further testified that Loretta King (appointed Acting Assistant Attorney General of the Civil Rights Division by President Obama) specifically instructed him “not to ask any other applicants whether they would be willing to, in effect, race-neutrally enforce the VRA.” Coates explained that King was offended by Coates’ question “because she does not support equal enforcement of the Voting Rights Act.”
The Obama administration’s reaction to Coates’ testimony was completely unsurprising: they blamed Bush. Justice Department spokeswoman Tracy Schmaler told The Washington Post: “The politicization that occurred in the Civil Rights Division in the previous administration has been well documented by the inspector general, and it was a disgrace to the great history of the division. We have changed that. We have reinvigorated the Civil Rights Division.” Schmaler even had the gall to characterize Coates’ testimony as “thin on facts and evidence and thick on rhetoric,” which is the height of audacity since Coated explained to the Commission, in question after question, that he could not disclose more details on orders from the Obama DOJ.
If true, Coates’ testimony will destroy public confidence in the legitimacy of the Obama Justice Department. To date, the Justice Department has never challenged the veracity of Coates’ claims about the specific statements made by King and Fernandes, or what everyone understood them to mean. If the testimony is true, both King and Fernandes should resign or be fired. At the very least the Obama DOJ should confirm or deny the statements. So far they have been completely unwilling to do so. However, Gregory Fine, the Justice Department’s inspector general, has begun his own investigation into the issue and both Democrats and Republicans in Congress have also promised inquiries. Sooner or later, the American people will discover the truth.
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