The ranking Republican on the House Judiciary Committee wants a closed-door briefing with the head of the Justice Department’s Voting Rights Section on Friday over the department’s decision to seek a dismissal in a voter intimidation case against the New Black Panther Party.
Texas Rep. Lamar Smith said he has been unsuccessful since May in getting answers on whether political appointees were involved in the dismissal of three of four counts in the case after the Justice Department had won default judgments on all counts and why the department has refused to respond to congressional inquiries on the investigation.
“Time and again, I have sought information from the Justice Department regarding the sudden dismissal of a case against members of the New Black Panther Party involving voter intimidation on Election Day 2008,” Mr. Smith said. “Time and again, the Justice Department has claimed there was no wrongful political interference in the dismissal of the case, which resulted in the president’s political allies getting a free pass.
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“Now, according to news reports, it appears the Justice Departments political appointees did in fact play a role in the dismissal of this case,” he said.
Mr. Smith, citing a report Thursday in The Washington Times, said Associate Attorney General Thomas J. Perrelli knew about discussions to dismiss the complaint, but the Justice Departments responses to Congress “make no mention of his involvement in the decision-making process.
The election-day incident gained national attention when it was captured by a voter-fraud citizen activist group on videotape and distributed on YouTube (below).
“Instead, they continually refer to vague justifications for the Obama Justice Departments actions, none of which include a legitimate explanation for why a case would be dropped,” he said. “It is clear that political appointees at the Justice Department allowed career employees to be pressured to drop a case against the presidents political allies.That is politicizing justice and it undermines democracy.”
Rep. Frank R. Wolf, Virginia Republican and a senior member of the House Appropriations Committee, said on the House floor Thursday he was “deeply troubled by the Department of Justices questionable dismissal of an important voter intimidation case in Philadelphia, where I grew up and my father was a policeman.”
“I have grave concerns about the departments dismissal of this case. Congress must use its oversight to maintain the integrity of our voting system. All the documents surrounding this case need to be made public,” Mr. Wolf said.
Mr. Wolf said he has been prevented by the Justice Department since May from meeting with the career lawyers who brought the complaint. He wants the department to explain why.
Mr. Smith also said Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. “must come clean to Congress” about the role his political appointees played in the dismissal and disciplinary action must be taken against anyone who “applied political pressure to sway a law enforcement matter.