EDITORIAL: Annotated Panther timeline

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The question all along, just as it had been with the Bush Justice Department, has been whether the Obama Justice Department interfered with ongoing investigations for political reasons, and whether that interference came from the White House itself. The Washington Times superimposed the known timeline of decisions on the Black Panther case with White House visitor logs. Here’s what we found:

March 12, 2009:

The Senate confirms Thomas J. Perrelli as associate attorney general of the United States. He does not visit the White House during the next 11 days.

March 23:

Pursuant to the court’s notice, the lawyer team on the case (Christopher Coates, Robert Popper, J. Christian Adams and Spencer R. Fisher) presents its draft motion for “Request for Entry of Default” to the acting division chiefs (Loretta King and/or Steven H. Rosenbaum).

March 24:

Mr. Perrelli sets up a White House visit with White House Associate Counsel Susan Davies. The meeting occurs the following day.

Late March:

Kristen Clarke, director of political participation at the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, reportedly asked department officials to drop the case. It is unusual for the department to share its deliberations with outside groups that are not part of the case - especially when the department later claims attorney-client confidentiality as a reason for not discussing its decision-making, even after the fact, with Congress or an independent government commission.

April 1:

The day the Black Panthers miss their deadline to contest the charges against them, Mr. Perrelli meets at the White House with Deputy White House Counsel Cassandra Butts, herself a former lawyer for the NAACP Legal Defense Fund.

April 2:

With no objection yet from Ms. King, the clerk for U.S. District Judge Stewart R. Dalzell enters the default judgment against all four original defendants.

April 8:

Mr. Perrelli and fellow Justice Department political appointee Spencer Overton again meet with Ms. Butts at the White House. Mr. Overton is the author of “Stealing Democracy: The New Politics of Voter Suppression,” which criticizes Republican efforts at “ballot security.” Mr. Overton is a noted critic of requiring voters to show identification at the polls.

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