Two draft letters are whizzing around the offices and electronic in-boxes of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights today, both intended to be delivered to Attorney General Eric Holder, demanding that Holder live up to his pledges of transparency and rectitude in Department of Justice (DoJ) affairs. The most explosive demand is for documents whose existence was first reported by Jennifer Rubin and Daniel Halper in The Weekly Standard (online) on Oct. 1, namely one memo each from the two attorneys who brought the New Black Panther voter intimidation case, both of which reportedly made specific allegations of race-based enforcement decisions within the Civil Rights Division and the Voting Rights Section of DoJ. The key thing here is that both memos were reportedly given to Civil Rights Division chief Thomas Perez before Perez testified under oath to the Commission on Civil Rights that he was unaware of, and would never countenance, such race-based decision-making. In short, if the memos’ content is as now believed, they would raise serious questions — again — about Mr. Perez’ truthfulness under oath.
Mr. Perez gave his testimony on May 14. Specifically, one of the new letters, in draft form, says the following:
[W]e ask that you expedite the production of the following:
Writings or emails Mr. Coates prepared about the New Black Panther Party litigation or hostility to the race-neutral enforcement of the voting laws in the month preceding Mr. Perez’s testimony, particularly one on or about April 26, 2010.
Writings or emails J. Christian Adams prepared about the New Black Panther Party litigation or hostility to the race-neutral enforcement of the voting laws in the month preceding Mr. Perez’s testimony, particularly one on or about May 10, 2010. Please also identify every person in the Department who saw or received these documents.
The other letter makes broader demands for information related to what the Commissioners call “the growing evidence of a culture of hostility in the Civil Rights Division to the race-neutral enforcement of the civil rights laws that may involve both supervisory attorneys and some of your political appointees.”
To date, the Department has ordered its employees under subpoena not to provide testimony to the Commission and has raised questionable and sweeping privilege claims. Notwithstanding that interference, the Commission has heard from eyewitnesses detailed allegations of malfeasance in the Civil Rights Division (CRD) which are at war with its core mission.
The first demand, in draft form, reads as follows:
Waive any purported privilege that might apply to the Commission’s requests and promptly supply all the documents, emails, and other material that have been withheld. To the extent the Department has concerns about the waiver of privilege with respect to specific documents, emails and other materials, the Commission remains willing to meet with DOJ representatives to negotiate such waiver.
The key allegations, the letter explains, are as follows:
a broad culture of hostility to race-neutral enforcement of the civil rights laws; a pattern of harassment and intimidation against those who work on suits in which the defendants are racial minorities; and instructions from a political appointee that basic voting rights laws will not be enforced against racial minorities during this administration.
What the letters do not say explicitly, but what is well worth noting, is that not even the broad (and, arguably, broadly spurious) “privilege” claims of DoJ with regard to deliberations about the Black Panther case can possibly cover statements reportedly made by Deputy Assistant Attorney General Julie Fernandes to the effect that the Obama DoJ would no longer enforce particular portions of laws it doesn’t like or would not enforce laws in certain circumstances based on race. None of these statements was reportedly made during deliberations on any particular case, and thus all of them should be fair game for Commission and congressional investigators to pursue. Ms. Fernandes’ statements reportedly were made in meetings in front of large numbers of staff, so investigators by right and reason should be able to ask a number of staffers who were present if they can back up the sworn testimony of Mr. Adams and Mr. Coates about those statements.
The pincer movement against Holder stands thusly: 1) Two new letters from the Commission on Civil Rights, along with an impending major statutory report by the Commission. 2) The likelihood of a Republican majority in Congress that can subpoena testimony about the Fernandes statements and related matters. 3) a pending report — expected but not guaranteed to be somewhat of a whitewash — from the DoJ’s internal Office of Professional Responsibility. 4) a new investigation of these matters of the DoJ’s Inspector General. 5) the possibility that someone will call for a special counsel to be appointed on these matters, and that public pressure will make such a special counsel inevitable — and that it will require a counsel acceptable to all areas of the political spectrum.
In short, these issues are not going away anytime soon.