Let’s avoid all the mealy-mouthed euphemisms: In the now-infamous New Black Panther Party voter intimidation case, Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr.’s Justice Department stands accused of being dishonest, racist, political hacks. The department’s responses to those charges have been so weak that they may as well have pleaded nolo contendere. A hearing today by the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights provides the department one more chance to adequately explain itself. Right now, no adequate explanation seems to exist.
It was one year ago tomorrow that department officials overrode the advice of career attorneys, and of the department’s own appellate division, by dropping three of four charges in the Black Panther case and seeking an extremely limited injunction in the fourth. The case involved voluminous testimony that two Black Panthers - dressed in paramilitary garb while one brandished a nightstick - stood within arm’s length of a Philadelphia polling place while repeatedly using racial epithets and threats.
At an April 23 hearing held by the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, witnesses agreed that both Black Panthers acted in concert, shoulder to shoulder, that they used verbal threats against black Republicans and against whites they called “white devils” and “crackers.” Two witnesses specifically said they saw would-be voters turn around and leave the area without voting after seeing these forms of intimidation. Former Acting Associate Attorney General Gregory G. Katsas testified that, “on its face, the complaint appears to involve a straightforward and overwhelmingly strong case of voter intimidation which [ordinarily] would have raised neither policy sensitivities nor the possibility of conflicting positions within [the department].” His conclusion: “The alleged conduct appears egregious and intentional.”
Finally, Mr. Katsas said decisions by the department to reverse legal positions and drop such prosecutions are “extremely rare - and for good reason: They inevitably undermine [the department’s] credibility with the courts, and they inevitably raise suspicion that [the department’s] litigating position may be influenced by political considerations.”
Christopher Coates, the multiple award-winning career attorney who oversaw the case before the Obama-Holder team exiled him to the hinterlands, made clear in a going-away speech just what he thought the Obama administration’s political considerations are. As reported (in close paraphrase) by the Heritage Foundation’s Hans von Spakovsky at National Review Online, Mr. Coates suggested the agenda is “to enforce the provisions of the Voting Rights Act only for the protection of certain racial or ethnic minorities” and “to turn a blind eye whenever incidents arise that indicate that minority persons have acted improperly in voting matters.”
In short, white voters have no civil rights.
Neither Mr. Coates nor his former colleagues who brought the case can tell their stories in public because the Justice Department, in violation of federal law, ordered them not to comply with the subpoenas of the Civil Rights Commission. This comes after the department falsely claimed that none of its political appointees had a role in the decision to drop the case, and then spent a full year stonewalling information requests from the commission, Congress and the press.
Mr. Holder’s civil rights division chief, Thomas E. Perez, is set to testify at today’s commission hearing. Whether he’ll come clean, though, is very much in doubt.