UPDATED: Manufactured scandal: Right wing's phony allegations against the Justice Department
Research ››› ››› JEREMY HOLDEN
J. Christian Adams' accusations that President Obama's Justice Department engaged in racially charged "corruption" in the New Black Panther Party case do not stand up to the evidence. Adams is a right-wing activist tied to the Bush-era politicization of the Justice Department who has admitted he lacks first-hand knowledge of the events he is discussing, and his claims fall apart given the fact that the Obama DOJ obtained judgment against one defendant, while the Bush DOJ declined to pursue similar allegations in 2006.
Adams: DOJ's action in New Black Panther case shows unprecedented, racially charged corruption
Adams: DOJ decision not to pursue charges in New Black Panthers case demonstrates unprecedented, racially charged corruption. GOP activist J. Christian Adams penned a Washington Times column leveling accusations of a "corrupt" and racially charged dismissal of the New Black Panther Party case and appeared in a two-part interview with Fox News' Megyn Kelly. During the interview, Adams accused the Justice Department of "a hostility in the voting section and in the civil rights division to bringing cases on behalf of white victims for the benefit of national racial minorities." Adams further said that "the decision to dismiss this case was corrupt," adding, "to abandon law-abiding citizens and abet wrongdoers constitutes corruption." In a Pajamas Media post, Adams wrote:
If we had that frank, truthful discussion about race, we'd learn that the Obama administration doesn't believe some civil rights laws protect every American. The Bush Civil Rights Division was willing to protect all Americans from racial discrimination; during the Obama years, the Holder years, only some Americans will be protected. Americans have a right to know and judge the racial policies of the administration they elected in 2008.
Adams' unsubstantiated story spread throughout other right-wing media. Kelly brought the story to Hannity, and it was picked up by Rush Limbaugh, Laura Ingraham, radio host Jay Severin, the blogs Hot Air, Atlas Shrugs, Ace of Spades, Andrew Breitbart's Big Government, and the Fox website Fox Nation. Fox News has discussed the phony scandal during more than 100 segments since June 30.
Reality: Adams' accusations don't stand up to the facts
- Adams is a long-time right-wing activist, who is known for filing an ethics complaint against Hugh Rodham that was subsequently dismissed, served as a Bush poll watcher in Florida 2004, and reportedly volunteered for a Republican group that trains lawyers to fight "racially tinged battles over voting rights";
- Adams was hired to the Justice Department in 2005 by Bradley Schlozman, who was found by the Department of Justice Inspector General and Office of Professional Responsibility to have improperly considered political affiliation when hiring career attorneys -- the former head of the DOJ voting rights section reportedly said that Adams was "exhibit A of the type of people hired by Schlozman";
- Adams has admitted that he does not have first-hand knowledge of the events, conversations, and decisions that he is citing to advance his accusations;
- The Bush administration's Justice Department -- not the Obama administration -- made the decision not to pursue criminal charges against members of the New Black Panther Party for alleged voter intimidation at a polling center in Philadelphia in 2008;
- The Obama administration successfully obtained default judgment against Samir Shabazz, a member of the New Black Panther Party carrying a nightstick outside the Philadelphia polling center on Election Day 2008;
- The Bush administration DOJ chose not to pursue similar charges against members of the Minutemen, one of whom allegedly carried a weapon while harassing Hispanic voters in Arizona in 2006;
- No voters have come forward to claim that they were intimidated from voting on account of the New Black Panthers standing outside the polling center in 2008;
- The Republican vice chairwoman of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, which is currently investigating the Justice Department's decision, reportedly said that the other conservatives on the Civil Rights Commission were trying to use New Black Panther case "to topple" the Obama administration. Thernston has also called the case "very small potatoes" and criticized the "overheated rhetoric filled with insinuations and unsubstantiated charges" surrounding it, and said that rhetoric has not "served the interests of the commission"; she further said that DOJ has given a "plausible argument" for not pursuing additional charges in the case;
- The United States Commission on Civil Rights has been integral to the phony New Black Panthers scandal. Although the media have emphasized the fact that the commission is technically bipartisan, thanks to a "controversial maneuver" by the Bush administration, the commission is dominated by conservative activists;
- Adams himself testified that he had no "indication" that the decision involved anyone "higher up" than an acting assistant attorney general;
- The Obama Justice Department requested additional judgment against black leaders in Mississippi who were found to have discriminated against white voters;
- The existence of emails between political and career attorneys in the Justice Department does not contradict DOJ statements that career attorneys made the decision not to pursue additional charges -- DOJ officials have said repeatedly that political appointees were made aware of the decision-making process.
Adams is a long-time GOP activist
Kelly: A source "close to the case" said "Christian Adams is a conservative who has made willful misstatements in this interview." After airing a portion of her interview with Adams on the June 30 edition of America Live, Kelly reported the Justice Department's reaction to Adams' allegations and then noted, "Another source close to the case telling one of our producers that Christian Adams is a conservative who has made willful misstatements in this interview."
Adams reportedly filed ethics complaint against Hugh Rodham that was dismissed. In a February 26, 2001, Washington Times column (accessed via Nexis) John McCaslin cited a formal ethics complaint filed by Adams against Hugh Rodham, brother of then-Sen. Hillary Clinton. On February 24, 2001, The Washington Times had reported (accessed via Nexis) that "Adams said Mr. Rodham put his Florida law license 'in jeopardy' with an admission that he accepted a contingency fee in obtaining the commutation for Carlos Vignali, the convicted drug dealer released from prison after serving six years of a 15-year sentence." A July 22, 2001, New York Times article (accessed via Nexis) reported, "The Florida bar has cleared Hugh Rodham of violating legal ethics."
Adams reportedly volunteered with GOP group that "trains lawyers to fight on the front lines of often racially tinged battles over voting rights." A December 2, 2009, article on the legal news website Main Justice reported:
Before coming to the Justice Department, Adams volunteered with the National Republican Lawyers Association, an offshoot of the Republican National Committee that trains lawyers to fight on the front lines of often racially tinged battles over voting rights.
Adams reportedly was a Bush campaign poll watcher in Florida. The December 2, 2009, Main Justice article furtherreported: "In 2004, Adams served as a Bush campaign poll watcher in Florida, where he was critical of a black couple for not accepting a provisional ballot in early voting after officials said they had no record of the couple's change of address forms, according to Bloomberg News. Democratic poll watchers had advised voters not to accept provisional ballots because of the risk they could be discounted under Florida law, Bloomberg reported."
Adams likened Obama to appeasers who caused "carnage" of WWII. In an October 30, 2009, American Spectator piece, Adams wrote: "President Obama's received his Peace Prize, according to the Nobel Committee, for his 'efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between nations.' Norman Angell's Nobel was awarded for similar reasons." Adams went on to blame Angell's ideas for World War II:
The 1933 Peace Prize winner profoundly influenced British policy in ways that led directly to German tanks rolling into Poland in September 1939. War did not break out because nations ignored Angell's advice; instead, the ensuing carnage in Europe happened because European democracies made Angell's ideas government policy.
Adams concluded: "Churchill, responding directly to Angell, asked 'who is the man vain enough to suppose that the long antagonisms of history and of time can in all circumstances be adjusted by the smooth and superficial conventions of politicians and ambassadors?' The Nobel Committee may have answered Sir Winston's query for the 21st century."
Adams is deeply tied to Bush-era politicization of DOJ
Former Voting Rights section chief: Adams is "exhibit A of the type of people hired by Schlozman." A July 6 article on Main Justice reported that Joseph Rich, former head of the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division Voting Section, said that Adams "was hired in the Civil Rights Division Voting Section under a process the DOJ Inspector General later determined was improperly influenced by politics," by Schlozman. Main Justice further reported:
Rich said Schlozman asked him to attend an interview with J. Christian Adams, a solo practitioner from Alexandria, Va., who had worked for the Secretary of State in South Carolina. Adams had also volunteered for the Republican National Lawyers Association, a GOP-funded group that sought to draw attention to voting fraud.
Adams did not have an extensive background in civil rights, Rich said, but may have had limited voting rights experience from his time in South Carolina. "He is exhibit A of the type of people hired by Schlozman," Rich said.
Rich said he sat in on the interview, but Schlozman asked most of the questions. There was no discussion of Adams' political background at the meeting, according to Rich. Adams was offered the position shortly thereafter, and Rich said he doesn't believe anyone else was interviewed for the job.
"I was invited to the interview but was never asked for a recommendation," Rich said. "This was an example of the way things were being done. There's no evidence that this was a normal hiring process." As a supervisor, Rich said, he normally would have been involved in hiring decisions.
Schlozman's politicization wrought havoc on Civil Rights Division
DOJ IG "found that Schlozman considered political and ideological affiliations when hiring and taking other personnel actions relating to career attorneys, in violation of Department policy and federal law." A July 2008 report from the Department of Justice Inspector General's Office and the Office of Professional Responsibility concluded that Schlozman "considered political and ideological affiliations when hiring and taking other personnel actions relating to career attorneys in violation of Department policy and federal law." The report concluded:
The evidence in our investigation showed that Schlozman, first as a Deputy Assistant Attorney General and subsequently as Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General and Acting Assistant Attorney General, considered political and ideological affiliations in hiring career attorneys and in other personnel actions affecting career attorneys in the Civil Rights Division. In doing so, he violated federal law -- the Civil Service Reform Act -- and Department policy that prohibit discrimination in federal employment based on political and ideological affiliations, and committed misconduct. The evidence also showed that Division managers failed to exercise sufficient oversight to ensure that Schlozman did not engage in inappropriate hiring and personnel practices. Moreover, Schlozman made false statements about whether he considered political and ideological affiliations when he gave sworn testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee and in his written responses to supplemental questions from the Committee.
Schlozman is said to have picked attorneys who "lacked relevant experience" and "rarely expressed any interest in civil rights enforcement." The IG/OPR report stated that Special Litigation Section Chief Shanetta Cutlar "said that the applicants whose résumés she reviewed after they had been culled from the applicant pool by Schlozman or others in the front office typically reflected membership in conservative organizations. She also said the most striking thing she noticed about the résumés was that the applicants generally lacked relevant experience. She said Schlozman minimized the importance of prior civil rights or human rights work experience." In addition, the report states:
Former Criminal Section Chief [Albert] Moskowitz also said the candidates for career positions chosen by Schlozman had conservative political or ideological affiliations and rarely had any civil rights background, rarely expressed any interest in civil rights enforcement, and had very little or no federal criminal experience.
Schlozman testified that he "probably ha[d]" boasted about hiring Republicans or conservatives. From a June 5, 2007, Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on politicized hiring and firing in the DOJ (from the Nexis database):
SEN. CHARLES SCHUMER: Did you ever boast to anyone that you hired a certain number of Republicans or conservatives for any division or section at the Justice Department?
MR. SCHLOZMAN: I mean, I probably have made statements like that.
In addition, the IG/OPR report cited a January 2004 email in which Schlozman wrote to an attorney he had hired: "Just between you and me, we hired another member of 'the team' yesterday. And still another ideological comrade will be starting in one month. So we are making progress."
IG/OPR documented Schlozman discussing the removal of "disloyal" "liberals" and hiring of conservative "real Americans." The same report outlined statements from Justice Department officials who said that Schlozman attempted to remove Democrats and liberals and hire "real Americans" or "right-thinking Americans," which the report determined to mean conservatives. From the report:
Several attorneys in the Division also told us that Schlozman was open about his disdain for and lack of trust in the attorney staff of the Division. Appellate Section Chief Diana Flynn told us that in conversations with her, Schlozman alternately referred to the Appellate Section lawyers hired during prior administrations as "Democrats" and "liberals," and said they were "disloyal," could not be trusted, and were not "on the team." Flynn said Schlozman pledged to move as many of them out of the Division as he could to make room for the "real Americans" and "right-thinking Americans" he wanted to hire.
Accounts from numerous other Division employees and officials, including former AAG Wan Kim and Section Chiefs Cutlar and Flynn, as well as the context of Schlozman's e-mails, indicate that his use of terms such as "real American," "right-thinking American," being "on the team," and similar terms were Schlozman's way of referring to politically conservative applicants and attorneys. For example, an e-mail dated July 17, 2006, from Schlozman to Monica Goodling, who at the time was Senior Counsel to the Attorney General and White House Liaison, sheds light on the meaning of Schlozman's terms. In that e-mail, Schlozman recommended a friend who had interviewed with Goodling for a political position. Schlozman wrote, "I can assure you that [the applicant] is a good American. [The applicant] and Sheldon Bradshaw and I (and [one] other person) made up a four-member Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy at my former law firm." In another e-mail sent to Goodling on December 4, 2006, in which Schlozman recommended a different friend for an Immigration Judge position, Schlozman wrote, "[D]on't be dissuaded by his ACLU work on voting matters from years ago. This is a very different man, and particularly on immigration issues, he is a true member of the team."
A May 9, 2003, e-mail provides additional evidence of the meaning of Schlozman's phrases. Luis Reyes, then Counsel to the AAG for the Civil Division, sent an e-mail to Schlozman in connection with a legal matter, endorsing an attorney in the Department's Office of Legal Policy as a "right thinking american [sic] to say the least." In an e-mail response, Schlozman wrote that he "just spoke with [the attorney] to verify his political leanings and it is clear he is a member of the team."
IG/OPR: Schlozman cut section managers out of the hiring process. As explained in the IG/OPR report, a memorandum on hiring procedures sent out by Ralph F. Boyd Jr., then the Civil Rights Division assistant attorney general, indicated that section chiefs were supposed to interview and provide hiring recommendations. However, the report states that Schlozman "prevented many career section chiefs from reviewing résumés of the complete applicant pool, and he only provided to them résumés of applicants he interviewed. Five of the six section chiefs whom Schlozman supervised while [deputy assistant attorney general], from May 2003 to June 2005, told us that Schlozman further minimized their roles in the hiring process by providing little advance notice of applicant interviews, discouraging their asking questions during the interviews, and ignoring their assessments and recommendations regarding attorney applicants." In sections of the Civil Rights Division where Schlozman was not responsible for hiring, by contrast, "[c]areer section managers and attorneys in these sections had greater roles in the process for hiring experienced attorneys."
IG/OPR: Schlozman forwarded "inappropriate jokes," such as calling former Civil Rights Commission chairwoman "black and bitter." According to the IG/OPR report, Assistant Attorney General R. Alexander Acosta said that Schlozman was "very loose with his language" and made "inappropriate jokes" during his tenure at the Justice Department. In an example provided to the inspector general, Acosta described as inappropriate an email Schlozman forwarded around the office:
In that incident in August 2004, Voting Section Chief John Tanner sent an e-mail to Schlozman asking Schlozman to bring coffee for him to a meeting both were scheduled to attend. Schlozman replied asking Tanner how he liked his coffee. Tanner's response was, "Mary Frances Berry style -- black and bitter." Berry is an African-American who was the Chairperson of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights from November 1993 until late 2004. Schlozman forwarded the e-mail chain to several Department officials (including Principal DAAG Bradshaw) but not Acosta, with the comment, "Y'all will appreciate Tanner's response." Acosta said that when he was made aware of the incident, he required Schlozman to make a written apology to him for his role in forwarding the e-mail and that Schlozman did so. Acosta said that he believed Schlozman wrote him the apology in an e-mail, but we were unable to retrieve Acosta's e-mails and did not find such an e-mail among Schlozman's recovered e-mail messages.
Adams admits he lacks first-hand knowledge to support his accusations
Adams: "I don't know. I wasn't there." During the June 30 edition of America Live, Kelly hyped what she called Adams' "explosive new allegations." But during the interview, Adams relied on hearsay and things that others said to support his allegations. For example, after claiming that a Justice Department attorney "threw [a] memo at" another attorney, Kelly asked, "What was the response? I mean, that's an extraordinary story," and Adams replied, "I don't know. I wasn't there."
Adams admits he did not talk to the attorneys he said made the decision not to pursue additional charges. During the interview, Kelly asked Adams, "So, what happened at the Department of Justice to get you to the point where you literally snatched defeat from the jaws of victory?" Adams said: "[W]hat happened was -- and it's been -- there's been testimony -- we were ordered to dismiss the case. We were told, 'Drop the charges against the New Black Panther Party.' " Kelly asked, "Who told you that?" Adams responded, "Well, the testimony's been that Steve Rosenbaum and Loretta King, two political officers at the department, ordered the dismissal of the case [emphasis added]." Kelly then asked Adams, "Did you, personally, speak with Mr. Rosenbaum and Ms. King about the dismissal of this case?" Adams responded: "No. Chris Coates and Bob Popper did. Two other attorneys."
Adams: "[T]here are some things I'm not going to reveal as far as who they are. They know who they are." During the interview, Adams suggested his allegations about the decisions surrounding the case were evidence of "a pervasive hostility to bringing these sorts of civil rights cases." Kelly asked Adams whether the DOJ has "a policy now of not pursuing cases if the defendant is black and the victim is white." At one point, Kelly also asked, "Who specifically has issued that mandate?" Adams responded, "[T]here are some things I'm not going to reveal as far as who they are. They know who they are."
Republican Civil Rights commissioner: Adams "doesn't know why the decision was made." Abigail Thernstrom, the Republican vice chairwoman of the Civil Rights Commission, said during an April 23 hearing into the case:
I know Chris Adams very well, and he doesn't know why the decision was made, which was the question before -- that we were supposed to be addressing at this Commission.
Decision not to pursue criminal charges was made by Bush DOJ, not Obama
Bush DOJ, not Obama, made decision not to pursue criminal charges. Before President Bush left office, the Department of Justice filed a civil complaint asking for an injunction against the New Black Panther Party and some of its members. In his May 14 testimony before the Commission on Civil Rights, Assistant Attorney General Thomas Perez explained that the Bush administration's Justice Department "determined that the facts did not constitute a prosecutable violation of the criminal statutes" but did "file a civil action on January 7th, 2009." From Perez's testimony:
PEREZ: Moving to the matter at hand, the events occurred on November 4th, 2008. The Department became aware of these events on Election Day and decided to conduct further inquiry.
After reviewing the matter, the Civil Rights Division determined that the facts did not constitute a prosecutable violation of the criminal statutes. The Department did, however, file a civil action on January 7th, 2009, seeking injunctive and declaratory relief under 11(b) against four defendants.
Obama DOJ actually obtained judgment against individual carrying weapon at polling place
May 2009: DOJ obtained default judgment against Shabazz for carrying weapon outside polling station. On May 18, 2009, the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania entered default judgment against Samir Shabazz. In his May 14 testimony before the Commission on Civil Rights, Perez stated that the Justice Department had obtained "sufficient evidence to sustain the charge" of voter intimidation against Shabazz, identified by Perez as "the defendant who had the nightstick," and that "the default judgment was sought and obtained as it related to him." Perez testified:
PEREZ: Based on the careful review of the evidence, the Department concluded that the evidence collected supported the allegations in the complaint against Minister King Samir Shabazz. The Department, therefore, obtained an injunction against defendant King Samir Shabazz, prohibiting him from displaying a weapon within 100 feet of an open polling place on any Election Day in the City of Philadelphia or from otherwise violating Section 11(b).
The Department considers this injunction to be tailored appropriately to the scope of the violation and the constitutional requirements and will fully enforce the injunction's terms.
No voter has alleged intimidation stemming from incident
Civil Rights commissioner: "[N]o citizen has even alleged that he or she was intimidated from voting." In an April 23 hearing on the DOJ's decision in the case, Civil Rights Commissioner Arlan Melendez stated that "no citizen has even alleged that he or she was intimidated from voting," which "was clear to the Justice Department last spring, which is why they took the course of action that they did." From the April 23 Civil Rights Commission hearing:
MELENDEZ: My remarks are going to be brief because I think far too much of our time has been consumed on this seemingly unnecessary investigation. Citizens should be able to vote without intimidation, and it is our Commission's duty to investigate complaints from citizens that their voting rights have been infringed.
In this case, however, no citizen has even alleged that he or she was intimidated from voting at the Fairmount Avenue Polling Station in 2008. This absence of voter intimidation was clear to the Justice Department last spring, which is why they took the course of action that they did.
This absence of voter intimidation was clear to the members of this Commission as well, or at least it should've been. Our investigation has been going on now for the better part of a year. We have wasted a good deal of our staff's time, and the taxpayers' money.
Main Justice: "[N]o voters at all in the Philadelphia precinct have come forward to allege intimidation." A July 2 Main Justice article reported that "no voters at all in the Philadelphia precinct have come forward to allege intimidation," adding, "The complaints have come from white Republican poll watchers, who have given no evidence they were registered to vote in the majority black precinct."
Bush-era DOJ chose not to pursue similar allegations against Minutemen -- one of whom carried a gun
DOJ did not pursue allegations that Minutemen intimidated Hispanic voters with a gun in 2006. Perez testified that in 2006, the Justice Department "declined to bring any action for alleged voter intimidation" "when three well-known anti-immigrant advocates affiliated with the Minutemen, one of whom was carrying a gun, allegedly intimidated Latino voters at a polling place by approaching several persons, filming them, and advocating and printing voting materials in Spanish." [U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, 5/14/10]
Anti-immigrant activist in 2006 case reportedly had "9mm Glock strapped to his side" at polling place. A November 8, 2006, Austin American-Statesman article reported (from the Nexis database): "In Arizona, Roy Warden, an anti-immigration activist with the Minutemen, and a handful of supporters staked out a Tucson precinct and questioned Hispanic voters at the polls to determine whether they spoke English." The article continued:
Armed with a 9mm Glock automatic strapped to his side, Warden said he planned to photograph Hispanic voters entering polls in an effort to identify illegal immigrants and felons.
Arizona Daily Star: "[A]nti-immigrant activist" "stood by with a firearm in a holster." A November 8, 2006, Arizona Daily Star article reported (from Nexis):
A crew of anti-immigrant activists, meanwhile, visited several South Side polling places in what one poll-watch group called a blatant attempt to intimidate Hispanic voters.
Anti-immigrant crusader Russ Dove circulated an English-only petition, while a cameraman filmed the voters he approached and Roy Warden stood by with a firearm in a holster.
Diego Bernal, a staff attorney with the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund (MALDEF), said the trio was trying to intimidate Hispanic voters. "A gun, a camera, a clipboard before you even get to the polls -- if that's not voter intimidation, what is?" he asked.
Bernal said his group encountered the men at the Precinct 49 polling place at South 12th Avenue and West Michigan Street and began documenting the scene with their cameras. "There was an interesting period where they were taking pictures of us taking pictures of them."
Tucson Citizen: Incident "reported to the FBI." A November 8, 2006, Tucson Citizen article (from Nexis) reported that Bernal "said he reported the incident to the FBI." The article also reported that Pima County elections director Brad Nelson said: "If intimidation or coercion was going on out there, even though it might have been outside the 75-foot limit, it's something we take very seriously, and we'll be looking into it."
Conservative Civil Rights Commission vice chairwoman ridicules investigation
Thernsrtom reportedly said Civil Rights Commission's conservatives trying to use New Black Panther case "to topple" Obama admin. A July 16 Politico article reported that Abigail Thernstrom, a Republican who serves as co-chairwoman of the Civil Rights Commission and who is an adjunct scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, "has made a dramatic break from her usual allies" on the Civil Rights Commission. Politico reported, "'This doesn't have to do with the Black Panthers, this has to do with their fantasies about how they could use this issue to topple the [Obama] administration,' said Thernstrom, who said members of the commission voiced their political aims 'in the initial discussions' of the Panther case last year. 'My fellow conservatives on the commission had this wild notion they could bring Eric Holder down and really damage the president,' Thernstrom said in an interview with POLITICO."
Thernstrom: "Forget about the New Black Panther Party case." Thernstrom wrote a July 6 National Review Online blog post criticizing the "overheated rhetoric filled with insinuations and unsubstantiated charges" surrounding the case. Thernstrom wrote, "Forget about the New Black Panther Party case; it is very small potatoes."
Thernstrom: Perez "makes a perfectly plausible argument" for DOJ's decision not to pursue additional charges. Thernstrom also wrote: "Thomas Perez, the assistant attorney general for civil rights, makes a perfectly plausible argument: Different lawyers read this barely litigated statutory provision differently. It happens all the time, especially when administrations change in the middle of litigation."
Thernstrom: "I do not think that this inquiry has served the interests of the Commission." During an April 23 hearing into the DOJ's decision, Thernstrom also said, "I do not think that this inquiry has served the interests of the Commission as being a bipartisan watchdog for important civil rights violations, and I do not believe it has served well the party to which I belong."
U.S. Commission on Civil Rights is dominated by conservative activists
- "Independent" commissioner Gail Heriot is a long-time GOP activist and member of the conservative Federalist Society who became an independent seven months before her appointment. Heriot was an alternative delegate to the 2000 Republican National Convention, previously served as counsel to GOP Sen. Orrin Hatch, and has been an activist for statewide initiatives to outlaw affirmative action.
- "Independent" commissioner Todd Gaziano is director for the Center for Legal & Judicial Studies at the right-wing Heritage Foundation. He has called "so-called hate crimes laws" "counterproductive," and once compared Bill Clinton and federal civil rights officials to segregationists.
- Chairman Gerald A. Reynolds was appointed by President Bush in 2004. His appointment was said to mark "the end of the commission as an independent voice for the protection of civil and human rights," and he has acknowledged that conservatives "game[d] the system" by stacking the Civil Rights Commission with conservatives.
- Commissioner Ashley J. Taylor Jr., was appointed by Bush in 2004. He served as counsel to John McCain's 2008 presidential campaign and was a delegate to the 2004 Republican National Convention.
- Commissioner Peter N. Kirsanow is a National Review Online contributor who has promoted false right-wing attacks on progressives.
Adams testifies he had no "indication" higher-ups were involved in decision
Adams: No "indication" of involvement by higher-ups. As The American Prospect's Adam Serwer noted, during his July 6 testimony before the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, Adams was questioned about who was involved in the decision to pursue a civil penalty against one of the defendants, King Samir Shabazz, and drop other charges in the case (from Page 35):
MR. [David] BLACKWOOD [general counsel, DOJ Office of General Counsel]: Was there any indication that anyone higher up than Loretta King [then the acting assistant attorney general for the Civil Rights Division] or Steve Rosenbaum [then the acting deputy assistant attorney general for the Civil Rights Division] was making the decision to override the six career attorneys who said the case should go forward?
MR. ADAMS: None that I had any indication of.
Obama Justice Department asked court to extend injunction against black defendant found to have discriminated against white voters
Adams: Obama DOJ "blew an opportunity to put to rest the issue of whether they are willing to enforce the Voting Rights Act in a race-neutral fashion." In a July 13 Pajamas Media blog post, Adams wrote that "the Department of Justice blew an opportunity to put to rest the issue of whether they are willing to enforce the Voting Rights Act in a race-neutral fashion by objecting to a request by a proven discriminator to further discriminate." Adams claimed that the DOJ's handling of a voting rights case in Mississippi indicated that the Justice Department "do[es] not want whites and Asians, when they are the discriminated-against minority, to be protected under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act." Adams argued that a "no determination" letter the DOJ sent was "effectively a cop-out against using Section 5 to protect the white minority in Noxubee Countee."
Obama DOJ is seeking to extend injunction against black leaders in Mississippi who discriminated against white voters. In 2007, a federal judge determined that Ike Brown, chairman of the Noxubee (Mississippi) County Democratic Executive Committee, discriminated against white voters. As part of an injunction against Brown, Judge Reuben Anderson was named referee-administrator responsible for overseeing Democratic primaries through 2011. But earlier this year, the Noxubee County Democratic Executive Committee, chaired by Brown, submitted a request under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act to create a closed Democratic primary. In a July 12 letter T. Christian Herren, chief of the DOJ's voting section, responded to that request and wrote that "it would be inappropriate for the Attorney General to make a determination concerning your submission." In addition to reaffirming that Brown has no standing to make such requests, the Justice Department also filed a motion to extend the 2007 injunction against Brown and the Noxubee County Democratic Party for an additional two years, citing Brown's and the Noxubee Democratic Party's efforts to "dictate the terms of electoral qualifications," which "violated the Remedial Order." In seeking additional penalties against Brown, the Justice Department explicitly cited the potential harm to white voters.
Adams relied on outdated, controversial lawsuit to bolster his argument
Adams: "There's actually a record" of hostility "where they dismissed a case the Bush administration brought against Missouri." During an appearance on the July 7 edition of Fox News' America Live, Adams claimed that the Justice Department had issued a mandate not to enforce election laws that deal with voter registration maintenance, which host Megyn Kelly claimed amounted to "sanctioning voter fraud." To support his unsubstantiated allegation, Adams said:
And you could look at the record. There's actually a record on this during this administration where they dismissed a case that the Bush administration had brought against Missouri, and they haven't brought any new cases.
NYT: Lawsuit against Missouri was part of "highly suspicious case" connected to U.S. attorney scandal. A May 10, 2007, New York Times editorial connected the lawsuit to the U.S. attorneys scandal, citing statements made by Todd Graves, the U.S. attorney for Missouri at the time the lawsuit was filed, that he was "pushed out in part because he refused to support" the lawsuit. A May 10, 2007, Washington Post article reported that Graves said he "clashed with [the Department of] Justice's civil rights division over" the voter registration lawsuit and that Bradley Schlozman "signed off on [the complaint] after [Graves] refused to do so." The Post article further reported that Graves said "he was asked to step down from his job by a senior Justice Department official in January 2006, months before eight other federal prosecutors would be fired by the Bush administration."
DOJ sought dismissal due to outdated evidence. The Bush administration filed a complaint against the state of Missouri in November 2005. In 2007, Judge Nanette K. Laughrey of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri entered judgment against the Bush DOJ. On July 29, 2008, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 8th Circuit remanded the case, asking the district court to consider whether local election agencies were complying with voter registration laws. In a March 4, 2009, motion for voluntary dismissal signed by Robert Popper, deputy chief of the civil rights division's voting section, the Justice Department noted that discovery in the underlying lawsuit against Missouri closed July 24, 2006, and that on October 9, 2008, the court declined a request to reopen discovery, and said that "events have overtaken this litigation" and that "the evidence in the record at that time may have limited applicability to current conditions in Missouri."
Conservatives falsely claim existence of emails is "proof" that DOJ officials lied
Right-wing media cite email index to accuse DOJ of lying. On September 20, Judicial Watch claimed that an index of emails released by the Department of Justice contradict "sworn testimony" that "no political leadership was involved in the decision" not to pursue additional charges in the case. That day, Adams claimed in a Pajamas Media post that the email index was "an explosive announcement" that "shows -- in a rather dramatic way -- that the DOJ haw been untruthful. Former DOJ official and conservative activist Hans von Spakovsky wrote that the emails "indicate that high-level Justice Department officials have been misleading the public and Congress." The Fox Nation linked to Adams' post with the headline "New Records Show DOJ Lied About Black Panther Dismissal."
DOJ has repeatedly said that political appointees were made aware of the decision-making process. In his May 14 testimony before the Civil Rights Commission, Perez directly addressed the lines of communications between political appointees and career attorneys, saying: "Whenever there is a decision involving a case that has attracted attention, we -- when the decision is made, we obviously communicate that up the chain." In a January 11 response to interrogatories and document requests made by the commission, the DOJ made clear that "[c]onsistent with the Department's practice, the attorney serving as Acting Assistant Attorney General for Civil rights informed Department supervisors of the Division's decisions related to the case." In an April supplemental filed with the commission, DOJ officials further explained:
As is customary with complex or potentially controversial issues, the then-Acting Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights advised the Associate Attorney General that she was making a case-based assessment of how to proceed in this case, engaged in discussions about how to proceed with the Associate Attorney General's staff, and informed the Associate's office of her decision before it was implemented.