Uh oh: DoJ lawyer to testify tomorrow on voter-intimidation case dismissal
posted at 12:15 pm on September 23, 2010 by Ed Morrissey
When the Civil Rights Commission attempted to discover why the Department of Justice dropped a voter-intimidation case they had already won, the Obama administration told the attorneys in the Civil Rights division to ignore subpoenas from the panel. At the time they complied, but one of the key potential witnesses to the decision has decided to break his silence. In an exclusive, Pajamas Media has the letter from Christopher Coates requesting an immediate audience before the Commission:
In a dramatic development that could shake the political leadership of the Justice Department, career lawyer Christopher Coates has sent a letter to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights offering to testify Friday on matters related to the controversial New Black Panthers voter-intimidation case. Click here or on the screen capture below to read Coates’ letter in PDF form …
Ten months ago, Coates, the award-winning former chief of the Voting Section of the Civil Rights Division, was subpoenaed by the Commission to testify about the case. He was subsequently instructed by DOJ officials to ignore the subpoena. Within the past hour, commissioners were informed that Chairman Gerald Reynolds had spoken with Coates and that the chairman would reconvene the Commission’s ongoing hearing on Friday at 9:30 a.m. to hear Coates’s testimony.
The Civil Rights Commission has sought to obtain Coates’ testimony on Justice’s dismissal of the New Black Panther Party voter intimidation case in Philadelphia. In a recent request to Justice, the Commission agreed to limit initial questioning of Coates to accusations made by former career lawyer J. Christian Adams about statements and other actions by Julie Fernandes, an Obama administration political appointee, if DOJ produced Coates.
The DOJ refused.
That refusal apparently means that the Commission will not feel obligated to honor those restrictions in the hearing tomorrow. That means that the panel will almost certainly ask wide-ranging questions about the politicization of the CRD and attempts by the White House and Attorney General Eric Holder to squelch prosecution not just in the case of the New Black Panther Party activists in this case, but in other civil rights cases as well.
Coates’ decision to defy the DoJ and presumably the White House to comply with the subpoena cannot be good news for Barack Obama or Holder. Clearly they did not want the career attorneys to speak openly about what has been happening within the CRD or the DoJ. The only one to do so, J. Christian Adams, quit his post to blow the whistle on political pressures being placed on career attorneys concerning prosecutions and compliance efforts on other parts of the various voting regulations, including the necessity of states to remove ineligible voters from the registration rolls.
Expect some fireworks tomorrow. If Coates is this motivated to testify, he must have something explosive to say. That could put Holder back on the hot seat with Congress and have Obama looking to cut some people loose to contain the damage.