Did the DoJ lie about political interference in the New Black Panther Party dismissal?
posted at 10:01 am on July 31, 2012 by Ed Morrissey
We’ve followed the strange decision to dismiss a case of voter intimidation that the Department of Justice had already won, stemming from the 2008 election and which was caught on video. However, we missed a rather interesting court ruling on the case last week, one that may end up taking the Philadelphia incident in the same direction as Operation Fast and Furious — potential perjury and obstruction of justice. Ironically, the judge in this case is a familiar face in just these kinds of issues, too:
Obama’s DOJ had claimed Judicial Watch was not entitled to attorney’s fees since “none of the records produced in this litigation evidenced any political interference whatsoever in” how the DOJ handled the New Black Panther Party case. But United States District Court Judge Reggie Walton disagreed. Citing a “series of emails” between Obama political appointees and career Justice lawyers, Walton writes:
The documents reveal that political appointees within DOJ were conferring about the status and resolution of the New Black Panther Party case in the days preceding the DOJ’s dismissal of claims in that case, which would appear to contradict Assistant Attorney General Perez’s testimony that political leadership was not involved in that decision. Surely the public has an interest in documents that cast doubt on the accuracy of government officials’ representations regarding the possible politicization of agency decision-making.
In sum, the Court concludes that three of the four fee entitlement factors weigh in favor of awarding fees to Judicial Watch. Therefore, Judicial Watch is both eligible and entitled to fees and costs, and the Court must now consider the reasonableness of Judicial Watch’s requested award.
PJ Media’s J. Christian Adams worked in the DoJ’s Civil Rights Division at that time, and has been arguing all along that the NBPP dismissal was a political decision from the Obama administration, not a legal decision by career attorneys. The Obama administration has repeatedly denied this, going so far as to offer “testimony,” in the judge’s words, that political appointees weren’t involved in that decision. The judge’s use of the word “testimony” strongly suggests that the information was given under oath by Assistant Attorney General Thomas Perez, the head of the CRD. If that testimony came under oath and e-mails prove it false, Perez may have to answer for perjury. Even if it didn’t come under oath but as a representation made to the court, Perez or whoever made that representation on his behalf could face charges of obstruction of justice.
Judge Walton has some significant experience in this regard. Readers may or may not recall that Walton presided over the trial of Scooter Libby — who got convicted of obstruction of justice for offering false information to federal investigators. He also presided over the Roger Clemens trials for perjury and obstruction of justice, the first of which ended in a mistrial and the second in acquittal. The connection to the Libby case is rather interesting, and if this case gets that far, Perez and his associates might have some uncomfortable days ahead.
The NBPP case was a straightforward example of voter intimidation, but hardly an earth-shaking event — until the DoJ bizarrely snatched defeat from the jaws of victory in court and made it a much bigger deal than it otherwise would have been. It’s always the cover-up that ends up tripping people, and not the “crime” itself.
Update: At PJ Media, Hans von Spakovsky writes that the testimony was given by Perez himself under oath:
In a little noted decision on July 23, a federal district court judge concluded that internal DOJ documents about the New Black Panther Party voter intimidation case “contradict Assistant Attorney General [Thomas] Perez’s testimony that political leadership was not involved in” the decision to dismiss the case.
In other words, the sworn testimony of Perez, the Obama political appointee who heads the Civil Rights Division, before the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights was apparently false. …
But what is most disturbing about this court order is that it strongly suggests that Assistant Attorney General Thomas Perez essentially lied in sworn testimony. At a hearing before the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights on May 14, 2010, Perez was asked by Commissioner Peter Kirsanow whether “any political leadership [was] involved in the decision not to pursue this particular case.” Perez’s answer, on page 79 of the transcript of that hearing, is an uncategorical “No.” When the statements of Perez are compared to the documents that Judicial Watch forced DOJ to release in the FOIA lawsuit, it is clear Judge Walton was polite when he said they are contradictory and “cast doubt on the accuracy” of Perez’s account.
A less diplomatic judge might have said that Perez testified falsely in his hearing testimony before the Commission on Civil Rights. In other words, he may have committed perjury if he knew his statements were false when uttered.
Be sure to read it all. Hans believes that the DoJ may have to produce more documents on the case as a result of this decision, and it might get even worse.