The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights is set to vote Friday on a report highly critical of the Justice Department’s handling of a controversial voter-intimidation case against members of the New Black Panther Party, Talking Points Memo reported Thursday.
The draft version of the report says the DOJ did not fully cooperate with the commission’s investigation into the government’s decision to dismiss most charges against members of the anti-white fringe group who wore military clothing as they stood outside a polling place in a black neighborhood in Philadelphia in November 2008. The document says the DOJ did not thoroughly address “serious accusations” made by former DOJ staffer J. Christian Adams and Assistant U.S. Attorney Christopher Coates, the former chief of the Civil Rights Division Voting Section, about hostility in the DOJ to prosecuting voting rights cases against minorities.
“[T]he record of communications within the Department appears to indicate that senior political appointees played a significant role in the decision making surrounding the lawsuit,” the report says. “The involvement of senior DOJ officials by itself would not be unusual, but the Department’s repeated attempts to obscure the nature of their involvement and other refusals to cooperate raise questions about what the Department is trying to hide.”
DOJ spokeswoman Tracy Schmaler told Main Justice that she “strongly” disagrees with the report’s claims about the DOJ’s responsiveness. She said the DOJ has turned over more than 4,000 documents regarding the case at the request of the commission.
Schmaler also noted that Assistant Attorney General Thomas Perez testified about the case before commission. He defended decisions made in the case in his testimony earlier this year.
The report cites The Weekly Standard, a conservative magazine, as the source of many of its findings. The commission’s $173,653 investigation has been applauded by Republicans, who have expressed concern about the DOJ’s decisions in the case.