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Right Turn
Posted at 10:41 AM ET, 04/03/2011

Obama’s Justice Department clears itself

Last week intentionally gullible (frightful if they actually buy what they are writing) apologists for the Obama Justice Department proclaimed that the New Black Panther Party (NBPP) scandal was really nothing at all. You see, the Justice Department’s own Office of Personal Responsibility (OPR) had given the department a clean bill of health! Aside from the obvious hypocrisy — would a Bush self-investigation be given credence by such Obama cheerleaders? — there are multiple grounds for dismissing this as another effort at stonewalling in a scandal that has had many such examples. None of these concern the left (whether those in the left blogosphere or administration defenders such as Commissioner Michael Yaki on the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, who oddly was the single commissioner interviewed when the report was released) .

Let’s start with the obvious. OPR is as unprofessional as it is biased. Remember the investigation of lawyers John Yoo and Jay Bybee? The work was so shoddy the attorney general brought in a career professional to redo it and in fact reject the OPR findings. I contacted one victim of that witch hunt — John Yoo — on Friday. He said of the latest OPR effort: “OPR is showing yet again that it is a biased office, pursuing an ideological agenda, flinging about flawed work product that is unworthy of the Justice Department.”

OPR hasn’t gotten any better since the Yoo-Bybee fiasco. In fact, it has gotten worse, as former Justice Department attorney Hans von Spakovsky pointed out:

Holder was quite open about it. In a contemporaneous interview with the New York Times, he essentially said that Justice had done the right thing on the NBPP case. Given that public comment, it would be surprising if Holder’s recently appointed head of OPR, Robin Ashton, bucked her boss. Last week, she surprised no one, reporting to Congress that there was nothing amiss about the department’s decision to drop a case it had already won.

The only surprise was that Holder seemed to feel he needed to signal OPR on how he wanted it to rule. After all, the office has an unfortunate history of biased and partisan investigations. I predicted this result in January after Holder appointed Ashton, a hyper-liberal lawyer who at one time worked for Sen. Patrick Leahy, the Vermont Democrat who is chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Yeah, when a boss tells his underling and the public there’s no merit to a case, it’s hardly surprising that the subordinate decides, “Gosh, there’s no merit to the case!” We can’t read the report itself, only a cover letter by Ashton, since Justice didn’t release the report. Still you get an inkling of how it was that OPR conducted itself. Von Spakovsky explains:

Thus, there was never much hope that OPR could conduct a competent legal review in the NBPP case. Still, it’s unclear how OPR could determine that no improper influences were at play if it never evaluated what the proper legal decision should have been.

Additionally, it’s clear from the letter that OPR lawyers talked only to Justice Department officials.White House visitors logs released more than a year ago show Justice political appointees known to be involved in the dismissal met with White House counsel during key dates in the NBPP saga.

Yet OPR says it never talked to anyone in the White House who may have been involved in this case.

Ashton fails to mention Justice’s unlawful refusal to provide documents and witnesses subpoenaed by the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights. Yet not responding to subpoenas and instructing Justice lawyers to ignore them is per se unprofessional conduct, as explained by Commissioner Todd Gaziano in his concurring statement in the commission’s interim report.

OPR in fact framed the investigation in such a way as to predetermine the outcome: “Ashton’s letter to Congress summarizing OPR’s findings glosses over the crucial flaw in their investigation: OPR ‘did not attempt to evaluate the relative merits of their differing positions.’ ” Well then how do we know the decision by Obama appointees was made on the merits? And what about the raft of e-mails between the White House and the voting section at critical decision-making points? Was there no interest in the hours of sworn testimony by the Justice Department trial team head detailing the meddling of career employees and the section’s antagonism toward color-blind enforcement of civil rights laws? It takes quite an effort to turn a blind eye to all that evidence, but OPR was definitely up to that task.

Frankly, in reporting in my pre-Post days and in subsequent reporting by The Post, there is ample evidence that voting section attorneys objected to enforcing civil rights laws against minority defendants (“my people,” as Eric Holder infamously put it). Yet the crack team at OPR apparently didn’t find any evidence of this. (Do they subscribe to The Post?)

No wonder Rep. Frank Wolf (R-Va.) sent a letter on March 30 to the Justice Department demanding answers to his five previous written requests for information. Unless Congress decides to investigate, we’re really never going to get to the bottom of this. Oh well, there is the next Republican administration, which, when it comes in, can ferret out the incriminating information from Justice’s files. You wonder how career Justice Department employees think they’re going to escape scrutiny then?

By  |  10:41 AM ET, 04/03/2011

Categories:  law

 
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