Since August 2009, I have been writing about the politicization of the Justice Department. Less than a handful of conservative journalists pursued this, and mainstream media outlets almost entirely ignored all the aspects of this story, including the infamous New Black Panther case. It turns out that, at least in the Civil Rights Division, things were much worse than most imagined.

Eric Holder
Attorney General Eric Holder (J. Scott Applewhite/Associated Press)

The inspector general’s report now confirms a number of the points I raised years ago, including misleading testimony by the division head Thomas Perez, inappropriate conduct by political appointee Julie Fernandes, and harassment of conservatives in the division. And it adds to the picture of a division entirely out of control.

John Fund cites some of the key findings of the IG report, as does former DOJ employee Christian Adams. The IG declined to find a racial or political motive for dismissing the New Black Panther case but found actions surrounding that action “risked undermining confidence in the non-ideological enforcement of the voting rights laws.” In other words, it sure looked partisan.

Moreover, the report documents an entire division plagued by partisanship and racial politics. (“Many of those individuals told the OIG that they believed that the reason the voting rights laws were enacted was to protect historic victims of discrimination and therefore the Section should prioritize its resources accordingly. Additionally, some of these individuals, including one current manager, admitted to us that, while they believed that the text of the Voting Rights Act is race-neutral and applied to all races, they did not believe the Voting Section should pursue cases on behalf of White victims.”)

To be clear, the IG found politicization and improper conduct in the Bush administration as well, a claim hotly disputed by former employees. My own reporting began on the DOJ in 2009, but this report can in no way be characterized as anything other than an indictment of the Civil Rights Division over two administrations.

What we do know is that the man currently presiding over the division allowed extreme and rampant misbehavior to occur or was simply clueless about what was happening in his own division. It found:

Although we did not conclude that substantive enforcement decisions in the Voting Section during the period of our review were infected by partisan or racial bias, we believe that the perception remains that enforcement of the voting laws has changed with the election results. Much of this perception is a byproduct of legitimate shifts in enforcement priorities between different administrations. However, some of it has been fed by the incidents of polarization, discord, and harassment within the Voting Section described in this report. It is precisely because of the political sensitivity of the Voting Section’s cases that it is essential that Division leaders and Voting Section managers be particularly vigilant to ensure that enforcement decisions – and the processes used to arrive at them – are, and appear to be, based solely on the merits and free from improper partisan or racial considerations.

In the highly controversial NBPP matter, we found that the decisions that were reached by both administrations were ultimately supportable on nonracial and non-partisan grounds. However, we also found that the manner in which the outgoing administration filed the case without following usual practice and the new administration’s dismissal of Jackson as a defendant at the eleventh hour, particularly viewing the latter in the context of the contemporaneous discussions about removing [Christopher] Coates as Section Chief, both risked undermining confidence in the non-ideological enforcement of the voting rights laws.

Under such circumstances, how can Perez remain as division chief? Moreover, I see no conceivable way in which he could be an appropriate secretary of an entire department (Labor), a nomination which has been bandied around in the press.

Would the Civil Rights Division’s misconduct have halted earlier and remediation taken place if the mainstream media hadn’t brushed aside reports of DOJ’s politicization? We won’t ever know. But, however belatedly, a few outlets have discovered there really has been a raging problem in a critical DOJ division for years now. I’d agree with liberal columnist Andrew Cohen: “Eric Holder cannot remain silent on this. The attorney general is responsible for both the successes and the failures of the Justice Department. And [the IG's] report highlights a serious, continuing failure on the part of the current leadership there to restore the department’s once-heralded reputation for hiring and promoting only the most professional public servants.”

 

 

 

 

The inpsector’s general report now confirms a number of the points I raised years ago including misleading testimony by the division head Thomas Perez, inappropriate coonduct by political appointee Julie Fernandes, and harassment of conservatives in the division. And it adds to the picture of a division entirely out of control.

John Fund cites some of the key findings of the IG report as does former DOJ employee J.Christian Adams. The IG declined to find a racial or political motive for dismissing the New Black Panther case but found actions surrounding that rather found “risked undermining confidence in the non-ideological enforcement of the voting rights laws.” In other words it sure looked partisan. Morevover, the report documents an entire divison plagued by partisanship an racial politics. (“Many of those individuals told the OIG that they believed that the reason the voting rights laws were enacted was to protect historic victims of discrimination and therefore the Section should prioritize its resources accordingly. Additionally, some of these individuals, including one current manager, admitted to us that, while they believed that the text of the Voting Rights Act is race-neutral and applied to all races, they did not believe the Voting Section should pursue cases on behalf of White victims.”)

To be clear, the IG found politicization and improper conduct in the Bush administration as well, a claim hotly disputed by former employees. My own reporting began in 2009 and I am unable to weigh in on that part of the Civil Rights Division’s history.

What we do know is the man currently presiding over the division allowed extreme and rampant misbehavior to occur or was simply clueless about what was happening in his own divsion. It found:

Although we did not conclude that substantive enforcement decisions in the Voting Section during the period of our review were infected by partisan or racial bias, we believe that the perception remains that enforcement of the voting laws has changed with the election results. Much of this perception is a byproduct of legitimate shifts in enforcement priorities between different administrations. However, some of it has been fed by the incidents of polarization, discord, and harassment within the Voting Section described in this report. It is precisely because of the political sensitivity of the Voting Section’s cases that it is essential that Division leaders and Voting Section managers be particularly vigilant to ensure that enforcement decisions – and the processes used to arrive at them – are, and appear to be, based solely on the merits and free from improper partisan or racial considerations.

 

In the highly controversial NBPP matter, we found that the decisions that were reached by both administrations were ultimately supportable on nonracial and non-partisan grounds. However, we also found that the manner in which the outgoing administration filed the case without following usual practice and the new administration’s dismissal of Jackson as a defendant at the eleventh hour, particularly viewing the latter in the context of the contemporaneous discussions about removing [Christopher] Coates as Section Chief, both risked undermining confidence in the non-ideological enforcement of the voting rights laws.

Under such circumstances how can Perez remain as division chief? Moreover, I see no conceivable way in which he could be an appropriate secretary of an entire department (Labor), a nomination which has been bandied around in the press.


Attorney General Eric Holder-J. Scott Applewhite/A.P.

Would the conduct have halted earlier and redmediation taken place if the mainstream media hadn’t brushed aside reports of DOJ’s politicization? We won’t ever know. But however belatedly a few outlets have discovered there really has been a raging problem in a critical DOJ division for years now. I’d agree with liberal columnist Andrew Cohen: “Eric Holder cannot remain silent on this. The attorney general is responsible for both the successes and the failures of the Justice Department. And [the IG's] report highlights a serious, continuing failure on the part of the current leadership there to restore the department’s once-heralded reputation for hiring and promoting only the most professional public servants.”

Jennifer Rubin writes the Right Turn blog for The Post, offering reported opinion from a conservative perspective.