It’s over, conservatives: A just-released copy of the Department of Justice’s Office of Professional Responsibility report on the New Black Panther case shows the core allegations at the heart of this tale to be completely false.
Previously, the OPR had only released a letter detailing the findings in the probe . But OPR just sent a copy of the full report to Capitol Hill, and it shows more conclusively than ever that this whole story has been completely baseless from the outset.
Conservatives have alleged two things for months — that the NBPP case was narrowed because of political pressure from Obama administration leadership, and that there is a hostility in the division towards pursuing voting rights cases on behalf of whites. The OPR report however, tells a different story — one in which the leadership of the civil rights division was frustrated by the conduct of the NBPP team in withholding exculpatory information in trying to seek a broader injunction against the New Black Panther Party. It also shows that there was never any political pressure from above to narrow the case to one defendant.
Conservatives have alleged that the authority of Christopher Coates, the former voting section head who was considered a “true member of the team” by the politicized leadership in the civil rights division during the Bush years, was narrowed because Coates lead the team that filed the NBPP case. In fact, the OPR report states that Deputy Acting Assistant Attorney General Steve Rosenbaum required that “all sections under his supervision” submit filings three days before the deadline. This was in part because of the leadership in the voting section, who Rosenbaum felt failed to give him adequate background on a case in Missouri.
Rosenbaum’s concerns would proved to be founded later, when he reviewed the NBPP team’s original memo and found it “reflected an incomplete factual investigation” which was based on “talking only to Republican Party members who were in Philadelphia or at the polling place].]” Acting Deputy Attorney General for Civil Rights Loretta King actually had to go online to the NBPP website herself to discover that the national organization had disavowed the conduct of the Philadelphia Panthers, because the NBPP team had failed to bring it up in a meeting. And of course, the NBPP team hadn’t produced a single voter who had claimed to be intimidated. This pattern of conduct caused King and Rosenbaum to be justifiably concerned that the NBPP team “had not been forthcoming with all pertinent evidence and facts.”
We’ve written about the weakness of the NBPP case here before, but it’s important to reiterate that the leadership at the civil rights division was concerned about the legal issues in the case, not some ideological belief against protecting white voters. In fact, Associate Attorney General Thomas Perrelli, who the conservative commissioners on the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights all but accused of acting to protect the NBPP on behalf of Obama, told the civil rights division leadership that it he trusted them but that “doing nothing” on the case would be unacceptable. In other words, the person conservatives accused of protecting the NBPP stated flatly that the case should not be dismissed outright.
Attorney General Eric Holder, whom conservatives have also smeared as a racist, was told of the case in a meeting on May 5. The attendees at that meeting all agreed that Holder “did not offer any direction or explicitly approve King’s course of action.” In other words, the accusation leveled by GOP House Judiciary Committee Chairman Lamar Smith , that the Obama administration protected the NBPP, is patently ludicrous.
Bottom line: OPR’s report concluded that there was “no evidence that the race of the defendants or victims in this matter played a role in the decision to dismiss three defendants.”
Perhaps ironically, the most prescient assessment of the NBPP case was made by the Assistant U.S. Attorney in Philadelphia. In an email to the Department of Justice, the AUSA described the event as “an entirely media-generated incident.”
How long before the rest of us figure that out?