Judicial Watch obtains emails contradicting Justice Dept. official’s sworn testimony about New Black Panther case 

Judicial Watch has obtained Justice Department emails that seem to contradict sworn testimony by Thomas Perez, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division. In testimony before the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, Perez asserted that none of Justice’s political leadership had anything to do with the in the decision to stop pursuing voter intimidation charges against the New Black Panthers seen standing in front of a polling place in Philadelphia brandishing weapons during the 2008 election. The emails were obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request.

The new documents include a series of emails between two political appointees: former Democratic election lawyer and current Deputy Associate Attorney General Sam Hirsch and Associate Attorney General Thomas Perrelli. Both DOJ officials were involved in detailed discussions regarding the NBPP decision. For example, in one April 30, 2009, email from Hirsch to Perrelli, with the subject title “Fw: New Black Panther Party Update,” Hirsch writes:

Tom,

I need to discuss this with you tomorrow morning. I’ll send you another email on this shortly.

If you want to discuss it this evening, please let me know which number to call and when.

These emails were put in further context by an updated Vaughn index obtained by Judicial Watch, describing NBPP documents the Obama DOJ continues to withhold. These documents, which were attached to the DOJ’s Motion for Summary Judgment filing, include a description of a May 13 email chain that seems to suggest political appointee Sam Hirsch may have been orchestrating the NBPP decision.

Acting DAAG [Steven Rosenbaum] advising his supervising Acting AAG [Loretta King] of DASG’s [Hirsch’s] request for a memorandum by the Acting DAAG reviewing various options, legal strategies, and different proposals of relief as related to each separate defendant. Acting DAAG forwarding emails from Appellate Section Chief’s and Appellate Attorney’s with their detailed legal analyses including the application of constitutional provisions and judicial precedent to strategies and relief under consideration in the ongoing NBPP litigation, as well as an assessment of the strength of potential legal arguments, and presenting different possible scenarios in the litigation. [Emphasis added]

Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division Thomas Perez testified before the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights that no political appointees were involved in the NBPP decision. Perez suggested that the dispute was merely “a case of career people disagreeing with career people.”

In fact, political appointee Sam Hirsch sent an April 30, 2009, email to Steven Rosenbaum (then-Acting Assistant Deputy Attorney General in the Civil Rights) thanking Rosenbaum for “doing everything you’re doing to make sure that this case is properly resolved.” The next day, the DOJ began to reverse course on its NBPP voter intimidation lawsuit.

There’s a lot to unpack here and Judicial Watch has lots more details at their website. And for those of you that have been following this story very closely, here’s the PDF of the actual emails obtained by Judicial Watch.

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Mark Hemingway

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