So, this pitting is for Eric Holder and his biased compadres masquerading as people working for justice. It’s also for all those who made excuses for them. And if there is anyone who still comes to their defense, this pitting is especially for you.
So, suck it.
*Blind, lefty Obama Boot Lickers excluded. Naturally.
I think, in cases like this, it’s generally good to go to the original document, so that’s what i’ve done here. My comments in this post are all based on a reading of the actual ruling (PDF) in this case. I’ve read the whole thing, but for the purpose of this discussion the main stuff is on pages 9 through 14.
It seems possible, as far as i can tell, that political appointees did interfere with the DoJ’s prosecution in the New Black Panther Party case. At the very least, evidence provided to Judicial Watch under FOIA proves that political appointees were discussing the subject with one another, with the Acting Assistant Deputy Attorney General for Civil Rights, and with some lower-level DOJ attorneys over email.
The problem, though, is that the judge’s decision in this case never says that the political appointees interfered in the disposition of the case, much less that they “improperly interfered,” which is what Judicial Watch was trying to find out.
Before getting to what the judge actually said, it is worth noting here that his ruling was not aimed at determining the actual issue of political interference at all. The sole aim of this particular ruling was to determine whether Judicial Watch was (1) eligible, and (2) entitled to attorneys’ fees as a result of their FOIA request and the DOJ’s subsequent release of documents. The judge was not being asked to decide: “Did political appointees improperly interfere in the DOJ’s handling of the New Black Panther Party case?”
That doesn’t mean his ruling is irrelevant to the question of interference, however, because in making his decision about whether Judicial Watch was eligible and entitled to attorneys’ fees, the judge necessarily had to evaluate the content of the documents released by the DOJ to determine whether or not they had any public value or benefit. And in doing that, he had to at least consider the DOJ’s and Judicial Watch’s statements about the role of political appointees in the case.
The judge notes that the DOJ denies that any of the records “evidenced any political interference,” and that the DOJ also asserts that the records released did not contribute to “the fund of information that citizens may use in making vital political choices.” He notes Judicial Watch’s response, in which JW argues that documents released by the DOJ do, in fact, “provide new evidence that top political appointees at the DOJ were intimately involved in the decision to dismiss the voter intimidation case against the New Black Panther Party for Self Defense (NBPP).” The judge also lists some examples of emails sent from DOJ political appointees about the trial.
The material described in the above paragraph appears on pp. 11 and 12 of the opinion. Note that, so far, the judge is essentially summarizing the conflicting views of the DOJ and JW.
Near the bottom of page 12, the judge adds some information that comes from the DOJ but that appears to support JW’s assertions. He notes that a Vaughn index (not sure what that is) submitted by the DOJ “revealed that Associate Attorney General Perrelli exchanged several emails with lower-level attorneys at the DOJ regarding the New Black Panther Party case on May 14 and 15, 2009.” The judge also notes that May 15 is the day that the DOJ dismissed its case against three NBPP defendants.
At the top of page 13 is where the judge begins to use all of this information in order to formulate his own opinion about the public benefit of the documents brought to light by the FOIA request. This section is worth a more extended quotation:
So, in his decision the judge notes that the documents released by the DOJ contradict claims made by A.A.G. Perez about the involvement of political appointees.
Note, however, that the judge himself never uses the word “interferes” or “interference” to describe what was going on here, and he never reaches his own conclusion about whether agency decisions were politicized. He says that the documents contradict the AAG’s claim that political appointees were not involved in the decision, and that the documents are in the public interest because they “cast doubt on the accuracy of government officials’ representations regarding the possible politicization of agency decisionmaking.”
The question, i guess, is whether the involvement of the political appointees in these conversations about the NBPP case, as described above, actually constitutes interference. Even more importantly, in terms of the substantive issues at stake here, does it constitute improper interference, which is what Judicial Watch was trying to find out? The judge never tells us, because that’s not what he’s writing his opinion about.
Is “involvement” the same as “interference,” in a case like this?
I ask these questions out of genuine interest, because i’m not an expert on exactly where the line is regarding the role of political appointees within a government department like the DOJ. Is the mere fact that political appointees discussed a case like this with DOJ folks in the Civil Rights division, by itself, evidence of political interference? Are political appointees prohibited from talking with agency staff about ongoing cases? Or is there a more rigorous standard required here in order to show improper political interference?
The opinion in this case tells us about the existence of correspondence and communications, but it tells us almost nothing about the content of those communications. The only emails quoted in the opinion are pretty innocuous, saying things like:
As i said, i’m not an expert on the ethics of communication by political appointees within the DOJ, but my own general feeling on the matter is that we would need a lot more evidence than was provided in this particular opinion to come to any conclusion about interference, let alone improper interference, by political appointees in this case. Maybe someone with a clearer understanding of what political appointees actually should and should not be doing within an organization like the DOJ can help me out here.
Thank you, mhendo - that’s much clearer than the few media reports presented.
I think you’ve winkled out the main fly in the ointment here, which is that the communication with the AAG’s office did clearly occur and the potential for influence or interference existed. Proving it did or did not happen will prove a much murkier task, despite everyone but the Blind Lefty Obama Bootlickers (BLOBs) already “knowing” the answer.
Meh, it’s a typo. A kindly mod will fix it eventually.
I’m more interested in noting that magellan01 clearly buys his well poison by the barrel at Sam’s Club. Buying in bulk is so much cheaper, but then whatever you don’t use you have to store and it just takes up so much room, so there’s always the temptation to use too much of it in one go.
Thanks for the post. In the article linked to by magellan01, the author (a senior editorial writer for a conservative-leaning news outlet, it should be noted) certainly describes it as a finding of “interference,” but the actual quote he included from the judge didn’t use the term—so I feel relatively safe assuming that this is merely another case of the OP latching onto a bit of anti-Obama spin that he likes, pending more conclusive evidence to the contrary.
At least this one didn’t come from WorldNetDaily, which is… something, I guess.
Seems to me that this is indeed not dealing with guilt or not, this is only to see if JW has the right to collect fees, nothing more was left.
I also notice that this is referring to the Civil Case, not the criminal one, as reported before it was the Bush Administration the ones that came with the idea of not pressing criminal charges, as for the civil case, even before Politifact did notice that the now virtually toothless civil case was under the care of the Obama administration.
I agree with mhendo’s observations. If I had to briefly summarize the judge’s findings, I might say something like: “The judge found that the requested FOIA material contained evidence which could support the proposition that the DOJ interfered, or improperly interfered, with the civil case against the NBP party.”
It does not weigh that evidence, nor does it suggest this there is no other evidence available – and correctly so, since the judge wasn’t being asked to consider the question of improper interference, but only the resolution of the various FOIA motions.
This ruling is a useful source to rebut anyone anyone who might say, “There’s not one scintilla of evidence in support of the claim that the Obama administration interfered with the DOJ’s decision in re the New Black Panthers.” Beyond that, it’s weak sauce.
Kudos for going for the facts rather than the zinger, Bricker. It doesn’t matter, though- it’s entered into the rightwing noosphere that it did happen. The **magellans **of the world will, from this day onward, claim that the report conclusively proved that Obama interfered in the prosecution.