Surprise: Justice Department Exonerates Itself in New Black Panther Case

The New Black Panther fix came in just as we suspected. Yesterday the Department of Justice completed its 19 month internal investigation into whether Steve Rosenbaum and Loretta King, the political appointee attorneys who ordered the dismissal of the voter intimidation case, acted unethically. No surprise, DOJ found that DOJ acted ethically. Otherwise, you wouldn’t have heard about the conclusion. The Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR) report was the narrower of the two DOJ investigations of the matter, and Congress will be sure to conduct a far broader, and more competent, inquiry.

Of course the American people will be the judge of the black panther dismissal, not the DOJ OPR. Anyone with eyes can see what happened. Americans have a right to vote without armed racist jackbooted thugs lurking at the entrance to their polling place with a weapon. That offends nearly every American, but not the lawyers at Eric Holder’s Justice Department.

The fix was in early in the DOJ investigation. Holder appointed Robin Ashton, the head of OPR, last Christmas Eve. She worked for Senator Patrick Leahy and was known for rifling through coworker’s desks according to a well sourced National Review article. A week after she was appointed, Attorney General Holder told the New York Times that there was “no there, there” and the black panther scandal was “made up.” Even former Attorney General Michael Mukasey was shocked at the comments of his successor. So was the conclusion of the OPR report newsworthy?

Apparently to the New York Times, Washington Post, NPR and Associated Press it was. For the first time ever, all four outlets had stories about the black panther scandal on the same day. Naturally the fact the report defended Eric Holder caused the sudden synchronicity of interest in the long ignored story.

It is no accident that Loretta King, one of the central figures in the black panther dismissal, is also behind other nutty DOJ policies, including forcing the Dayton, Ohio police to hire cops that failed the test as well as signing a complaint to sue a school district for refusing to give 19 days of leave to go to Mecca. King emerges as the engineer who regularly sends Holder’s Civil Rights Division off the rails.

This isn’t the first time the DOJ Office of Professional Responsibility has made questionable conclusions. Most recently, OPR lawyer Tamara Kessler wrote a report criticizing former DOJ lawyers John Yoo and Jay Bybee about terrorist interrogation procedures. The report was so shoddy, that Attorney General Mukasey prepared a rebuttal and the office of Deputy Attorney General ripped Kessler’s work apart, replacing it with something more credible. Kessler is the same attorney who wrote reports criticizing the Bush DOJ that many still rely on to defend the black panther dismissal.

Until OPR is no longer directly accountable to the sitting Attorney General, reports defending the actions of the Attorney General cannot be taken seriously. Congress should consider moving OPR functions to the DOJ Inspector General and close down the shop given the questionable history of the office, and the current head Ashton. The Inspector General, a more independent office, has sought to replace OPR’s authority in some areas, and Congress should oblige. At a minimum, Kessler should be exiled to a DOJ job where she can do no more damage to the Department’s reputation.

The OPR report triggered a sudden interest in the black panther story on the pages of newspapers that had never devoted an inch of space to it. The Beaumont Enterprise, Albany Times Union, Pittsburgh Post Gazette, Myrtle Beach Sun News, San Francisco Chronicle, Kennebec Journal, Argus Press, Charlotte Observer, Bismark Tribune and many others suddenly had interest in the story purportedly absolving Eric Holder. Once upon a time, the free press served a function nobler than defending government corruption.


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