In the wake of former voting rights attorney Chris Coates’s bombshell testimony on September 24, the New Black Panther Party scandal has reached the front pages of some mainstream press outlets and taken on fresh momentum.
Jen Rubin previously reported in THE WEEKLY STANDARD that an April 2010 letter documented Coates’s key allegations. THE WEEKLY STANDARD has learned that the letter came from Coates himself and was sent to Jody Hunt, director of federal programs. Hunt participated in the briefing of Civil Rights head Thomas Perez on May 13, 2010, which Coates and other members of the trial team attended. At that briefing, Coates’s concerns were related to Perez. Perez nevertheless testified under oath before the Commission that hostility toward race neutral enforcement of civil rights laws was news to him.
In addition, sources now tell THE WEEKLY STANDARD that after 11 pm on September 23, the night before Coates was to testify before the Commission, the same individual, Jody Hunt, sent Coates a letter advising him again not to testify. Only 6 hours earlier Rep. Frank Wolf had sent Eric Holder a letter warning him that Coates was protected under federal whistleblower laws. Jen Rubin contacted the Justice Department for comment. Spokesman Tracy Schmaler’s only reply: “The letter speaks for itself.” She did not respond to a follow up question as to whether DOJ would take disciplinary action against Coates. Coates could not be reached for comment.
To sum up: Coates puts his explosive allegations about unequal enforcement of civil rights laws in writing. The same official who gets the letter sits in a briefing with Perez when the allegations are repeated. And then at literally the 11th hour before Coates testifies he sends out a letter which makes one last stab at keeping the story under wraps. Jen Rubin's sources tell us that it’s not remotely possible that all of this would have occurred without the express knowledge and direction of senior DOJ officials.
After listening to Coates’s testimony we know why the Justice Department wanted to muzzle him. As Commissioner Todd Gaziano told THE WEEKLY STANDARD: "Coates was highly credible, and he provided convincing detail about a number of his supervisors who are hostile to the race-neutral enforcement of the civil rights laws. Anyone watching the replay on C-SPAN’s website can see that for themselves.” Gaziano also noted: “The fact that Coates relayed these conclusions to [civil rights chief] Thomas Perez last May gives me even more reason to conclude that Perez was not forthcoming in his own sworn testimony to the Commission." Similarly Commissioner Gail Heriot explained, "If there was doubt before about the significance of our investigation, Mr. Coates removed it." She continued, "We're talking about the integrity of our Justice Department and the obligation to enforce federal laws in a race-neutral manner."
The integrity of the Obama-Holder Justice Department is very much at issue. This should be at the top of the agenda for the Senate and House Judiciary Committees in January.
Update: Rep. Frank Wolf, who together with Rep. Lamar Smith, has been doggedly pursuing the case had this comment in response to Jen Rubin's request for comment on the latest revelations in the New Black Panther Party case: "If, in fact, Assistant Attorney General Perez was aware of Mr. Coates’ concerns prior to testifying under oath before the Commission, this is a shocking development. It would indicate the extent to which this department has misled the public about the equal enforcement of federal voting rights law. I am determined to stay with this until the department comes clean with the American people.”