Following the long-awaited release of a report by the Department of Justice (DOJ) Inspector General on abuses within the Civil Rights Division of DOJ, Rep. Frank Wolf (R-VA) today called on the Attorney General to appoint an outside panel to conduct a review of all officials and correct the systemic dysfunction that exists within the division.
Today's report validates the concerns Wolf raised in 2009 and 2010 about the politicization and inappropriate activities within the Civil Rights Division, including the dismissal of the New Black Panthers Philadelphia voting intimidation case and the subsequent investigation of this matter by the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights in 2010.
On Thursday, March 14, DOJ Inspector General Michael Horowitz, who released today's report, will testify before Wolf's Commerce-Justice-Science (CJS) Appropriations subcommittee at 10 a.m. in H-309 in the Capitol.
Wolf's full statement is below.
"I was deeply troubled, but hardly surprised, to learn from today's report from the Justice Department's Inspector General that very serious abuses and politicization are prevalent in the department's Civil Rights Division. The report makes clear that the division has become a rat's nest of unacceptable and unprofessional actions, and even outright threats against career attorneys and systemic mismanagement.
"Above all, I believe that Attorney General Holder has failed in his leadership of this Justice Department. As the head of the department, he alone bears ultimate responsibility for the serious abuses that occurred on his watch over the last four years. Notably, the report also confirms that the attorney general was made aware of efforts to dismiss the voting rights case against the New Black Panther Party in 2009, which was apparently dismissed with his blessing. Holder has failed the American people, and he must be held responsible for the prevailing dysfunction that has occurred under his leadership.
"Today, I am calling on Holder to immediately appoint an outside, independent panel, led by someone of integrity and experience like former Deputy Attorney General James Comey, to conduct a 60-day in-depth review of all officials, attorneys and policies within the division and make recommendations to the department and to the Congress on how to address the systemic dysfunction that has taken root within the division.
"Additionally, all of the individuals cited for improper conduct should be immediately removed and appropriate action should be taken.
"I take these issues very seriously, both because of my responsibilities as chairman of the House CJS Appropriations subcommittee, which funds the Justice Department, but also because I have been a stalwart supporter of voting rights enforcement.
"I was the only member of the Virginia congressional delegation -- Republican or Democrat -- to vote for the Voting Rights Act in 1982. I was heavily criticized by state newspapers, including the Richmond Times-Dispatch, for my vote. I was criticized again by editorials in my district when I supported the Voting Rights Act extension in 2006, but I stuck by my vote because I strongly believe that voting is a sacrosanct and inalienable right of any democracy.
"I first contacted former Inspector General Glenn Fine in July 2009 to request this report. Nearly four years after my request -- and two inspectors general later -- this report has finally been released. Although I was disappointed the IG's office was initially slow in its review of this case, the pace noticeably accelerated under the leadership of the current IG Michael Horowitz, who assumed this position last spring. I appreciate Mr. Horowitz's leadership and believe he has produced a good report.
"I was particularly disheartened by the dismissal of the New Black Panthers case by the Obama Justice Department. The dismissal was wholeheartedly opposed by the four career attorneys managing the case, as well as the Division's own appellate office, which is also staffed by career DOJ attorneys. In a 2009 memo penned by career Appellate Chief Diana K. Flynn, she wrote that DOJ could make a "reasonable argument in favor of default relief against all defendants, and probably should.' She further noted that the complaint's purpose was "to prevent the paramilitary-style intimidation of voters, while leaving open ample opportunity for political expression.'
"Today's IG report makes clear the degree to which politicization and mismanagement influenced the inexplicable dismissal of this case. The Civil Rights Division should be beyond reproach, and in my capacity as CJS chairman I will continue to work to finally achieve an ethical, functioning Justice Department that Americans are once again proud of."