Right-wing media are again alleging that President Obama's potential Department of Labor nominee, Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights Thomas Perez, may have committed perjury in connection with the right-wing's New Black Panther Party voter intimidation non-scandal. But the internal Department of Justice (DOJ) report that they are citing to support these claims actually (once again) debunks these accusations.
The right-wing claim that political appointees within the Department of Justice (DOJ) improperly directed the outcome of the New Black Panther Party fiasco has already been repeatedly disproven, most notably by DOJ's Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR) and now by DOJ's Office of the Inspector General (OIG). The discredited accusation, initiated by right-wing activist J. Christian Adams, was revived in 2012 by his discredited associate, Hans Von Spakovsky, after a federal judge awarded attorney's fees to a conservative advocacy group that had obtained emails relating to this case through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request. Von Spakovsky immediately analyzed the opinion, saying of statements from the judge relating to Perez's 2010 testimony on the New Black Panther Party case to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights:
But what is most disturbing about this court order is that it strongly suggests that Assistant Attorney General Thomas Perez essentially lied in sworn testimony... A less diplomatic judge might have said that Perez testified falsely in his hearing testimony before the Commission on Civil Rights. In other words, he may have committed perjury if he knew his statements were false when uttered.
Now that Perez's Labor nomination is being floated and following the release of the Inspector General's review of the Justice Department's Voting Section (which is overseen by Perez), National Review Online columnist John Fund revived Von Spakovsky's accusation, calling the 2010 testimony "clear dishonesty." Describing Perez as “loathsome,” the American Spectator likewise informs its readers (again) Perez “may have committed perjury[.]”
Over at Fox News, right-wing columnist Michelle Malkin added her own spin about Perez's “blatant misleading.” From the March 13 edition of Fox News' Hannity:
But the court opinion and internal DOJ reports the right-wing media are citing do not support these smears.
According to Judge Reggie Walton, emails recovered through the FOIA request “reveal that political appointees within DOJ were conferring about the status and resolution of the New Black Panther Party case in the days preceding the DOJ's dismissal of claims in that case, which would appear to contradict Assistant Attorney General Perez's testimony that political leadership was not involved in that decision.” The opinion did not conclude that Perez intentionally misled the Commission or committed perjury when he testified in 2010 that “political leadership” was not “involved in the decision not to pursue this particular case any further than it was.” At worse, the judge noted that Perez apparently was not aware of every single action involved in the disposition of a case that pre-dated Perez's tenure at DOJ.
Department of Justice officials, including Perez, have repeatedly and publicly explained that career attorneys within the department routinely report to their political supervisors on the progress of their cases. The fact that the emails to which Judge Walton referred demonstrate “political appointees within DOJ were conferring about the status and resolution of the New Black Panther Party case” with subordinates is wholly unremarkable. This standard operating procedure is consistent with Perez's testimony that “political leadership” did not direct the truncation of the case.
Based on the results of our investigation, we concluded that [DOJ political appointees] did not commit professional misconduct or exercise poor judgment, but rather acted appropriately in the exercise of their supervisory duties...We concluded that [the] decision to dismiss three of the four defendants and to see more narrowly-tailored injunctive relief...was based on a good faith assessment of the law and facts of the case and had a reasonable basis. We found no evidence that partisan politics was a motivating factor in reaching the decision.
The OIG report, which had the benefit of reviewing the evidence anew and Judge Walton's opinion, reaffirmed OPR's findings even though it cited the judge for the proposition that although “we did not find that Perez intentionally misled the Commission[,]” his testimony “did not capture the full extent of that involvement.” More importantly, as described in Perez's official response to the OIG report (included in Appendix A), OIG confirmed that “political leadership did not direct the outcome of the case.” As the OIG report clearly explains:
[Perez] stated that the context of his testimony was responding to allegations that political appointees had exercised “undue influence” or “put a thumb on the scales of justice” during deliberations over the NBPP matter, and that these incidents did not reflect conduct of that type.
Senior officials in the Department obviously are not required to recuse themselves from cases with potential political implications merely because they are political appointees. Based on our review of documents and the testimony, we did not find evidence to conclude that the political appointees approved the decision for improper partisan or racial considerations.
To be clear, there are no rules prohibiting political appointees  from participating in such decision-making. To the contrary, involvement by senior Department officials in decision-making on specific matters, particularly potentially sensitive cases like NBPP, is both routine and appropriate.
Two formal investigations later, we know claims that Perez is involved in “perjury” are still baseless, as are accusations that political appointees within DOJ improperly concluded the New Black Panther Party investigation. Unfortunately, with Perez's possible nomination on the horizon, right-wing media still seem to enjoy the smears.