Civil rights commissioner slams “interesting twist on the Fifth Amendment” advanced by Wash. Times

According to an August 9 Washington Times editorial, the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights has given the Justice Department until August 11 to allow DOJ attorney Christopher Coates to testify about the department's handling of voter intimidation charges against members of the New Black Panther Party, and that if Attorney General Eric Holder does not respond, it will be interpreted as “an admission that [J. Christian] Adams is telling the truth.” Commissioner Michael Yaki told Media Matters, “That's an interesting twist on the Fifth Amendment,” adding, “If that were the standard, there would be truths all over Washington, D.C.”

Adams, a GOP activist and former Justice Department attorney, alleged in June that the Obama Justice Department was hostile to pursuing civil rights violations against black defendants on behalf of white victims. This unsubstantiated charge is undermined by the Justice Department's decision to pursue additional sanctions against black leaders in Mississippi on behalf of white voters, a decision Adams himself laughably attempted to portray as further proof that the DOJ would not protect white voters. Adams has since levied the completely discredited charge that the Justice Department is working with states to disenfranchise military voters overseas.

Still, the Commission on Civil Rights -- highly politicized in the wake of the Bush administration -- persists in pursuing Adams' claims, again asking the Justice Department to permit Coates to testify. While Coates has not testified before the commission, Thomas Perez, assistant attorney general in the Civil Rights Division did in May, explaining, “This is a case about career people disagreeing with career people” over the merits of pursuing additional charges in the case. Abigail Thernstrom, the Republican vice chairwoman of the Commission on Civil Rights, has said that Perez's explanation is “perfectly plausible.” Thernstrom has also said that the commission's inquiry “doesn't have to do with the Black Panthers,” adding that conservatives on the commission wanted to use the case to “topple the administration.”

Discussing the latest request that Coates testify, Yaki told Media Matters, “The commission is on a fishing expedition and is desperately trying to find corroboration of Adams' story.” Yaki added, “They realize their star witness is suffering severe, Titanic-like holes in his credibility.”