The Squeal on The Steal
Terry H. Schwadron
June 28, 2021
No matter what call the Justice Department makes these days, it is being pelted by the political winds of our divide.
Perhaps more than any other federal agency, the decisions on whether to prosecute or challenge policies and laws, whether to act in Donald Trump’s defense or intervene in local policing matters all are being seen against our Left-Right political screen.
When the Justice Department decided on Friday to challenge the new voting rules adopted by Republican-majority legislators in Georgia as discriminating illegally against voters of color, it took mere moments for Republican Gov. Brian Kemp to assail the announcement as “weaponizing the U.S. Department of Justice to carry out the far-left agenda that undermines election integrity and empowers federal government overreach in our democracy.” Trump himself followed moments later with calls to “Save America,” while Democratic voices were wondering aloud what had taken Justice so long to act.
It was exactly the reverse in recent weeks when Atty. Gen. Merrick Garland announced that DOJ would file a defense on behalf of Trump in a defamation suit filed columnist E. Jean Carroll, who said Trump had raped her in a New York department store — because the alleged defaming statements were uttered while Trump was still in the White House, though any assault had preceded his tenure as president.
Likewise, the Department of Justice already is prosecuting criminal cases against 500 insurrectionists from the Jan. 6 Trump-inspired mob attack on the U.S. Capitol, but the FBI has yet to say that it has been looking at bad acts in assembling and aiming the rioters by anyone in Trump’s inner circle.
Trump has decried the actions of the Civil Rights division of the Justice Department for renewing investigations of systemic police department abuse in Minneapolis and Baltimore as political. Not to spare more local legal actions that he opposes, Trump also has lambasted the New York District Attorney’s office for pursuing criminal charges involving allegedly fraudulent tax filings and operations by The Trump Organization and the Fulton County counterpart for probing attempts to get Georgia election officials to come up with sufficient fraudulent voting records as to turn that state’s election.
The political Right has actively even attacked the Justice Department because the New York Bar took action to disbar Rudy Giuliani, even though Justice had no role in that particular action.
The bottom line is that the GOP which presents itself as backing Law and Order doesn’t when its own players are involved.
Why So Late?
Maybe it’s Garland’s judicial temperament that accounts for his deliberativeness, though we should expect that Justice wants to be sure of its cases before acting. The most basic rule here is not action to look like justice, but legal actions towards winning.
Maybe Justice was waiting on Congress to act on voter rights legislation that would supersede the rash of state laws being passed to curtail some voting rules. Maybe it is because Garland’s team is new, with delayed Congressional confirmation of some of its key members, or maybe as Garland said, “We have a process for evaluating” each of the cases and it took longer than some would want.
In announcing the lawsuit, Garland said the Georgia legislature passed a bill whose provisions “make it harder for people to vote. The [federal] complaint alleges that the state enacted those restrictions to deny or abridge the right to vote on the basis of race or color.” The complaint accuses the Georgia law of effectively discriminating against Black voters and seeks to show that state lawmakers intended to violate their rights.
Garland also directed the Justice Department to establish a task force to protect election workers from abuse and threats, citing recent news accounts that such intimidation tactics have been on the rise. Deputy Atty. Gen. Lisa Monaco,
Associate Atty. Gen. Vanita Gupta and Kristen Clarke, head of the Civil Rights Division are working jointly on this legal challenge to the Georgia law.
Clarke said Georgia lawmakers passed the restrictions hurriedly outside of traditional legislative process and skipping debate, to produce a bill that sought to significantly curb the use of absentee ballots, which Black voters have used at higher rates than Whites in Georgia, reduce vote drop boxes, and in general make it harder to vote in majority Black districts. She added that Blacks are more likely to face long lines when forced to vote at polling stations, and confusing information more often results in Black voters going to the wrong polling site, meaning their ballots are more likely to be invalidated.
That said, the legal debate here pits racial impact against state rights to set election procedures. Justice is out to enforcing federal voting rights protections amid demands from civil rights groups and Democrats that the Biden administration do more even as a voting rights bill has stalled on Capitol Hill amid Republican opposition.
As Vox.com noted, the case, which would have been strong before the Supreme Court’s 2013 decision saying the time for the Voter Rights Bill had passed, this lawsuit may face a rockier legal hill. And, the suitdoes not attack the entire Georgia law, skipping over the single most troubling provision of the law, which allows Republican officials to effectively take over local election boards that have the power to close polling places and disqualify voters.
A Political Case
By any standard, this case is political and at the heart of The Divide. It is about the divide about whether there was election fraud not recognized by any court or by the Justice Department, about whether all actions taken as a result of that belief in The Big Steal are legally justified, and, weirdly, still about Trump, whose unrelenting supporters still dream of his re-entering the White House magically as early as next month.
The lawsuit comes as Republicans effectively blocked voter rights in Congress and as Joe Biden has promised to use other tools in his administration’s hands to dismantle those state efforts at suppressing votes.
It is a lawsuit that forces us to take sides, though there is nothing special about it that demands that each side call the other “disgusting,” as Governor Kemp did, adding, “They are coming for you next. They’re coming for your state, your ballgame, your election laws, your business and your way of life.” This, remember, is the same Governor Kemp whom Trump calls out for failing to have found imaginary fraud since last November.
Actually, governor, “they” are coming — late and using legal niceties — to call the states on running roughshod over voter rights in the name of partisan interests. And, not that they are finally on the move, we should expect that they go to Texas and Florida next — buoyed by legal rather than political consideration.
The only question on the table is whether the actions taken in the states are in compliance with federal law. All the hooting and hollering over political slogans isn’t going to settle that.