A group of Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee said in letter to the Justice Department Tuesday that the DOJ had not responded to previous requests for information in July and August, related to concerns that the Department was becoming politicized on voting rights and educational issues.
Their letter Tuesday also requested more information about any DOJ coordination with President Trump’s voter fraud commission, which was also the subject of their July request. Since then, a Freedom of Information Act request filed by a private group surfaced a February email that was forwarded to Attorney General Jeff Session from a conservative activist, who was later appointed to the commission, demanding that Democrats and even “mainstream” Republicans not be selected for the panel.
“These developments underscore the concerns many of us have raised about a return to the illegal politicization of the Department’s Civil Rights Division that took place under the Bush administration, and raise questions about the role of Department leadership in the formation and operation of this nakedly partisan commission,” the Democrats said.
The letter was signed by Sens. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Al Franken (D-MN), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), and Mazie Hirono (D-HI).
The Judiciary Democrats’ letter Tuesday sought more information about the exchange, as well as any other communications between current DOJ officials and other commission members as well as Bush-era DOJ officials who were involved in the politicized hiring scandal.
It also lodged more general requests about the “Department’s process for responding to Congressional inquiries.”
The letter Judiciary Democrats sent in July sought information about any coordination between the DOJ and the election commission on letters both entities sent out to state officials on June 28: the DOJ’s letter was about National Voter Registration Act compliance; the commission’s letter sought voter roll data. An for the DOJ has denied there was any coordination.
In August, they asked for more information about a report in the New York Times that the DOJ was seeking to file lawsuits against universities for their affirmative action programs and the project was being run out of the “front office,” meaning by Trump administration political appointees.
Both requests for information, according to the latest letter, were not met with a response from the DOJ.
“As outlined here, we continue to have serious concerns – as to both process and substance – about the Department’s apparent coordination with the thoroughly discredited Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity, as well as its failures to respond to our numerous oversight requests,” the Democrats said.
The DOJ has recently responded to a FOIA request from the non-profit group the Campaign Legal Center. Seeking documents related to voter fraud allegations in the 2016 election, the Campaign Legal Center received earlier this month an email sent from a Heritage Foundation scholar whose name was redacted to a recipient whose name was also redacted. According to the chain of emails released to the non-profit, the Heritage email was eventually forwarded to Sessions.
Heritage later confirmed that the email had been sent by Hans von Spakovsky, a former Bush administration official whose known for pushing restrictive election laws. Spakovsky, now a member of the voter fraud commission, has denied that he was emailing the attorney general. Due to the redactions in the FOIA release, it’s unclear exactly how the email was forwarded to Sessions.