This will assuredly become a campaign issue this fall – it’s too juicy not to.
Today, the Senate voted 52-47 to squash the nomination of Debo Adegbile as the head of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. Adegbile, for those who aren’t aware, was the head of a legal team sponsored by the NAACP Legal Defense Fund which sought to free Mumia Abu-Jamal.
If you don’t know the Mumia Abu-Jamal story, this is it…
On December 9, 1981, at approximately 3:55 a.m., Officer Danny Faulkner, a five year veteran of the Philadelphia Police Department, made a traffic stop at Locust Street near Twelfth Street. The car stopped by Officer Faulkner was being driven by William Cook. After making the stop, Danny called for assistance on his police radio and requested a police wagon to transport a prisoner. Unbeknownst to him, William Cook’s brother, Wesley (aka Mumia Abu-Jamal) was across the street. As Danny attempted to handcuff William Cook, Mumia Abu-Jamal ran from across the street and shot the officer in the back. Danny turned and was able to fire one shot that struck Abu-Jamal in the chest; the wounded officer then fell to the pavement. Mumia Abu-Jamal stood over the downed officer and shot at him four more times at close range, striking him once directly in the face. Mumia Abu-Jamal was found still at the scene of the shooting by officers who arrived there within seconds. The murderer was slumped against the curb in front of his brother’s car. In his possession was a .38 caliber revolver that records showed Mumia had purchased months earlier. The chamber of the gun had five spent cartridges. A cab driver, as well as other pedestrians, had witnessed the brutal slaying and identified Mumia Abu-Jamal as the killer both at the scene and during his trial. On July 2, 1982, after being tried before a jury of ten whites and two blacks, Mumia Abu-Jamal was convicted of murdering Officer Danny Faulkner. The next day, the jury sentenced him to death after deliberating for four hours. The Supreme Court of Pennsylvania heard the defendant’s appeals and upheld the conviction on March 6, 1989.
Adegbile’s role in that case was covered – along with the larger question of the Faulkner shooting – last month by Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA)…
Again – there were four witnesses to Danny Faulkner’s murder, and there were three other witnesses to Mumia Abu-Jamal’s bragging about having done the deed. The ballistics and forensic evidence in the case was incontrovertible.
Both of the black jurors in the case, as we understand it, brought him in guilty and agreed to the death sentence.
But Adegbile’s NAACPLDF team nevertheless argued that because the jury only had two black people on it, Mumia didn’t get a fair trial, and they told outrageous lies about the evidence in the case.
The nomination was doomed from the beginning. It was political poison to think that to put someone whose recent background included the spreading of propaganda in pursuit of setting a convicted cop-killer free was a good choice to head up DOJ’s Civil Rights Division.
But the Obama administration pushed it anyway, and in anticipation of a tight vote they sent Joe Biden down to the Senate to potentially break a tie.
Biden never got to vote. Obama couldn’t muster more than 47 votes (Harry Reid voted against the nomination so as to reserve his right to bring it back up for another vote; otherwise they’d have had 48 votes).
But in that number, some Democrats who will have an interesting bit of explanation. Including Mary Landrieu, who voted to confirm Adegbile. Other vulnerable Democrats up for re-election who backed Adegbile: Kay Hagan (D-NC), Mark Begich (D-AK), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Mark Udall (D-CO), Mark Warner (D-VA), Al Franken (D-MN) And Jeff Merkley (D-OR). There were eight Democrats who crossed over and voted to kill the nomination: Reid, Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.), Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), Mark Pryor (Ark.), Joe Donnelly (Ind.), John Walsh (Mont.), Chris Coons (Del.) and Bob Casey (Pa.).
How is Landrieu going to explain her vote for Adegbile? The Louisiana Sheriffs’ Association, which endorsed her in 2008, certainly won’t like it.
And it would seem to take some shine off this Landrieu press release from last year…
As part of the annual commemoration of National Police Week in the nation’s capital, U.S. Senator Mary L. Landrieu, D-La., honored four Louisiana law enforcement officers who lost their lives last year. In 2012, 120 officers were killed in the line of duty across the United States.
“Every day, our law enforcement officers bravely work for our safety and protection. This week, we honor the service of these courageous men and women, especially those who gave their all in Louisiana and across the country,” Sen. Landrieu said.
This week, the Senate unanimously passed Senate Resolution 146, of which Sen. Landrieu was an original cosponsor, commemorating and acknowledging the dedication and sacrifice made by the federal, state and local law enforcement officers who have been killed or injured in the line of duty.
“On behalf of our Louisiana sheriffs, I want to thank Senator Landrieu and Senator Wicker for their resolution memorializing law enforcement officers in Louisiana and throughout the nation who made the ultimate sacrifice in the service of their duties. In 2012, Deputy Randall L. Benoit of Calcasieu Parish, Deputy Brandon Joseph Nielson of St. John Parish, Deputy Jeremy Michael Triche of St. John Parish, and Deputy Ricky Ray Issac, Jr. of Natchitoches Parish were all killed in the line of duty. The tragic losses of these deputies continue to impact their families, friends, sheriffs’ departments and community. Their selfless actions remind us all of the countless risks our deputies undertake to ensure the safety of our citizens. We commend you for paying tribute to these brave peace officers during the week of May 12-18, 2013 by honoring their service during ‘National Police Week,'” Executive Director of the Louisiana Sheriff’s Association Michael Ranatza said.
It just didn’t seem like such a smart vote. Particularly given that Landrieu was on the losing side of it.
In an election year, no less.