On Friday, Attorney General Eric Holder went in front of a House committee looking for a funding increase for the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, which is brazen enough considering the atrocious track record of that agency, and when he ran into some opposition from Rep. Andy Harris (R-MD) over what DOJ is doing in the Louisiana school voucher case all hell broke loose.
“Is that the division that was actually in court against the voucher program in Louisiana?” Harris asked Holder.
“You buy into a premise that’s not correct,” Holder answered. “We were seeking to get information from the state of Louisiana about their voucher program. We never, ever took the position that we were against vouchers.”
This, of course, was a fairly blatant lie. The DOJ’s initial suit against the state of Louisiana was pretty clear about its aims – and information wasn’t all that high on the list.
From the DOJ’s August 22, 2013 memorandum in support of its injunction demands against the state…
The United States asks this Court to permanently enjoin the State of Louisiana (“State”) from awarding any school vouchers (“vouchers” or “scholarships”) to students attending school in districts operating under federal desegregation orders unless and until the State receives authorization from the appropriate federal court overseeing that applicable desegregation case. In 2012-13, the State awarded publicly funded vouchers to nearly 600 public school students residing in or attending school districts operating under federal desegregation orders, and many of those vouchers impeded the desegregation process. The State did not consult with or obtain authorization from the federal courts overseeing the applicable desegregation orders before awarding any of the vouchers. As of the date of this filing, the State has awarded vouchers for the 2013-14 school year to students in at least 22 districts operating under federal desegregation ordrs, many of which may impede the desegregation processes in those districts, without authorization from the appropriate federal court.
Does that look to you like DOJ wanted information? To us, it looks a lot more like they were doing precisely what Harris said they were doing.
But if you’re going to tell a bald-faced lie, you’ve got to obfuscate it by trying to demonize people who might call you on it. So here was Holder’s obfuscation…
“We never sought to do anything with the voucher program as much as to get information — and which a federal judge ultimately agreed with us. It’s a talking point that Gov. Jindal and others, I guess you, think makes good political fodder, but it’s totally inconsistent with the fact.”
There is a shred of truth to what Holder is claiming, in that when public outrage against what he was doing began to mount and the political effect of his lawsuit against the school voucher program in Louisiana which helps minority kids more than anybody else started to become obvious they did shift gears and present their case as a mere request for information – and admitted they changed their focus at the time.
But if you’re looking for information you don’t go to court to get an injunction. Attempting to say he was looking for information from the get-go is an indefensible lie – which of course is nothing new for the first Attorney General ever to be held in contempt of Congress.
Harris was having none of Holder’s mendacity, but he didn’t have the full facts of the case in front of him to directly call out the lie – only the demonization that went with it.
“Mr. Attorney General, I’m going to take issue with that,” Harris said. “I actually care about the education of children as Gov. Jindal does and to suggest that we use talking points any more than you use talking points is personally something that I think should be above the level … I just can’t tell you how frustrated I am that you think that minority children in Louisiana getting an education in a charter school are talking points.”
And then there was Holder’s response, which consummated the lie…
“The judge, a federal judge, agreed that we were entitled to the information that we sought and we were clear in the interaction that we had with the state that we took no position with regard to the voucher program, we were only sought information about how the program was being run and how it affected a long-standing statewide anti-discrimination settlement that had been in place for years. Simply that. Simply that.”
They sought an injunction to stop the voucher program. This is unquestionable. They surreptitiously admitted that it was a political mistake to do so – which was problematic seeing as though the lawsuit itself was purely political, seeing as it was a service to their political masters in the teachers’ unions.
And nothing Holder says now changes that. Particularly given his established record of lies.
American Federation for Children executive counsel Kevin Chavous had it exactly right in his reaction to Holder’s unique version of history over the weekend…
“Attorney General Holder should know better than to try and rewrite history. Under his direction, the DOJ attempted to block students from obtaining access to Louisiana’s popular and effective voucher program. But, now recognizing his testimony today, General Holder should amend DOJ’s filing with the federal court in Louisiana to reflect his support of the Louisiana Scholarship Program. Further, based on the Attorney General’s testimony it is reasonable to expect that DOJ will make no future efforts to try to enjoin these school choice programs because the Attorney General said that was not his intent”.