How Independent is Obama's Department of Justice?

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When people complain that the Obama administration is acting un-American, they have two recent examples to use in supporting their case. One involves Arizona's immigration bill, the other, the Joe Sestak controversy in Pennsylvania.

U.S. Justice Department attorneys recently recommended that the federal government should challenge Arizona's SB 1070 on grounds of unconstitutionality—even after the Arizona legislature included explicit language to prevent racial profiling in the bill.

For many opponents of Obama, this is yet another sign that the administration views itself as more accountable to illegal immigrants than to the American people. The basic premise of the challenge during this review stage—stating that the bill is illegal because it impedes the federal law on immigration—is laughable on several grounds. For starters, the Arizona law is more lenient than the federal immigration law, evidenced by the overwhelming need for some sort of comprehensive reform that we currently face.


With that said, the federal law on immigration is not enforced as much as needed, evidenced by the kidnapping rates in Phoenix (second-highest in the world, next to Mexico City) and the recent Somali-based terror group threatening to enter the United States via Houston. Even the DOJ's own National Drug Intelligence Center acknowledges the threats of kidnapping and other crimes of violence stemming from the porous border in their National Drug Threat Assessment for 2010, a report that states that someone is kidnapped in the Phoenix area roughly once every 36 hours.

Most experts believe that the flow of illegal drugs coming into the nation, the Mexican drug wars spilling over into border states and the market for transporting illegal immigrants into the United States all contribute to the problems on the border. Despite the data highlighting the crisis, Holder's Department of Justice refuses to support Arizona's law, one that folds into the more stringent federal immigration law. Instead, the DOJ has its sights set on the mood in Washington, not safety in Arizona.

The Department of Justice's primary motivation in opposing this law is not border security, illegal immigration, or the proper roles of state and federal government. It comes down to politics. No agent of justice should use political ramifications as criteria for pursuing justice, yet the Department of Justice will do so, acting as an extension of the folks actually pulling the strings in the White House.

Unfortunately for President Obama, this is another instance where he is more like his predecessor than his supporters—and even moderates and independents—would hope. President George W. Bush also exerted influence on the Department of Justice during his tenure. The controversial firing of eight U.S. attorneys during the middle of his second term in 2006 ranks among the most notable cases of Bush's presidential interference in the DOJ. Presidents Clinton and Reagan also fired U.S. attorneys right after taking office. However, none of these presidents did so right after making campaign promises about open and ethical government as President Obama has done. Further, none of these men exerted such influence on the DOJ during such a big election year.


In a highly contested election cycle, illegal immigration is a hotbed issue that will continue to polarize the nation's electorate. With Arizona's SB 1070 drafted by a Republican-led legislature and signed into law by a Republican governor, opposition to this law by Attorney General Holder's team—folks driven behind the scenes by Democrats in the White House—appears motivated more by the race-based protests and media attention than by interest in a law designed to keep all Americans in Arizona (including Hispanic Americans) safe.

Political motivation is evident as well when the DOJ decides not to act. Consider the ongoing Joe Sestak controversy, a situation where the Department of Justice seems to willfully follow the White House's wishes to stay out of inconvenient political affairs when justice should be pursued.


If the report concerning the White House's involvement in recruiting Sestak away from Pennsylvania's Democratic U.S. Senate primary is substantiated, it constitutes a crime and, further still, the White House's willingness to tamper with the primary electoral process to get the election results it wants, especially since the early polls showed Sestak's viability in beating Specter. (Sestak won the Pennsylvania primary in May.) However the issue may wither away because the political will of the White House is prompting the DOJ to stay out.

If this alleged quid pro quo goes without proper scrutiny, the Department of Justice will come across as more accountable to the president and his inner circle than to the American people. What are we supposed to think of the president's view of jurisprudence when it comes to, say, selecting his next Supreme Court justice and what she may define as ''just''? What does this view say about the rules of Washington politics going forward as it comes to, say, open kickbacks for senators and congressmen for key votes?


Political influence in a presidential administration is nothing new, and at times this has included pressure on the Department of Justice. However, this is not the new way of political business that we were promised by candidate Obama in 2008, nor does it do justice to the hopes that many Americans had for a change in Washington under his watch. At least we know now that the blindfolded Lady Justice often peeks toward the White House for direction.

Lenny McAllister is a syndicated political commentator and the author of the book, Diary of a Mad Black PYC (Proud Young Conservative). He is featured regularly on outlets including CNN, Fox News and XM Radio. Follow him on Twitter.

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