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Policy: Labor

House Oversight Committee: Thomas Perez still not complying with subpoena over emails

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Politics,Beltway Confidential,Sean Higgins,House Committee on Oversight,Labor,Darrell Issa

House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa, R-Calif., and ranking Democrat, Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., sent a letter last week demanding that Assistant Attorney General Thomas Perez, the administration’s top civil rights enforcer, turn over all private emails in which he conducted official government business. The bipartisan letter demanded that all emails — identified by the DOJ itself as numbering about 1,200 — by given to the committee in unredacted form by last Friday. Perez is the administration’s pick to be the new labor secretary.

Committee spokesman Ali Ahmad told me today that Perez has yet to turn over the emails, instead offering only to allow congressional staff to glimpse at who he sent exchanged them with:

Mr. Perez has yet to comply with the Committee’s subpoena. As the follow up letter signed by the Chairman and Ranking Member makes clear, Mr. Perez must produce the documents to the Committee. The Department of Justice, to whom the subpoena was not addressed, did write to offer that Committee staff could review in camera the to, from, and date fields of the emails—but not the substance.  This does not comply with the subpoena.

The minority side’s spokeswoman, Jennifer Hoffman, took a more upbeat view, telling me via email: “They offered to let us review the rest of the docs, which we intend to do later this week.”

Either way you look at, Perez — a top Justice Department official, remember — has refused to comply with an official subpoena. That could put a kink in the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee vote set for Thursday on his nomination to be  labor secretary.

Republicans believe Perez was using the private email account to circumvent federal transparency laws in conducting official business. This has been a pattern with this administration, with former Environmental Protection Agency Director Lisa Jackson was found to have used a private account — under an apparent pseudonym “Richard Windsor”  – to conduct EPA business.

Perez’s GOP critics have been highlighting an unusual quid pro quo deal he arranged with the city of St. Paul, Minn. Perez arranged to get the federal government to drop out of two cases pending against city. One was a whistleblower case involving an estimated $200 million in federal funds.

In exchange, the city dropped a case it was pursuing that could have let the Supreme Court clarify when the legal theory of “disparate impact” could be used in civil rights cases. Perez is a staunch advocate of the theory, which holds that it is not necessary to show an intent to discriminate to prove such a case. Republicans allege Perez tried to hide the fact that he was making the deal from others in the government.

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Sean Higgins

Senior Writer
The Washington Examiner