The Corner

The DOJ/Media Matters Conspiracy

It’s an odd feeling to see your name on the list of individuals targeted by the Justice Department. Especially when you used to work there.

The DOJ’s Office of Public Affairs appears to have enlisted Media Matters to serve as its unofficial PR wing — the one responsible for running smear campaigns too dirty for the Department to risk leaving fingerprints.

Media Matters is, of course, a far-left advocacy group that masquerades as a nonpartisan truth-teller and media watchdog. I am not sure whether to feel honored that my critical reporting on the Justice Department’s misdeeds and rank politicalization attracted such attention, or upset that my taxpayer dollars have been used to attack me personally and professionally. But there is no question that taxpayers and Congress should be upset over unethical conduct by Justice Department employees who use government resources to abuse private citizens and journalists guilty only of reporting on the department’s malfeasance.

Matthew Boyle of The Daily Caller discovered the smoking gun through a Freedom of Information Act request for DOJ emails. The department, of course, dragged its feet, taking nine months to respond to the request, even though the law requires a response within 20 days. But it was worth the wait.

The recovered e-mails document communications between Tracy Schmaler, the director of the DOJ Office of Public Affairs, and “reporters” at Media Matters. In dozens of emails, Schmaler enlists Media Matters and provides information “to attack reporters covering DOJ scandals,” in Boyle’s words. In addition to me, Schmaler solicited attacks on other former Justice Department lawyers such as J. Christian Adams, NRO contributor Andy McCarthy, and Christopher Coates; bloggers and journalists such as Mike Vanderboegh and William LaJeunesse of Fox News; and even members of Congress such as Darrell Issa. Schmaler also sought an article from Media Matters attacking Judson Phillips, one of the founders of Tea Party Nation.

All of this conduct is reprehensible. But the attacks that Schmaler engineered on Christopher Coates were particularly unethical and unprofessional. At the time, Coates was a DOJ employee, detailed to the U.S. Attorney’s Office in South Carolina to prosecute criminal cases. Coates was a career lawyer, the former chief of the Voting Section and an experienced civil-rights attorney.

But Coates had upset DOJ’s political hacks when he complied with a lawfully issued subpoena for his testimony from the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights. Political appointees at DOJ had instructed him to defy the law and not comply with the subpoena. His testimony before the Commission was crucial to explaining DOJ’s unjustified dismissal of the New Black Panther Party voter-intimidation case and the Obama administration’s implementation of a policy against race-neutral enforcement of the law. Coates testified that he was told that the law would not be enforced against minority defendants, no matter how egregious their conduct.

Thus, the e-mails reveal that the DOJ Office of Public Affairs was directing attacks by an outside group on one of its own employees. Schmaler was clandestinely providing false information to her chosen media source to attack him while he was prosecuting cases for DOJ. This is the kind of behavior one expects from dictatorships and banana republics, not from the chief law-enforcement agency of the U.S. government.

Schmaler was also potentially violating the federal law that bars retaliation against whistleblowers like Adams and Coates. She should resign, and the inspector general should investigate her flagrant misbehavior.

If she does not resign or is not terminated, it will be a sign that Eric Holder approves of such abuses and sees nothing wrong with using government resources to attack his own employees as well as reporters, ordinary citizens, and others doing their jobs or exercising their right to report or criticize the conduct (and misconduct) of the Justice Department.

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