Obama holdovers at the Justice Department still run the show

Obama holdovers at the Justice Department still run the show
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The recusal of Attorney General Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsDem warns Trump: 'Obstruction of justice' to fire Rosenstein Donald Trump’s Rosenstein dilemma White House proposes executive order to Trump that would examine tech companies’ practices MORE from all things Russia has unexpectedly revealed the political proclivities of so many deeply embedded Justice Department and FBI employees. Texts, memos, FISA warrants and dossiers have the Russia scandal boiling over, but not in the way some anticipated.

None of this is surprising to anyone aware of the lopsided support for Democrats in campaign donations by Justice Department employees. The unraveling over the last few weeks of the texts, actions and emails of FBI agents, FBI leaders and Justice Department enablers — some even appointed by President TrumpDonald John TrumpSunday shows preview: Trump sells U.N. reorganizing and Kavanaugh allegations dominate Ex-Trump staffer out at CNN amid “false and defamatory accusations” Democrats opposed to Pelosi lack challenger to topple her MORE, such as Deputy Attorney General Rod RosensteinRod Jay RosensteinFormer federal prosecutor joins Kavanaugh accuser's legal team Dem warns Trump: 'Obstruction of justice' to fire Rosenstein FBI group defends agents amid Trump’s attacks MORE — has revealed a federal law enforcement apparatus that wished the 2016 election never occurred.

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But the problem at the Justice Department is even worse. Unfortunately, in important components of the Justice Department, the deep-state strategy of seeking to nullify the results of the 2016 election is being employed without garnering as much attention.

Consider the Justice Department Civil Rights Division, where a Senate-confirmed nominee for assistant attorney general has yet to be installed, 13 months into the administration. The Civil Rights Division wields enormous power over housing, banking, voting, police, education, immigration, employment, lending, prisons and more. During the Obama years, the division lurched hard left, and many of the most extreme positions were explicitly criticized by President Trump in his victorious campaign.

Elections must carry consequences, or the victorious electorate will question the utility of the process. Yet four Obama holdovers entirely sympathetic to the ideological agenda of the previous administration are still in absolute control of an entire layer of political oversight. There are four deputy assistant attorney general positions at the Civil Rights Division, and all are occupied by committed Obama holdovers.

Alberto Ruisanchez and Rebecca Bond were elevated into these slots out of the career ranks, on an acting basis, just days before President Trump’s inauguration. The pair were elevated by the previous administration for their familiarity with the bureaucracy and their skills at slowing down anything President Trump wanted to do. Incredibly, they still haven’t been dislodged and replaced with political appointees who, of course, require no Senate confirmation.

Meanwhile, Robert Moosey and Greg Friel — two other committed liberal bureaucrats — were sneakily slotted by the Obama administration into permanent deputy assistant attorney general roles that are normally reserved for political appointees. In other words, they were elevated into career political slots, an oxymoron if there ever was one.

People familiar with their behavior since the inauguration tell me these four have stymied Team Trump and have preserved their day-to-day control over the nearly 1,000 employees of the Civil Rights Division. They serve the bureaucrats and the outside activist groups more than they serve this administration.

Some might excuse this circumstance and say they serve “the department.” But these days, with manipulators like Peter Strzok, Lisa Page and Andrew McCabeAndrew George McCabeFormer federal prosecutor joins Kavanaugh accuser's legal team FBI group defends agents amid Trump’s attacks Donald Trump’s Rosenstein dilemma MORE becoming household names, that excuse has become a laugh line. Having four long-haul bureaucrats in political slots mount a rear-guard delaying strategy to preserve the Obama legacy is the sort of thing that ignites fury among the President Trump’s most dedicated supporters.

Regular folks outside the Beltway that I have spoken with, in places like Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and West Virginia, want holdovers like Moosey, Ruisanchez, Bond and Friel to endure something more than gentle reassignment. The fact that 13 months into the administration these deep-state embeds still hold power enrages Trump’s base. They want bureaucrats like these four frog-marched out of the federal government and into oblivion. Beware the Trump supporter scorned.

This sort of obstructionism isn’t just a nuisance, it’s undemocratic. I was at the Justice Department in January 2009 when President Obama was inaugurated. Justice Department policy turned on a dime. Bush-era holdovers in positions of authority, even career civil servants, were circumvented, blackballed, removed and run off. Policies were instantly altered. Cases brought by the Bush administration were jettisoned.

The 2008 election had consequences at the Justice Department right away. There was no layer of Bush-era political appointees allowed to linger for more than a year, serving as the hands-on managers of an entire division of the Justice Department. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellDoug Jones to McConnell: Don't 'plow right through' with Kavanaugh Kavanaugh accuser agrees to testify next week GOP, Kavanaugh accuser struggle to reach deal MORE (R-Ky.) should take careful note and move Justice Department appointees as fast as possible to fix this disgraceful, undemocratic circumstance.

Topping the list to confirm should be Eric Dreiband, President Trump’s excellent and brilliant pick to head the Civil Rights Division. No Justice Department division is in greater need of fumigation than the Civil Rights Division. Acting Assistant Attorney General John Gore only has 24 hours in a day, and cannot possibly fully implement Trump priorities, especially with so many Obama political holdovers in key political slots undermining the outcome of the 2016 election.

To be sure, the Civil Rights Division under Sessions and Gore has been able to slow down or stop a few of the most outlandish Obama-era policies. No longer are huge litigation-settlement slush funds being permitted to fuel left-wing activist groups, even though the architects of those slush funds remain in positions of power.

No longer are peaceful pro-life protesters at abortion clinics subject to abusive federal lawsuits that were repeatedly thrown out by federal judges, even though the lawyers who brought those frivolous cases still hold jobs. No longer are states such as Ohio and Texas subject to Justice Department attacks for election-integrity laws, even though the chiefs of the Voting Section are the exact same lifers as they were under Obama.

But that’s not enough. It’s one thing to stop the worst abuses of the Obama-era Justice Department. It’s quite another to implement the policies that won an election in 2016. It’s time for the Senate to get to work and finally bring an end to the Obama administration.

J. Christian Adams is president and general counsel for the Public Interest Legal Foundation and a former lawyer at the U.S. Department of Justice. He also served on the Presidential Advisory Commission for Election Integrity.