March 25, 2021

In an extended segment last night, Rachel Maddow addressed the question of why Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) is opposing the appointment of Vanita Gupta as third in command at the Department of Justice and slow-walking her nomination process.

What she came up with was a bizarre Texas case from Cornyn’s home state involving a “Kafkaesque nightmare” of prosecution in the small town of Tulia back in 1999 -- and how Gupta embarrassed Cornyn, who was the state attorney general at the time.

Texas cop Tom Coleman arrested dozens of mostly Black people in what was alleged to be an undercover operation into a cocaine ring. No evidence, no recording of the alleged drug sales, no proof whatsoever. Still, the court believed his testimony over that of the individuals charged. Most were convicted and some were given sentences over 100 years.

The overtly racist Coleman was then named Lawman of the Year by then-Attorney General John Cornyn. As one does!

Civil rights attorney Gupta, who was then working for the NAACP, took on their case, and by 2003, all of the people charged were released and Coleman was charged with perjury and other charges.

Which Gov. Rick Perry promptly pardoned, of course.

But as these things go, there's much more to Cornyn's opposition.

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse is someone who has looked into the dark money opposing Gupta, and says this sounds like the real explanation. Not that I don't believe Cornyn is petty enough to go after someone who embarrassed him years ago, but this presents a more timely motivation.

The Honest Elections project is related to Federalist Society honcho Leonard Leo and the infamous Judicial Crisis Network, and works to 1) pack the courts and 2) make sure voting rights cases are brought in front of right-wing judges. Because Republicans are in a fight for their lives, and preventing Democrats from voting is their biggest priority.

Gupta once ran the DoJ Civil Rights Division. She prosecuted hate crimes and fought discrimination, but more importantly, she challenged voter suppression. Gupta, if confirmed as assistant attorney general, will now supervise the Civil Rights Division.

The right-wing dark-money donors don't like that at all. They see someone like Gupta (and Kristen Clarke, the civil rights attorney who is nominated to run the Civil Rights division once helmed by Gupta) as existential threats.

Once people are allowed to vote, anything could happen. Can't have that!

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