Gonzales On Texas Redistricting: It’s The Senate’s Fault For Confirming Ashcroft

A document obtained by the Washington Post reveal that career lawyers in the Justice Department unanimously concluded that Tom DeLay’s plan to redistrict Texas violated the Voting Rights Act:

The memo, unanimously endorsed by six lawyers and two analysts in the department’s voting section, said the redistricting plan illegally diluted black and Hispanic voting power in two congressional districts.

Nevertheless, then-Attorney General John Ashcroft and other partisan political appointees overruled them and approved DeLay’s plan anyway. This morning, Gonzales made little effort to defend the substance of the decision and passed blame to the Senate who confirmed Ashcroft and other top officials:

Gonzales said the plan was approved by people “confirmed by the Senate to exercise their own independent judgment” and their disagreement with other agency employees doesn’t mean the final decision was wrong.

Question: If there was nothing wrong with the decision, why did the Justice Department go to such great lengths to keep the memo secret?

The 73-page memo, dated Dec. 12, 2003, has been kept under tight wraps for two years. Lawyers who worked on the case were subjected to an unusual gag rule. The memo was provided to The Post by a person connected to the case who is critical of the adopted redistricting map.