Attorney General Merrick Garland on Wednesday issued a directive that limits contacts between the Justice Department personnel and the White House.
The story: Garland on Wednesday issued a five-page memo that outlines rules for all communications between the DOJ and the White House. The rules seek to limit political influence on the law enforcement agency, which is in line with President Biden’s campaign pledged to reestablish the Justice Department’s independence.
“The success of the Department of Justice depends upon the trust of the American people. That trust must be earned every day. And we can do so only through our adherence to the longstanding Departmental norms of independence from inappropriate influences, the principled exercise of discretion, and the treatment of like cases alike,” Garland wrote.
“Over the course of more than four decades, Attorneys General have issued policies governing communications between the Justice Department and the White House,” the attorney general wrote. “The procedural safeguards that have long guided the Department’s approach to such communications are designed to protect our criminal and civil law enforcement decisions, and our legal judgments, from partisan or other inappropriate influences, whether real or perceived, direct or indirect.”
In detail: The memo states that the DOJ will steer clear from notifying the White House about criminal or civil enforcement cases and investigations, except in cases when they’re “important for the performance of the President’s duties.”
In such cases, only the attorney general, deputy attorney general, and, if civil cases or investigations are involved, the associate attorney general, can speak to the president.
The limitations are waived for matters of national security and even then, both the DOJ and the White House have to notify the Office of the Attorney General or Deputy Attorney General and the Office of the White House that there is communication between the agency and the president.
The memo also details requirements for specific communications, such as White House requests for a legal opinion, and contacts with the Pardon Attorney and the Office of the Solicitor General.
If an employee at the DOJ is contacted by someone they’re not allowed to talk to under the rules, they are required to send the contact to the appropriate officials.
Garland wrote that the rules “are intended to route communications to the appropriate officials so that the communications can be adequately reviewed and considered, free from the appearance or reality of inappropriate influence.”
They are “not intended to wall off the Department from legitimate communications with the Administration,” he said.
The White House issued a similar memo on the same day that provides instructions to White House officials about their communications with multiple agencies, including the DOJ, Politico reported.
“Specific procedures apply to communications with the Department of Justice (DOJ) in order to ensure that DOJ exercises its investigatory and prosecutorial functions free from the fact or appearance of improper political influence,” White House Counsel Dana Remus wrote in the 14-page directive.
“DOJ plays many different roles — including as a prosecutorial and law enforcement agency, legal adviser to the President and Executive Branch departments and agencies, litigator that defends U.S. government policies and actions, and policymaker on a range of issues. The proper White House approach to the Department depends on which DOJ function is involved.”
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