Garland Restricts Contact Between DOJ and White House

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Attorney General Merrick Garland has issued a memo placing limits on the Department of Justice’s contact with the White House, a turnaround from the policy of the previous administration, the Washington Examiner reports.

“The success of the Department of Justice depends upon the trust of the American people,” Garland wrote in a memo issued Wednesday. “That trust must be earned every day, and we can do so only through our adherence to the long-standing departmental norms of independence from inappropriate influences, the principled exercise of discretion and the treatment of like cases alike.”

He added that “in order to promote and protect the norms of Departmental independence and integrity … the Justice Department will not advise the White House concerning pending or contemplated criminal or civil law enforcement investigations or cases unless doing so is important for the performance of the President’s duties and appropriate from a law enforcement perspective.”

The order also notes that assistant attorneys general, the U.S. Attorneys, and the leaders and their subordinates at investigative agencies “have the primary responsibility to initiate and supervise law enforcement investigations and cases,” and says that “in order to insulate them from inappropriate influences, initial communications between the Department and the White House concerning pending or contemplated law enforcement investigations will involve only the Attorney General,” their deputy, “and the Counsel or Deputy Counsel to the President or the President or Vice President.”

These officials may delegate further communications to their subordinates, but those officials must monitor those communications and receive regular updates from their subordinates.

The memo states that because “it is critically important to have frequent and expeditious communications between the Department and the White House in matters relating to foreign relations and national security, including counterterrorism and counterespionage,” any communications from or to the National Security Council staff and National Security officials “that related to such matters are not subject to the limitations set out” by the memo.

Garland concludes that “these guidelines are not intended to wall off the Department from legitimate communications with the administration. Rather, they 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. As such, these guidelines are an essential element of the norms that ensure the Department’s adherence to the rule of law.”