U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland issued a memo Tuesday reiterating the prohibition on Department of Justice (DOJ) employees communicating with Congress.
The memo directed DOJ employees to an existing guideline restricting DOJ employees’ communication with federal lawmakers, Senate and House committees and congressional staff. Garland explained that these rules help the DOJ prevent political interference in the department’s activities.
“Like the policies regarding communications with the White House, these policies ‘are designed to protect our criminal and civil law enforcement decisions, and our legal judgements, from partisan or other inappropriate influence, whether real or perceived, direct or indirect,’” the memo read. Garland also cited a section of the department’s manual that explained the guidelines also help preserve Congress’ ability to “carry out its legitimate investigatory and oversight functions.”
NEW: Attorney General Merrick Garland also sent a memo today reminding DOJ employees of the policies around communications with Congress. pic.twitter.com/8lN5tlyE7C
— Ryan J. Reilly (@ryanjreilly) August 30, 2022
The memo reiterated DOJ’s policy that all communication with members of Congress is subject to approval by the Office of Legislative Affairs (OLA). This policy requires the Assistant Attorney General for the OLA to manage all communications between department members and Congress “to ensure that relevant Department or Executive Branch interests are fully protected.”
“No Department employee may communicate with Senators, Representatives, congressional committees, or congressional staff without advance coordination, consultation, and approval by OLA,” the policy states. “All congressional inquiries and correspondence from Members, committees, and staff should be immediately directed to OLA upon receipt.”
Garland issued a separate memo Tuesday prohibiting politically appointed DOJ officials from participating in political events. The memo revoked exceptions that allowed “non-career appointees” to attend partisan political events for “close family members who were running for political office” and to attend events for non-relative candidates “in their personal capacities on the evening of Election Day.”
“As Department employees, we have been entrusted with the authority and responsibility to enforce the laws of the United States in a neutral and impartial manner,” the memo read. “In fulfilling this responsibility, we must do all we can to maintain public trust and ensure that politics — both in fact and appearance — does not compromise or affect the integrity of our work.”
These orders come as the DOJ and FBI face accusations of political bias following the Aug. 8 raid on former President Donald Trump’s residence. Trump and other figures on the political right have accused the DOJ of practicing a double standard by investigating Trump more aggressively than Hunter Biden. (RELATED: High-Ranking FBI Official Out After Allegedly Attempting To Stonewall Hunter Biden Laptop Probe)
Garland announced August 11 that he had “personally approved the decision to seek a search warrant” for the FBI raid the former president’s private residence. The FBI said it retrieved 11 sets of classified documents, including four sets of top secret material. Trump has disputed this account, claiming that he had declassified all the documents in question.
Republican Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley announced in a July letter to Garland and FBI Director Christopher Wray that whistleblowers had told him the FBI downplayed and discredited intelligence concerning Hunter Biden’s alleged criminal activity in his overseas business dealings. Grassley later accused the FBI of a partisan double standard in a subsequent letter to Wray.
In subsequent letter to Wray, Grassley claimed that “political bias” had “infected the FBI’s Washington Field Office” and accused Assistant Special Agent in Charge Timothy Thibault of closing the case surrounding the president’s son without any valid reason. Thibault, who frequently shared partisan content on social media while working for the FBI, resigned Friday and was allegedly escorted out of the FBI building.