Attorney General Merrick Garland issued a long-awaited directive on Wednesday aimed at limiting the political influence on law enforcement matters by strictly limiting contact between Justice Department personnel and the White House.
The memo fulfilled the campaign promise of then-candidate Joe Biden to restore the department after a series of incidents in which President Donald Trump complained publicly and privately about the prosecutor’s decision, urging them to fire their friends and attack your political opponents. Independence.
Garland did not mention these cases in his five-page memo, but he did discuss the importance of maintaining the public reputation of the Justice Department. “The success of the Department of Justice depends upon the trust of the American people,” Garland wrote on a five-page paper. A full-page memo was obtained by USA Today – “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.”
The memo says that the president and his staff should generally not be notified of criminal or civil enforcement actions, although the directive provides for exceptions.
“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,” Garland wrote.
The policy also seeks to allow access to such cases through the top officials of the department, namely Garland and Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco, and through White House counsel Dana Remus and her senior deputies.
The Garland Board of Directors does not restrict connections in certain non-specific cases, such as budget issues and criminal justice policies. Matters related to national security are basically not affected by politics. The directive is similar to other “White House Contact” memos issued by previous administrations, beginning with the memo of Benjamin Civiletti, the Attorney General, during the presidency of Jimmy Carter in 1979.
The White House also issued a parallel but broader memorandum on Wednesday to provide guidance on how White House officials interact with various agencies, including the Justice Department.
A White House official in Biden emphasized that “nearly all” rules were made on the day of the inauguration, but said that as Garland implements his policies, these rules deserve to be emphasized again.
“We felt it was appropriate to reissue and publicize this guidance alongside the DOJ rules,” said the official, who asked not to be named.
During Trump’s administration, the Justice Department did not issue a White House contact memo. Officials said they implemented the policy issued by Attorney General Eric Holder on this issue in 2009. Trump’s White House lawyer Donald McGahn issued a policy on contacts with the Department of Justice on January 27, 2017, a week after Trump took office.
These two policies seem to have nothing to do with the president or directly apply to the president, who often tried to intervene in law enforcement affairs in the previous administration. Trump not only made specific investigation requests directly to his attorney general but sometimes contacted federal prosecutors, especially when he was trying to recruit federal prosecutors to pursue short-term allegations of voter fraud. The e-mail also revealed that White House assistants were restricted in contact. Like Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, in the Trump office in recent weeks, he has made investigation-related requests to senior Justice Department officials. It is not clear whether these contacts were approved by White House lawyer Pat Cipollone.
The Trump administration has also violated regulations prohibiting the discussion of specific criminal cases in the White House conference room, and sometimes invited prosecutors to speak to reporters on the stage against the gang and immigration crimes.