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Justice Department issues policy limiting White House contact

“The success of the Department of Justice depends on the trust of the American people,” Garland wrote in the five-page department-wide memorandum obtained by USA Today. “This trust must be earned every day, and we can only do it through our adherence to long-standing ministerial standards of independence from inappropriate influences, the exercise of discretion and the handling of cases. similar in the same way. “

The memo says the president and his staff should generally not be made aware of criminal or civil enforcement actions, although the directive contemplates exceptions.

“The Department of Justice will not advise the White House with respect to any pending or contemplated criminal or civil investigations or matters unless it is important to the performance of the President’s office and appropriate from the perspective of the President. law enforcement, ”Garland wrote.

The policy also seeks to channel authorized contacts on such cases through the department’s most senior officials, namely Garland and Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco, and through White House attorney Dana. Remus and his main assistants.

Garland’s directive does not limit contact on certain issues unrelated to specific cases, such as fiscal policy and criminal justice issues. Matters involving national security are also largely exempt from politics.

The directive is similar to other “White House Contacts” memos issued under previous administrations, starting with one in 1979 from Attorney General Benjamin Civiletti during Jimmy Carter’s presidency.

The White House also released a parallel but broader note on Wednesday giving advice to White House officials on their interactions with various agencies, including the Justice Department.

“Specific procedures apply to communications with the Department of Justice (DOJ) to ensure that the DOJ carries out its investigative and prosecutorial functions without the fact or appearance of undue political influence,” wrote Remus in his 14 page directive. “The DOJ plays many different roles, including as a prosecution and law enforcement agency, legal advisor to departments and agencies of the president and executive, litigator who advocates for government policies and actions. American and policy maker on a range of issues. The appropriate White House approach to the department depends on the DOJ function involved. “

A Biden official in the White House pointed out that “almost all” of the rules were in place on inauguration day, but said they deserved to be highlighted again as Garland rolled out his policies.

“We felt it was appropriate to re-edit and publish these guidelines alongside the DOJ rules,” said the official, who asked not to be named.

During the Trump administration, the Justice Department did not issue any White House contact notes. Officials said they left in place the policy issued by Attorney General Eric Holder on the matter in 2009. Trump’s White House attorney Donald McGahn issued a policy on Department of Justice contacts. Justice on January 27, 2017, just a week after Trump was sworn in.

None of the policies appear to bind or apply directly to the president, who in the last administration often sought to influence law enforcement matters. Trump has not only raised specific requests for investigations directly with his attorneys general, but has occasionally contacted U.S. prosecutors, particularly when attempting to enlist federal prosecutors to hunt down fleeting allegations of voter fraud.

The emails also show White House aides subject to contact limits, such as Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, making inquiries related to the investigation to senior Justice Department officials in the final weeks in office. from Trump. It is not known whether these contacts were approved by White House attorney Pat Cipollone.

The Trump administration has also violated standards against discussions of specific criminal cases in the White House briefing room, sometimes calling on prosecutors to speak from the podium to reporters about crackdowns on gangs and crimes committed by individuals. illegal immigrant.

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