Garland limits DOJ contact with White House

Attorney General Merrick Garland restricted the Justice Department's contact with the White House in a sharp break from the policies of former President Donald Trump, who often urged the agency to investigate or prosecute political foes or other entities.

"The success of the Department of Justice depends upon the trust of the American people," Garland wrote in the five-page memo on 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."

The DOJ vowed not to "advise the White House concerning pending or contemplated civil or criminal enforcement investigations or cases unless doing so is important" regarding the "president's duties" or law enforcement. Garland also insisted attorneys general, U.S. attorneys, and investigative bosses have "the primary responsibility" to supervise matters related to police.


Garland made few exceptions to the rule, including matters of national security, which he said should be guided by "frequent and expeditious communications" between the department and the White House.

While on the campaign trail, President Joe Biden frequently criticized Trump's relationship with former Attorney General William Barr, saying the former president transformed the DOJ into his "private law firm." When Biden announced Garland as his attorney general nominee, he made a point to say Garland wouldn't be "the president or the vice president's lawyer."

Earlier in the week, Garland restricted the DOJ's ability to use subpoenas to seize information from journalists following revelations about Trump DOJ efforts to uncover leaks of classified information.


"The Department of Justice will no longer use compulsory legal process for the purpose of obtaining information from or records of members of the news media acting within the scope of news gathering activities," Garland wrote in a separate memo. "This new prohibition applies to compulsory legal process issued to reporters directly, to their publishers or employers, and to third-party service providers of any of the foregoing. It extends to the full range of compulsory process covered by the current regulations, specifically, warrants, court orders … and civil investigative demands. Further, it applies regardless of whether the compulsory legal process seeks testimony, physical documents, telephone toll records, metadata, or digital content."

Outlets such as the New York Times, the Washington Post, and CNN reported this year that the Trump DOJ had seized records from reporters as investigators tried to find the source of classified leaks. Following direction from Biden, the Justice Department said in June it would no longer seek court orders to obtain records from journalists just "doing their jobs," following revelations about Trump administration leak investigations.

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