DOJ bans political appointees from partisan events, with department under scrutiny
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Attorney General Merrick Garland issued a pair of memos on Tuesday barring political appointees from partisan events and other political activities.
The Justice Department has come under intense scrutiny for its involvement in media suppression in the run-up to the 2020 presidential election and the recent raid on Mar-a-Lago. The two memos crack down on the behavior of DOJ appointees in an apparent attempt to clean up the institution’s public image and restore trust.
The new guidance strengthens previously existing restrictions and eliminates exceptions previously granted to certain DOJ employees.
“As employees of the Department, we have been entrusted with the authority and responsibility to apply the laws of the United States in a neutral and impartial manner. In fulfilling this responsibility, we must do everything possible to maintain the public trust and ensure that politics, both in fact and appearance, does not compromise or affect the integrity of our work,” Garland wrote in one of the notes.
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Many of the closed exceptions to the rules are aimed at non-career DOJ employees: political appointees appointed to office by the president’s administration.
“In the past, when the Department has further limited attendance at partisan political events during presidential election years, it has allowed an exception for non-career appointees who had close family members running for partisan office or similar situations . The new policy does not allow exceptions,” the note states.
Additional crackdowns on political participation include stopping employees from attending campaign or political events outside of work on Election Day.
“Prior Department policy has allowed non-career employees to passively attend campaign events and other partisan political events in a personal capacity on the evening of Election Day,” the memo said. “Under the new policy, non-career appointees cannot attend partisan political events, including on the evening of Election Day.”
Garland ended the memo with a brief address to the entire department, saying, “I know you agree that it is critical that we hold ourselves to the highest ethical standards to avoid even the appearance of political influence while conducting the Department’s mission. It is in that spirit that I have added these new restrictions on the political activities of non-career employees.”
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A second Garland memo released Tuesday highlights more than a dozen rules for the conduct of DOJ employees, including the use of political pins, the solicitation of political contributions and the distribution of flyers.
The second on the list of high-priority regulations states that department employees cannot “use their official authority or influence to interfere with or affect the outcome of an election.”
Election tampering has topped the list of accusations against the DOJ in recent weeks, now inflamed by allegations from whistleblowers who are talking to Republican lawmakers.
FBI officials told agents not to investigate Hunter Biden’s so-called ‘laptop from hell’ for months because of concerns about influencing the 2020 presidential election, whistleblowers told Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis.
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According to Johnson, “individuals with knowledge” of the Hunter Biden case told his office that the investigation was intentionally slowed at the behest of the “local FBI director.”
“While I understand your reluctance to investigate a matter that may be related to an ongoing investigation, it seems clear to me, based on numerous credible disclosures from whistleblowers, that the FBI cannot be trusted to handle Hunter Biden’s laptop,” Johnson stated in a letter. to Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz.