Aug 30, 2022 - Politics & Policy

Garland sets new restrictions on political activity of appointed DOJ staff

Attorney General Merrick Garland speaking to reporters in Washington, D.C., on Aug. 11.
Attorney General Merrick Garland speaking to reporters in Washington, D.C., on Aug. 11. Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Attorney General Merrick Garland said Tuesday in a memo to Department of Justice employees that appointees can no longer participate in partisan political events, like fundraisers or campaign events, revoking a long-standing department policy.

Why it matters: The new restrictions come just months before the midterm elections and amid the department's inquiry into the handling of classified documents at former President Trump's Mar-a-Lago residence.

  • Garland said all non-career, appointed employees were reminded on Monday of the department's restrictions on partisan political actions in a separate memo from Jolene Lauria, the DOJ's acting assistant attorney general for administration.

What he's saying: Garland said the new restrictions were necessary because the department's employees "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."

  • "I know you agree it is critical that we hold ourselves to the highest ethical standards to avoid even the appearance of political influence as we carry out the Department's mission," he wrote in the memo to employees.
  • "It is in that spirit that I have added these new restrictions on political activities by non-career employees."

Why it matters: When it previously limited employee attendance at partisan events, the department made an exception for appointees who had family members running for public office.

  • This exception will no longer be allowed under the new policy, the memo reads.
  • Appointees will also now be unable to attend campaign events and other political events the night of Election Day.

Go deeper: DOJ says only a "limited" number of Trump documents may be privileged

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