Garland bans many DOJ employees from attending political events amid Trump scrutiny

Topline

Attorney General Merrick Garland on Tuesday banned all Justice Department appointees from attending campaign events, as the agency’s investigation into former President Donald Trump, including the search of his home, attracts attention.

Highlights

In a memo, Garland imposed tough new limits on political appointees, who were previously allowed to “passively” attend partisan events on their own time if they got permission from their boss or a family member. stood for election.

Political appointees by the DOJ — a group that includes presidential appointees — can also no longer travel to partisan events on election night.

Career staff members can still attend political events off the clock, although many department employees who occupy more sensitive roles – including senior leaders, FBI personnel and members of criminal divisions or DOJ national security – are only allowed to participate passively, according to the DOJ’s website and a memo released Tuesday.

Key context

Garland and President Joe Biden have repeatedly pledged to keep the DOJ independent of political interference. But in recent months, the department has come under scrutiny for how it handles a litany of high-profile and politically sensitive investigations. Most notably, the FBI searched Trump’s home in Mar-a-Lago earlier this month, as part of a months-long investigation into a trove of sensitive documents that may have been improperly stored at the Florida club. . Trump and many of his allies have accused the DOJ of acting politically, but Garland — who says he personally approved of the search — defended DOJ staff and said the decision to search the residence of a former president had not been taken lightly, while the White House denied knowledge of the raid. The DOJ has launched a series of other high-profile investigations involving partisan figures, including Trump for his behavior after the 2020 election, Rudy Giuliani for foreign lobbying allegations, Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) for allegations of child sex trafficking and Hunter Biden for his business and tax dealings.

To monitor

Garland’s promise to keep the DOJ politically independent could impact the timing of investigations into Trump and other political figures. This year’s midterm reviews are just over two months away, and the DOJ traditionally avoids taking overt and politically sensitive investigative action within 90 days of an election.

Tangent

Under Trump-era Attorney General William Barr, the DOJ faced allegations of political bias, including allegations that DOJ officials interfered in cases contrary to Trump’s interests.

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