Garland Bars Political Appointees at DOJ From Attending Political Events
WASHINGTON — Attorney General Merrick Garland informed Justice Department staff on Tuesday that he is barring political appointees in the department from attending all political events.
Garland disclosed the new policy, which is more restrictive than in years past, in a memo to all “non-career” staff.
“As department employees, we have been entrusted with the authority and responsibility to enforce the laws of the United States in a neutral and impartial manner,” Garland wrote.
“In fulfilling this responsibility, we 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,” he said.
Although longstanding department policy has permitted non-career appointees to attend partisan political events, including fundraisers and campaign events, in their personal capacities so long as they “participated passively and obtained prior approval,” Garland is taking a much harder line, mandating that non-career appointees “may not participate in any partisan political event in any capacity.”
And if that wasn’t clear enough, the attorney general goes on to state “this restriction applies to both public and non-public partisan political events.”
Garland is also doing away with past exceptions that allowed for “limited attendance” at partisan political events during presidential election years” and in cases where appointees had close family members who were running for partisan offices or similar situations.
“The new policy permits no exceptions,” he said.
Finally, Garland noted that in the past the department allowed non-career employees to “passively attend campaign events and other partisan political events in their personal capacities on the evening of Election Day.”
“Under the new policy, non-career appointees may not attend partisan political events, even on the evening of Election Day.”
The new policy of course comes just months ahead of what are expected to be contentious midterm elections and as the department is pursuing a number of investigations related to the storming of the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, and, more recently, former President Donald Trump’s handling of classified documents.
Trump and his allies have repeatedly asserted the investigations involving him are motivated by nothing more than heavy-handed politics and, since the raid on the former president’s home in Palm Beach, Florida, that the department and its agents have become the tools of those with hostile political agendas.
Despite the fusillades from the Trump right, Garland has said in the past that one of his top priorities is restoring the political independence of the department and its investigations.
He closed the memo in that spirit:
“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.
“It is in that spirit that I have added these new restrictions on political activities by non-career employees,” Garland added.