US Justice Dept issues new policy on communications with White House

 A view of the White House in Washington, on Jan 18, 2021.
A view of the White House in Washington, on Jan 18, 2021.PHOTO: REUTERS

WASHINGTON (REUTERS) - United States Attorney-General Merrick Garland on Wednesday (July 21) handed down new policies governing the Justice Department's interactions with the White House aimed at minimising political interference in law enforcement, the Justice Department said.

Mr Garland said in a statement that the new policies further "longstanding departmental norms of independence from inappropriate influences, the principled exercise of discretion, and the treatment of like cases alike".

The new rules, which follow criticism of Justice Department actions under Republican former president Donald Trump, generally prohibit prosecutors from discussing pending or contemplated law enforcement investigations with White House officials, although there are exceptions for matters of national security, according to a memo released by the Justice Department.

“These policies reaffirm President (Joe) Biden’s commitment to restoring faith in institutions of government and the independent role of the Department of Justice in law enforcement matters,” the White House said in a statement.

The Justice Department under former Attorneys-General William Barr and Jeff Sessions was regularly accused by Democrats of putting Mr Trump’s personal and political interests ahead of the law.

Mr Barr, in particular, faced criticism over his decisions to intervene in cases against Trump associates, including long-time political adviser Roger Stone and former national security adviser Michael Flynn. Some prosecutors quit in response to Mr Barr’s interventions.

Mr Barr has defended his interventions in the cases, saying in speeches that he overruled career prosecutors in order to ensure just outcomes and fair sentences.