Attorney General Merrick Garland is feeling the weight of losing public trust because of the possibility that the Department of Justice is allowing its power and authority to be weaponized politically. The FBI raid on former President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago residence in Florida has many in the country believing that it was a personal attack on the former president.
On Tuesday, Attorney General Garland initiated a new rule for the Department of Justice that will change a longstanding agency policy. From now on, political appointees at the Department of Justice (DOJ) will be banned from participating in campaign events in any form.
“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,” Garland wrote in a memo to DOJ employees.
In the past, a policy allowed political appointees to attend partisan events. They were granted the right to go in their own personal capacities. They were expected to participate passively after their sought approval to attend. But that was then.
Garland is now barring any individuals from participating in partisan political events in any capacity, this includes private events as well.
The Department of Justice has in the past limited attendance at partisan events during presidential election seasons. It did allow for exceptions when those who were running for office were close family members of the political appointees. They were also given the freedom to attend events on the evening of Election Day. But in Garland’s new memo to all employees, both of these exceptions are eliminated.
“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.”
New DOJ Restrictions Are Part of The Hatch Act
The new restrictions are now a part of the department’s compliance with the Hatch Act. This is a longstanding federal law that usually prohibits federal employees from participating in political activities while on duty.
These new rules come on the heels of the Department of Justice facing a litany of criticism from the Republican Party. The scrutiny has come after Attorney General Garland signed off on the request given to a judge asking for clearance on a search warrant to raid former President Trump’s personal residence in Florida.
After the warrant was given, FBI agents under Garland’s authority executed the court-approved warrant at Mar-a-Lago on August 8th. The agents seized 11 sets of classified documents to build a case that Trump violated the Espionage Act and two other federal statutes.
Many in the Republican Party, including the former president, have accused the FBI and the Department of Justice of leading this investigation for political purposes. At the same time, the FBI is also pursuing an investigation as to whether Trump and his team were criminals in an effort to overturn the 2020 presidential election results.
There have been three articles of impeachment brought against Attorney General Garland by Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.). And House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) has promised to investigate the DOJ if Republicans can take back the House in the November midterms. He told Garland, “clear your calendar.”
Attorney General Garland has defended his actions with intensity. He said, “I will not stand by silently when their integrity is unfairly attacked.” He also noted that after the search, the FBI and DOJ have been subject to what he called “unfounded attacks” on their professionalism.