The five-page memo (pdf) sets the DOJ’s policy for all communications with the White House and is meant to boost the public’s trust in the nation’s top law enforcement agency.
“The success of the Department of Justice depends upon the trust of the American people. That trust must be earned every day. And we can do so only through our adherence to the longstanding Departmental norms of independence from inappropriate influences, the principled exercise of discretion, and the treatment of like cases alike,” Garland wrote.
“Over the course of more than four decades, Attorneys General have issued policies governing communications between the Justice Department and the White House. The procedural safeguards that have long guided the Department’s approach to such communications are designed to protect our criminal and civil law enforcement decisions, and our legal judgments, from partisan or other inappropriate influences, whether real or perceived, direct or indirect.”
The policy states that the DOJ won’t notify the president about ongoing and contemplated criminal or civil cases and investigation unless doing so is “important for the performance of the President’s duties.” When communication does occur, the policy restricts the DOJ points of contact to the attorney general, deputy attorney general, and, if civil cases or investigations are involved, the associate attorney general.
The restriction is largely waived for matters of national security.
“However, the Office of the Attorney General or Deputy Attorney General, and the Office of the White House Counsel, must be kept advised of such communications,” the memo states.
Garland goes on to elaborate the requirements for a number of specific communications, including those with the Office of the Solicitor General, the Pardon Attorney, and for White House requests for legal opinions.
DOJ employees who receive contacts outside of the scope permitted by the memo are instructed to redirect the contact to the appropriate officials.
“As Attorney General Benjamin Civiletti noted in issuing the Department’s first White House communications memorandum in 1979, these guidelines are not intended to wall off the Department from legitimate communications with the Administration,” Garland wrote.
“Rather, they are intended to route communications to the appropriate officials so that the communications can be adequately reviewed and considered, free from the appearance or reality of inappropriate influence. As such, these guidelines are an essential element of the norms that ensure the Department’s adherence to the rule of law.”
The memo supersedes all prior administration’s communications policies concerning the White House and will be recorded in the department’s manual.