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Garland tightens the reins on Justice Dept. employees' political activities

Attorney General Merrick Garland has set new restrictions on the political activities of some Justice Department employees.
Kent Nishimura
/
Los Angeles Times via Getty Imag
Attorney General Merrick Garland has set new restrictions on the political activities of some Justice Department employees.

Attorney General Merrick Garland has set new restrictions on the political activities of some Justice Department employees, while also strongly reminding them of already established limits.

Political appointees — those workers who are hired by a presidential administration and are not building their careers in the department — are essentially barred from attending partisan political events such as fundraisers and rallies.

Garland in an Aug. 30 memo said that he was ending the long-standing policy of allowing appointees to attend those events if they participated passively and obtained prior approval from the department.

He added that from now on, appointees will be barred from attending political events during presidential election years, even if the event is for a family member, and they cannot attend political events on the evening of Election Day in a personal capacity.

"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. 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," Garland wrote.

Garland also issued a memo on abiding by the Hatch Act, which walls off public servants from using their government posts to boost their political parties or candidates.

Questions have bubbled up recently about protections against improper political influence over the Justice Department, as prosecutors investigate how top secret documents came to be stored at former President Trump's home and also delve into who funded and organized the Jan. 6 Capitol riot.

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Washington desk