FOIA on Agency Contacts
When Protect Democracy launched as an organization, our first project was an educational memo about the decades-long bipartisan history of White House staff avoiding interference with federal law enforcement. Since the Nixon Administration, successive administrations have re-established the White House contacts policy as official guidance for its staff to prevent them from communicating with the Department of Justice (DOJ), and other federal agencies, on particular investigations to ensure the independence of law enforcement functions. Not only has President Trump undermined this democratic norm by asserting an “absolute right to to do what I want to do with the Justice Department,” but he and his Administration have repeatedly sought to tell the Justice Department to initiate investigations against a political rival, end investigations for an ally, and influence the direction of enforcement matters. Protect Democracy filed a lawsuit to require DOJ and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to respond to our FOIA requests for instances of White House communications about law enforcement investigations and cases. Public reports of the White House’s interference have been serious enough; our lawsuit is intended to reveal what could be even more harmful — what the White House does in secret. The public also deserves to know if DOJ has been able to maintain its integrity by withstanding the White House’s political pressure.