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Protecting the Independence of the Justice Department: Key Requirements for the Next Attorney General

On December 14, 2018, Protect Democracy provided Senate Judiciary Committee members with a statement outlining key commitments Attorney General-designate William Barr must make during the Senate confirmation process. These include pledges to:

  • enforce long-standing policies limiting White House interference with the Department of Justice (DOJ).
  • protect the independence of the ongoing special counsel investigation.
  • prevent politically-motivated investigative and prosecutorial decisions.
  • prevent the use of DOJ enforcement resources to target critics of the Trump Administration.

Background

Protect Democracy has published a white paper explaining the constitutional limits on White House interference with law enforcement matters. Based on the arguments laid out in that white paper, we also filed an amicus brief on behalf of former Department of Justice officials in United States v. AT&T laying out these limits. We also argued that the President’s interference in the AT&T/Time Warner merger was retaliatory action in violation of the First Amendment in PEN America v. Trump, where we are co-counsel with Yale Media Freedom and Information Access Clinic representing PEN America.

We also organized two statements on behalf of Department of Justice alumni: one in support of protecting Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein’s oversight of the Special Counsel’s investigation and another calling for Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker to be replaced by the appropriate Senate-confirmed official specified in the DOJ succession statute.

Protect Democracy, along with the Constitutional Accountability Center, also represents Senators Blumenthal, Whitehouse, and Hirono in a lawsuit challenging the appointment of Matthew Whitaker as Acting Attorney General.