- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 16, 2021

The Justice Department watchdog says the department needs to prove to the public that it is not politicized.

In a report released Tuesday, Inspector General Michael E. Horowitz said public discourse questioning the department’s objective application of law is “concerning.”

Mr. Horowitz cited recent high-profile examples of the FBI failing to follow internal policies designed to protect the agency “from accusations of political influence or partial application of the law” — including the bureau’s heavy reliance on false statements in the Trump-Russia collusion investigation and former FBI Director James B. Comey’s media leaks.

The missteps, he said, have “negatively impacted the perception of the department as a fair administrator of justice.”

The inspector general also cited public reports claiming “political considerations allegedly influenced the department’s decision to obtain communications of members of Congress and the media, accusations that lawful protestors were cleared from Lafayette Square for political purposes, as well as claims that some Department officials may have sought to take action to alter the outcome of the 2020 election.”

Public perception surrounding the events has “crystalized the urgency” for the department to show the public that it is free from political influence by adhering to and strengthening its policies related to objectivity and impartiality, he said.

The report also mentions a 2020 survey by the Pew Research Center that showed the public ranked the Justice Department as one of the lowest-regarded federal agencies.

The survey asked 1,013 Americans to rank 10 federal agencies based on favorability, and the Department of Justice came in ninth, after the Immigrations and Customs Enforcement agency. Pew noted that the view of the department was sharply divided based on political affiliation.

“While the overall favorability rating of DOJ has increased since its low point in 2015, the data suggests a concerning trend: the political affiliation of the survey respondents seemed to affect their view of the department,” Mr. Horowitz said.

The report cites other “urgent” challenges facing the department faces, including the rising danger of homegrown violent extremism, improving community trust in police and preventing cybersecurity attacks.

The Washington Times sent a request for comment on Tuesday to the Justice Department.

• Emily Zantow can be reached at ezantow@washingtontimes.com.

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