Attorney General Merrick Garland has issued a memo blocking Justice Department employees from communicating with members of Congress in the wake of stunning whistleblower disclosures regarding the FBI probe into Hunter Biden’s business affairs.
Mr. Garland wrote that all communication with Congress must be conducted through the department’s office of legislative affairs.
The policy is “to protect our criminal and civil law enforcement decisions, and our legal judgment from partisans or other inappropriate influences, whether real or perceived or indirect,” he said in the memo, sent late Tuesday.
He stressed that the new policies “are not intended to conflict with or limit whistleblower protections” and that “Congress may carry out its legislative oversight functions.”
Kurt Siuzdak, a former FBI agent and a lawyer who represents bureau whistleblowers, said the memo is targeting employees who want to speak out against misconduct.
“There’s no whistleblower status, per se. If you make a protected disclosure of criminal wrongdoing or serious misconduct, and then they retaliate, you go to the office of attorney recruitment and management and they basically will remove any personnel actions after two to five years, and people know it’s two to five years. And they know the office of general counsel is going to fight and cause them lots of money,” he said.
“‘So if it’s not a whistleblower, then we’re coming after you’ is what they would say,’” he said. “‘If we determine you’re not a whistleblower, then we’re going to retaliate. … Because if you’re going to report misconduct to the Congress, and that doesn’t rise to the level of misconduct, then we’re going to take action.’’’
The memorandum is Mr. Garland’s second in two days as he tries to clamp down on heated criticism from Republicans that the Justice Department has been weaponized against them. They have accused Mr. Garland of authorizing the Aug. 8 raid on former President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate to politically damage Mr. Trump.
Mr. Trump is under investigation for suspected violations of the Espionage Act and other federal laws related to the destruction or mishandling of classified documents.
Earlier Tuesday, Mr. Garland changed a long-standing department policy and issued a memo banning political appointees at the Justice Department from participating in political campaign events.
Both memorandums were released as revelations depicted the Justice Department as an agency in disarray.
Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa, the top Republican on the Judiciary Committee, said last month that his office had been contacted by current and former “highly credible whistleblowers” who claimed FBI agents sought to scuttle an investigation into Hunter Biden’s business dealings and tax affairs by labeling verified evidence as “disinformation.” Those efforts coincided with his father’s campaign for the White House in 2020.
Last week, Timothy Thibault, an assistant special agent in charge of the bureau’s Washington field office, abruptly resigned amid congressional scrutiny for suspected political bias in handling the Hunter Biden investigation, as first reported by The Washington Times.
Also last week, Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg revealed that the FBI warned Facebook about “Russian propaganda” ahead of the New York Post’s report of the bombshell contents of Hunter Biden’s laptop just before the 2020 election.