Sen. Chuck Grassley turned up the heat on Attorney General Merrick Garland for prohibiting Justice Department employees from communicating with members of Congress amid a flood of FBI whistleblower complaints to lawmakers.
Mr. Grassley said that the attorney general’s edict, sent to DOJ workers in an Aug. 30 memo, threatened to “chill and undermine the importance of whistleblower protections.”
“Under your leadership, the Department and FBI have failed to be responsive to congressional oversight requests. Accordingly, it is often only because of whistleblowers that Congress and the American people are apprised of the type of wrongdoing that your memo seeks to protect against,” Mr. Grassley wrote last week in a letter to Mr. Garland.
“As you are aware, the Department and FBI have a reputation for retaliating against whistleblowers that provide information to Congress,” he wrote. “Accordingly, I’d like to remind the Department that, as a basic matter of law, all employees of the U.S. Government have a right to petition Congress or furnish information to Congress.”
The Times reached out to the Justice Department for a response but did not hear back.
The sharp words added to mounting tension between Republican lawmakers and Mr. Garland, whose Justice Department has been accused of anti-conservative bias and launching politically motivated investigations including the unprecedented FBI search on former President Donald Trump’s home in Florida.
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FBI whistleblowers recently revealed that bureau officials sabotaged an investigation of Hunter Biden’s business dealings and tax affairs by labeling verified evidence as “disinformation.” Those efforts coincided with Hunter Biden’s father, President Biden, campaigning for the White House in 2020.
What’s more, the Washington Times has reported that scores of FBI whistleblowers have come forward about widespread misconduct and mismanagement at the bureau’s field offices across the country.
Mr. Grassley, an Iowa Republican and the ranking member of the Judiciary Committee, is known for championing whistleblower protection laws, specifically the FBI Whistleblower Enhancement Protection Act.
Mr. Garland’s memo ordered DOJ employees to cease communicating with members of Congress and their staff. It said 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,” Mr. Garland said in the memo.
He added that the new policies “are not intended to conflict with or limit whistleblower protections” and that “Congress may carry out its legislative oversight functions.”
Mr. Grassley, in his letter to Mr. Garland, said, “Even with your whistleblower caveats, and due to the timing of your memo, I remain concerned about the chilling effect it may have on whistleblowers who wish to approach Congress with information relating to fraud, waste, abuse, and gross mismanagement.”