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Title 1: Organization and Functions

1-8.000 - Congressional Relations

1-8.001 Introduction
1-8.010 Reporting Congressional Contacts with USAOs
1-8.020 Responding to Congressional Requests for Public Information
1-8.030 Responding to Congressional Requests for Other than Public Information
1-8.040 Congressional Questionnaires and Surveys, and General Accounting Office (GAO) Contacts
1-8.050 Official Events with Congressional Members and Staff
1-8.051 Social Contacts with Congressional Members and Staff
1-8.070 State and Local Legislative Requests
1-8.075 Comity Considerations
1-8.080 Legislative Requests or Proposals

1-8.001 - Introduction

The Assistant Attorney General (AAG), Office of Legislative Affairs (OLA), is responsible for communications between Congress and the Department under the authority of the Attorney General and the direction of the Deputy Attorney General. See 28 C.F.R. Sec. 0.27. Communication between OLA and individual components of the Department are aided by designated Congressional Liaisons. The Director of the Executive Office for United States Attorneys (EOUSA) has designated the Counsel to the Director (CTD) as Congressional Liaison for the United States Attorneys' Offices (USAOs) and EOUSA.

[updated October 2009]

1-8.010 - Reporting Congressional Contacts with USAOs

Except as otherwise provided in USAM 1-8.020 and 1-8.051, all Congressional member and staff contacts with USAOs or USAO staff, including in-person contacts and contacts by letter, email, phone call, or any other means, must be reported promptly to the United States Attorney (USA), First Assistant United States Attorney (FAUSA), or other senior staff designated by the USA. The USA, FAUSA, or other designated senior staff must then report the contact to OLA and CTD.

[updated October 2009]

1-8.020 - Responding to Congressional Requests for Public Information

Except as noted below, United States Attorneys and designated senior staff may respond to Congressional requests without first contacting OLA or CTD when the request is for public information only. Congressional requests for public information only must be reported to OLA and CTD if: (1) the Congressional request is in letter form (including letters delivered by fax or email); (2) the Congressional member or staff expresses any opinion about the nature, status, or propriety of any government action or inaction; (3) the Congressional member or staff suggests any government action or inaction; or (4) the context or nature of the Congressional contact creates the appearance that the Congressional member or staff seeks any government action or inaction.

Public information includes:

  • Administrative information, such as office locations, operational hours, public phone numbers, and hiring procedures.
  • Documents that are already part of public court records and not under seal or otherwise restricted, such as filed indictments, briefs, etc.
  • News releases or other materials meant for public distribution.
  • The time and place for the next public court hearing, if already announced.

NOTE: Repeated requests for public information from the same Congressional member or staff, or from different Congressional members or staff in the same matter or case, should be reported to OLA and CTD. If you are unsure if certain information should be released, or whether it is proper to give certain assistance requested, please contact OLA and CTD.

[cited in USAM 1-8.010; 1-8.051; 1-8.070] [updated October 2009]

1-8.030 - Responding to Congressional Requests for Other than Public Information

All Congressional requests for information (other than public information), meetings of any type, or assistance must immediately be referred to OLA and CTD. OLA and CTD will consult on an appropriate response and will coordinate with the USAO regarding the response. In most instances, OLA will respond to the Congressional members or staff on behalf of the USAOs. Except to provide public information, USAOs may not respond directly to Congressional members or staff without prior consultation with OLA and CTD. USAOs may inform the requestor that the Department's policy is to refer all Congressional requests to OLA. USAOs may also provide the requestor with information on how to contact OLA at (202) 514-2141.

Examples of congressional requests that must be referred to OLA and CTD include requests for non-public documents or information; discussion of or requests for briefings on case; requests for attendance at settlement conferences; suggestions or comments on case disposition or other treatment; discussions of or requests for information on problems under existing law or suggestions for changes in existing law; requests for interviews or meetings of any kind; and requests for statements or appearances at hearings, meetings, or other events with congressional representatives or third parties.

USAOs should follow these standards in both open and closed cases and never provide information on (1) pending investigations; (2) closed investigations that did not become public; (3) matters that involve grand jury, tax, or other restricted information; (4) matters that would reveal the identity of confidential informants, sensitive investigative techniques, deliberative processes, the reasoning behind the exercise of prosecutorial discretion, or the identity of individuals who may have been investigated but not indicted. All requests for these types of information should be referred to OLA and CTD, as well as any congressional request that implicates Privacy Act considerations.

[cited in USAM 1-3.000; 1-8.051] [updated October 2009]

1-8.040 - Congressional Questionnaires and Surveys, and General Accounting Office (GAO) Contacts

Congressional and GAO questionnaires and surveys must be approved in the same fashion as other surveys as provided in USAM 3-18.100. See also USAM 1-13.000. GAO is an oversight arm of Congress and is often tasked by Congressional committees to pursue specific oversight inquiries. These inquiries should be treated the same as any other Congressional inquiry. GAO contacts and inquiries made directly to a USAO without prior coordination with EOUSA should immediately be brought to the attention of CTD.

[cited in USAM 1-3.000] [updated August 2011]

1-8.050 - Official Events with Congressional Members and Staff

United States Attorney's Office personnel must obtain United States Attorney approval to participate in their official capacity in official events with Congressional members or staff, including conferences, presentations, courtesy visits, tours, and similar activities. United States Attorneys must coordinate with OLA and CTD before authorizing invitations to or appearances at such official events. Please be aware that the Department has a long-standing policy that United States Attorneys and USAO personnel may not participate in media events with Congressional members or staff.

[cited in USAM 1-3.000] [updated October 2009]

1-8.051 - Social Contacts with Congressional Members and Staff

Purely social contacts with Congressional members or staff need not be reported. However, if during such a contact there is a request for non-public information or a request for public information that otherwise requires reporting, the provisions of USAM 1-8.020 and 1-8.030 must be followed. In addition, USAO personnel are reminded that social contacts and relationships with Congressional members and staff, as well as attendance at or participation in political functions and fund raising, are subject to the Department's policies, as well as legal standards, rules, and requirements. See USAM 1-4.400, et seq. EOUSA's Office of General Counsel should be consulted for guidance on these ethical and legal standards.

[cited in USAM 1-8.010] [added October 2009]

1-8.070 - State and Local Legislative Requests

State and local legislative requests for public information should be handled in the manner described in USAM 1-8.020. Requests from state and local legislative officials for any other type of information, assistance, testimony, or meetings must be cleared by the Department through CTD. USAO personnel acting in their official capacities should not advocate passage or defeat of state or local legislation, including state or local referenda or ballot initiatives, or otherwise give an opinion on state or local legislation, without prior approval from the Department through CTD.

NOTE: The requirements incorporated in sections 1-8.070 and USAM 1-8.075 regarding state and local legislative and other matters do not apply to the U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of Columbia, which has unique jurisdictional obligations as the local prosecutor for the District of Columbia.

[cited in USAM 1-3.000; 1-8.070] [updated October 2009]

1-8.075 - Comity Considerations

Whenever you make any public communication on criminal justice or other policy matters that touch on local or state concerns, regardless of whether you are required to seek approval under USAM 1-8.070, you should be sensitive to comity considerations. The substance and manner of such communications should be designed to enhance and not impede federal, state, and local law enforcement relations; be sensitive to the public appearance of the proper role and limits of federal prosecutors; and give due deference to the separate constitutional powers and responsibilities of state and local officials. The substance of any such communication should be consistent with Department policy in that area, be distributed in an appropriate fashion, be factual in nature, and be based on federal law enforcement concerns, views, and experience. For example, in testifying to a state legislative committee with Departmental approval on a pending state bill, the impact of the proposal on federal law enforcement considerations should be addressed without specifically urging the passage or defeat of the particular bill that may be under consideration. Please feel free to consult CTD on any questions you may have in this regard.

[cited in USAM 1-8.070] [updated October 2009]

1-8.080 - Legislative Requests or Proposals

All official requests for legislative action, changes to existing laws, or proposals for new laws must be submitted to the Department through CTD for review and approval. If USAO personnel wish to make purely personal proposals or offer personal views on legislative proposals or referenda to Congress, a state legislature, local legislative body, or the public, that could appear to reflect on their official duties or Department responsibilities, they should contact CTD for applicable considerations. For instance, it should be made clear that they are speaking in their personal capacities and not on behalf of the Department. In addition, they are prohibited from using their official titles except as one of several biographical details, and they must comply with rules for the protection of confidential information.

[cited in USAM 1-3.000] [updated October 2009]