|1-8.200||Communications with Congress|
|1-8.210||Responding to Congressional Requests Generally|
|1-8.220||Responding to Congressional Requests for Public Information|
|1-8.300||Government Accountability Office (GAO) Contacts|
|1-8.400||Official Events with Congressional Members and Staff|
|1-8.410||Social Contacts with Congressional Members and Staff|
|1-8.500||State and Local Legislative Requests|
Communications with the White House
|1-8.610||Reporting White House Contacts with the Department|
|1-8.700||Personnel Decisions Concerning Positions in the Civil Service|
|1-8.900||Office of the Inspector General|
1-8.100 - Introduction
The rule of law depends upon the evenhanded administration of justice. The legal judgments of the Department of Justice must be impartial and insulated from political influence. It is imperative that the Department’s investigatory and prosecutorial powers be exercised free from partisan consideration. It is a fundamental duty of every employee of the Department to ensure that these principles are upheld in all of the Department’s legal endeavors.
In order to promote the rule of law and to ensure that the Department’s actions are free from the appearance of political influence, this Chapter sets out guidelines to govern all communications between representatives of the Department and representatives of Congress, and procedures intended to implement those guidelines.
1-8.200 - Communications with Congress
The Assistant Attorney General (AAG) for the 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. § 0.27. Communications between the Department and Congress, including those pertaining to policy, legislation, political appointments, nominations, intergovernmental and public liaison relations, cases and investigations, and administrative matters, will be managed or coordinated by OLA to ensure that relevant Department or Executive Branch interests are fully protected. Communication between OLA and Department components may be aided by designated component or law enforcement congressional liaisons, as appropriate. However, all component and law enforcement congressional liaisons will follow the direction of the AAG of OLA with regard to communications with Congress.
Except as provided in this chapter, no Department employee may communicate with Senators, Representatives, congressional committees, or congressional staff without advance coordination, consultation, and approval by OLA. All congressional inquiries and correspondence from Members, committees, and staff should be immediately directed to OLA upon receipt. The Assistant Attorney General for the Office of Legislative Affairs, in consultation with the Attorney General, Deputy Attorney General, and Associate Attorney General, will determine how best to proceed on particular legislative and oversight matters, including timing, presentation, and selection of Department witnesses to appear before congressional committees. This policy includes requests from Congress for technical and advisory assistance on legislative language or bill text. OLA will also accompany Departmental and component representatives when they represent the Department at hearings, briefings, and meetings with Members of Congress, committees, and staff.
1-8.210 - Responding to Congressional Requests Generally
Except as expressly provided in this section, all congressional member and staff contacts with Department employees, attorneys, offices, boards, divisions, and components, including in-person contacts and contacts by letter, email, telephone, or any other means, must be reported promptly to OLA and the component’s designated congressional liaison, if applicable, before any response.
OLA will manage congressional correspondence, coordinating with the Department’s Executive Secretariat, leadership offices, and components as appropriate. OLA will review prior to transmittal all Departmental written communications to Congress, including letters, responses to Questions for the Record, briefing papers, talking points, slide presentations, and any other materials intended for submission or presentation on Capitol Hill. Likewise, OLA will manage the clearance process through which legislative proposals and views are considered by Department components and the Office of Management and Budget prior to the Department’s views on those matters being communicated to Congress.
In order to ensure that Congress may carry out its legitimate investigatory and oversight functions, the Department will use its best efforts to respond as appropriate to inquiries from Congress consistent with policies, laws, regulations, and professional ethical obligations that may require confidentiality. Because it is important that the Department provide timely responses to congressional inquiries when possible, components should make it a priority to assist OLA in this regard.
In general, other than letters assigned for direct response by the component, letters to Congress and committees should be prepared by the relevant component and sent by the Assistant Attorney General for OLA. Accordingly, when incoming congressional correspondence is circulated to components likely to have responsive information or equities in the subject matter, it is incumbent upon each component’s leadership to ensure the accuracy and completeness of these responses to Congress. Specifically, (1) rigorous efforts must be undertaken to obtain information from Department personnel with the most direct knowledge of the subject matter; (2) component managers are responsible for the accuracy of the information provided to OLA, and therefore should review and clear any congressional response prepared by subordinates; and (3) accuracy always takes priority over any requested deadline.
Department employees should follow these standards in both open and closed cases, and must never provide information on (1) pending investigations; (2) closed investigations that did not become public; (3) grand jury, tax, or other restricted information; or (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, as well as any congressional request that implicates Privacy Act considerations.
1-8.220 - Responding to Congressional Requests for Public Information
Department employees may respond to congressional requests without first contacting OLA when the request is for public information, as defined below, only. Congressional requests for public information must be reported to OLA only if: (1) the congressional request is in letter form (including letters delivered by fax or email); (2) the Member of Congress or staff expresses any opinion about the nature, status, or propriety of any government action or inaction; (3) the Member of Congress or staff suggests any government action or inaction; or (4) the context or nature of the congressional contact creates the appearance that the Member of Congress 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 Member of Congress or staff, or from different Members of Congress or staff concerning the same matter or case, should be promptly reported to OLA. If you are unsure if certain information should be released, or whether it is proper to give certain assistance requested, please contact OLA.
1-8.300 - Government Accountability Office (GAO) Contacts
The Government Accountability Office (GAO) is an oversight arm of Congress and is often tasked by congressional committees to pursue specific oversight inquiries. GAO will typically notify the Department’s Audit Liaison Group (ALG), positioned within the Justice Management Division, of its upcoming work. The ALG then immediately informs OLA and affected Components of these inquiries. Initial GAO contacts and inquiries made directly to a component should immediately be brought to the attention of OLA and the ALG.
1-8.400 - Official Events with Congressional Members and Staff
All Department personnel must obtain approval from component leadership to participate in their official capacity in events with Members of Congress or staff, including conferences, presentations, courtesy visits, tours, photographs, and similar activities. Component leadership must coordinate with OLA before authorizing invitations to or appearances at such events. Please be aware that the Department has a long-standing policy that most personnel may not participate in media events with congressional members or staff.
1-8.410 - Social Contacts with Congressional Members and Staff
Purely social contacts with Members of Congress 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 sections 1-8.210 and 1-8.220 must be followed. In addition, Department employees are reminded that social contacts and relationships with congressional members and staff, as well as attendance at or participation in political functions and fundraising, are subject to the Department’s policies, as well as legal standards, rules, and requirements. For more information, see https://www.justice.gov/jmd/political-activities. Additionally, when attending purely social events, Department employees should use their best judgment to avoid the appearance of improper political influence.
1-8.500 - State and Local Legislative Requests
State and local legislative requests for public information should be handled in the manner described in section 1-8.210 and 1-8.220. Requests from state and local legislative officials for any other type of information, assistance, testimony, or meeting must be cleared by the Department through OLA. Department personnel acting in their official capacities should not advocate for 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, except to the extent that Department personnel are participating in an established inter-governmental body expressly charged with participation in or commenting upon state or local practices that may include legislative proposals.
Whenever Department employees make any public communication on criminal justice or other policy matters that touch on local or state concerns, they 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.
NOTE: The requirements in this section 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.
1-8.600 - Communication with the White House
1-8.610 - Reporting White House Contacts with the Department
1-8.700 - Personnel Decisions Concerning Positions in the Civil Service
All personnel decisions regarding career positions in the Department must be made without regard to the applicant’s or occupant’s partisan affiliation. Thus, while the Department regularly receives communications from the White House and from Senators, Members of Congress, and their staffs concerning political appointments, such communications regarding positions in the career service are not proper when they concern a job applicant’s or a job holder’s partisan affiliation. Efforts to influence personnel decisions concerning career positions on partisan grounds should be reported to the Deputy Attorney General.
1-8.800 - Whistleblower Protections
As provided in JM § 1-7.120, nothing in this Policy is intended to conflict with or limit whistleblower protections, such as those provided in 5 U.S.C. §§ 2302-2303 and applicable regulations. Rather, the provisions of this Policy “are consistent with and do not supersede, conflict with, or otherwise alter the employee obligations, rights, or liabilities created by existing statute or Executive order relating to (1) classified information, (2) communications to Congress, (3) the reporting to an Inspector General of a violation of any law, rule, or regulation, or mismanagement, a gross waste of funds, an abuse of authority, or a substantial and specific danger to public health or safety, or (4) any other whistleblower protection. The definitions, requirements, obligations, rights, sanctions, and liabilities created by controlling Executive orders and statutory provisions are incorporated into this [Policy] and are controlling.” 5 U.S.C. § 2302(b)(13).
1-8.900 - Office of the Inspector General
Consistent with the independence of its operations under the Inspector General Act of 1978, OIG is exempt from the requirements of this Chapter regarding congressional contacts, requests, and approvals, legislative requests or proposals, and GAO contacts. OIG should, however, timely inform the Attorney General, or the Deputy Attorney General upon delegation, about any significant congressional issues in matters handled by OIG.
[added December 2019]