Barr Issues Rule Requiring His Approval For Politically Sensitive Investigations
Attorney General William Barr issued new rules surrounding investigations into politically sensitive individuals or entities, including the requirement that he personally sign off on any inquiry into a presidential candidate, NPR reported on Thursday.
In a memo first reported by The New York Times, Barr said the Justice Department "has a strong interest in the prosecution of election-related crimes, including those involving corruption of the election process."
But he qualified that statement by adding that "we must investigate and prosecute those matters with sensitivity and care to ensure that the department's actions do not unnecessarily advantage or disadvantage any candidate or political party."
The attorney general’s memo comes after the Justice Department inspector general criticized the FBI’s handling of its Russia investigation, particularly in relation to the surveillance of former Trump campaign aide Carter Page.
Barr’s memo said that any investigation — even preliminary ones — into into a “presidential or vice presidential candidate, their campaigns or staff” may not commence without the explicit written approval of the attorney general.
It also states that any investigations into congressional candidates or their campaigns “cannot be opened without first notifying the assistant attorney general and the respective U.S. attorney in the district involved,” NPR noted.
"While the department must respond swiftly and decisively when faced with credible threats to our democratic processes, we also must be sensitive to safeguarding the Department's reputation for fairness, neutrality, and nonpartisanship," the memo concludes.