Washington — As the nation’s top prosecutor, Attorney General Merrick Garland should take swift action to restore the integrity and independence of the Department of Justice, an agency that was deeply polarized under the former administration, according to a letter sent today by the good government groups Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, Democracy 21, The Digital Democracy Project, Equal Justice Society, Free Speech For People, Government Accountability Project, Open The Government, Project On Government Oversight, Protect Democracy, Public Citizen, and Stand Up America.

There are key actions Attorney General Garland must take to avoid further politicizing the DOJ and abusing its executive powers. Specifically, Garland should:

  • Review the policies, rules and statutes that secure the DOJ’s independence; 
  • Renew the DOJ’s commitment to transparency;
  • Review former Attorney General Bill Barr’s decisions to ensure that political considerations did not improperly impact investigative and prosecutorial decisions; 
  • Review uncharged presidential misconduct and consider whether charges should be pursued; and 
  • Coordinate with congressional or independent investigations into the January 6, 2021 insurrection.

“The former president attacked DOJ investigations with public broadsides, attempted to curtail the scope of investigations through private channels and threats, successfully pressured DOJ to be lenient in prosecutions of associates, and appointed an Attorney General who successfully prevented DOJ from explaining to the American people the extent of the former president’s wrongdoing,” reads the letter. “Truth and accountability need not be competing objectives. DOJ’s efforts to pursue civil and criminal sanctions against individuals and entities must coexist with efforts to disclose the truth about abuses of power and other unlawful conduct that occurred during the last four years.”

When a president injects personal or political imperatives into the DOJ’s neutral enforcement of the law or when the DOJ is drawn into a president’s personal legal issues, the DOJ risks becoming more the president’s personal law firm than the country’s premier justice agency. Each of these tasks is crucial to restoring the DOJ as the American people’s legal representatives.

“Attorney General Barr caused a tremendous amount of damage to the independence of the Department of Justice, and undermined the American people’s faith in our justice system,” said CREW President Noah Bookbinder. “We are encouraged by Attorney General Garland’s public commitment to rebuilding the integrity of the Department, and to ensuring equal justice under the law. We look forward to helping to ensure that he puts these promises into action.”