U.S. Justice Dept issues new policy on communications with White House

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By Jan Wolfe and Sarah N. Lynch

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland on Wednesday handed down new policies governing the Justice Department's interactions with the White House aimed at minimizing political interference in law enforcement, the Justice Department said.

Garland said in a statement that the new policies further "longstanding Departmental norms of independence from inappropriate influences" and "the principled exercise of discretion.”

The new rules, which follow criticism of Justice Department actions under Republican former President Donald Trump, generally prohibit prosecutors from discussing pending or contemplated law enforcement investigations with White House officials, although there are exceptions for matters of national security, according to a memo released by the Justice Department.

"These policies reaffirm President Biden’s commitment to restoring faith in institutions of government and the independent role of the Department of Justice in law enforcement matters," the White House said in a statement.

The Justice Department under former Attorneys General William Barr and Jeff Sessions was regularly accused by Democrats of putting Trump's personal and political interests ahead of the law.

Barr, in particular, faced criticism over his decisions to intervene in cases against Trump associates, including longtime political adviser Roger Stone and former national security adviser Michael Flynn. Some prosecutors quit in response to Barr's interventions.

Barr has defended his interventions in the cases, saying in speeches that he overruled career prosecutors in order to ensure just outcomes and fair sentences.

(Reporting by Jan Wolfe and Sarah N. Lynch; Editing by Leslie Adler and Peter Cooney)