By Naveen Athrappully
Senator Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) has sent a letter to Attorney General Merrick Garland asking that the Department of Justice (DOJ) keep its hands off whistleblowers.
Grassley’s letter came in the context of a memo issued by Garland on Aug. 30 to DOJ employees. The memo instructed employees that all direct communications with Congress are prohibited. In order to communicate with Congress, employees must go through the DOJ’s Office of Legislative Affairs. In the letter (pdf), dated Sept. 1, Grassley called whistleblowers “the most patriotic people” who play an important role in making sure that improper conduct within DOJ and its components like the FBI are exposed.
Grassley criticized the DOJ and the FBI for failing to be responsive to congressional oversight requests under Garland’s leadership. “It is often only because of whistleblowers that Congress and the American people are apprised of the type of wrongdoing that your memo seeks to protect against,” the senator wrote in the letter.
“Even with your whistleblower caveats, and due to the timing of your memo, I remain concerned about the chilling effect it may have on whistleblowers who wish to approach Congress with information relating to fraud, waste, abuse, and gross mismanagement.”
Grassley went on to claim that the FBI and DOJ have a “reputation for retaliating” against whistleblowers who provide information to Congress.
All employees of the government have the right to furnish information to Congress according to U.S. law, Grassley reminded Garland. The memo “failed to note that,” he said.
Any attempt by a DOJ official to prevent an employee from furnishing information to Congress is also a “direct violation” of the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2022, Grassley noted.
In the letter, Grassley mentions that it is because of whistleblowers that he has been made aware of certain wrongdoings in government departments. He cited the example of former FBI official Timothy Thibault.
Grassley, a ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, was informed by whistleblowers within the FBI about political bias among the bureau’s higher ranks.
Thibault was flagged by Grassley for allegedly engaging in biased investigations against former President Donald Trump as well as slow-walking investigations into President Joe Biden’s son Hunter Biden.
The DOJ has also been facing criticism for authorizing the FBI’s raid on Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate this month. The department later released a heavily redacted search warrant affidavit.
Meanwhile, Senator Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) has criticized Garland’s memo in an Aug. 31 tweet, insisting that DOJ and FBI employees are protected by federal law.
“DOJ employees, take notice: No matter what this memo says, you are protected by federal law if you contact my office to blow the whistle on the improper politicization of the Department of Justice by Merrick Garland and Joe Biden,” the tweet said.