February 7, 2018

Senator Grassley Warns Attorney General Sessions against Stifling Whistleblowers

By the C|C Whistleblower Lawyer Team

Yesterday, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman and whistleblower advocate Charles Grassley released a letter he sent to Attorney General Jeff Sessions expressing concerns that a January memo issued by the Department of Justice to its employees violates laws designed to protect government whistleblowers. Not mincing his words, Sen. Grassley wrote that “the memorandum does not appear to comply with existing law and [we] request that you revise it accordingly.”

The Justice Department issued the memo on January 29 and addressed it to the various U.S. attorneys’ offices and heads of the Justice Department’s other divisions, including criminal and civil. The memo instructs that staffers “should not communicate with Senators, Representatives, congressional committees or congressional staff without advance coordination and consultation” with the Department’s Office of Legislative Affairs.

Senator Grassley’s letter noted that the memo “fail[ed] to address the right of employees to make protected disclosures directly to Congress,” explaining that “[t]he law is clear that any non-disclosure agreement or policy, including any policy that purports to restrict the communications of federal employees, must contain a clear exception for lawful whistleblowing.” The letter further explained that “denying or interfering with the right of employees to furnish information to Congress is also against the law.”

This is not the first time that Senator Grassley has challenged the Sessions-led Justice Department. Last June, he sent a letter to President Trump criticizing a Justice Department legal opinion which asserted that only congressional committee chairs were “constitutionally authorized” to obtain information from executive branch agencies. Senator Grassley called the legal opinion “nonsense” that evinced a “shocking lack of professionalism and objectivity.”

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