AFL FOIAs To Protect The Independence And Integrity Of The Department of Justice’s Office of Legal Counsel

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, America First Legal (AFL) filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request seeking records regarding an apparent assault by senior Biden White House officials on the independence and integrity of the Department of Justice’s Office of Legal Counsel.

Historically, the Office of Legal Counsel provides candid, independent, and principled legal analysis and advice based on the law, not based on the aims of politicians or policymakers. Even the Obama Administration acknowledged OLC’s independence. But now, deeply troubling facts have emerged suggesting that key White House officials have plowed through the institutional guardrails protecting OLC’s integrity.

On March 27, 2020 – two weeks after President Trump declared a national emergency for the COVID-19 pandemic – Congress passed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act). A section of the CARES Act temporarily expanded the authority of the Director of the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) to place federal prisoners in home confinement. On January 15, 2021, OLC issued a legal opinion stating that the emergency home confinement authorized by the CARES Act applied only to the pandemic emergency period. In other words, after the risk of COVID infection that prompted the limited home release was over, the convicts would have to return to prison to finish their sentences. 

Initially, Biden administration lawyers affirmed the January 15 opinion was correct. However, to provide effective clemency for thousands of convicted felons, leftist operatives began a political pressure campaign against OLC. After failing for months to force OLC to reverse itself, on November 30, 2021, staff from an organization called Democracy Forward, a left-wing dark money group whose founders and board members include White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain, Marc Elias, and John Podesta, met with Domestic Policy Advisor Susan Rice. After this meeting, Attorney General Garland directed OLC to “re-examine” its opinion. And, on December 21, 2021, OLC produced what the White House demanded. 

Statement From America First Legal Vice-President and General Counsel Gene Hamilton:

OLC’s job is to give independent and straight-forward legal advice. In January of 2021, OLC staff answered a straight-forward legal question. But to benefit convicted criminals the radical left demanded a different answer, and so the Biden White House strong-armed AG Garland into providing precisely what they wanted. OLC plays an important role in protecting the rule of law, and AFL will keep fighting to protect its independence and integrity,” Gene Hamilton said.

Read the FOIA here.

To schedule an engagement with America First Legal, please email [email protected].

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