Comedian Michelle Wolf performs at the White House Correspondents' Association dinner in Washington, 28 April 2018. Photo: NurPhoto

By Luke Darby
30 April 2018

(GQ) – Donald Trump's path to the White House has given at least one key lesson to rank-and-file Republicans: They no longer have to pay lip service to mainstream, commonly held values that they actually abhor. Trump's cabinet in particular has leaned in to this particularly hard. Late last year, for example, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos got rid of more than 70 documents outlining rights for students with disabilities. In February 2018, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services unveiled a new mission statement that's largely the same as the previous one, except for the removal of a phrase calling America "a nation of immigrants." Ben Carson's Department of Housing and Urban Development also updated its mission statement, deleting any anti-discrimination language and the agency's promise to create "strong, sustainable, inclusive communities and quality affordable homes for all."

And now the Justice Department has overhauled its manual for federal investigators. This is the document that provides direction and priorities for federal prosecutors and DOJ lawyers across the country, and Jeff Sessions has overseen the first major changes to it in decades. According to BuzzFeed, the updated version lost all references to the department's work against racial gerrymandering, cut down entire sections about the limits of prosecutorial power, and added sections like one about fighting leaks.

But while some of the changes were publicly announced, like the new section on "respect for religious liberty," which is often a code word on the right for legalized anti-LGBT discrimination, the DOJ was very quiet about other changes. Like, for example, the deletion of an entire section titled "Need for Free Press and Public Trial." [more]

While Journalists Were Mad at Michelle Wolf, the Justice Department Was Found Quietly Deleting References to Press Freedom


By Zoe Tillman
29 April 2018

Washington, DC (BuzzFeed) – Since the fall, the US Department of Justice has been overhauling its manual for federal prosecutors.

In: Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ tough-on-crime policies. Out: A section titled “Need for Free Press and Public Trial.” References to the department’s work on racial gerrymandering are gone. Language about limits on prosecutorial power has been edited down.

The changes include new sections that underscore Sessions’ focus on religious liberty and the Trump administration’s efforts to crack down on government leaks — there is new language admonishing prosecutors not to share classified information and directing them to report contacts with the media. […]

BuzzFeed News compared the latest version of the manual with earlier versions saved via the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine.

The media contacts policy was updated in the manual in November 2017. A subsection titled “Need for Free Press and Public Trial” was removed entirely. That section, which was included in versions of the manual at least as far back as 1988, according to DOJ archives, read as follows:

“Likewise, careful weight must be given in each case to the constitutional requirements of a free press and public trials as well as the right of the people in a constitutional democracy to have access to information about the conduct of law enforcement officers, prosecutors and courts, consistent with the individual rights of the accused. Further, recognition should be given to the needs of public safety, the apprehension of fugitives, and the rights of the public to be informed on matters that can affect enactment or enforcement of public laws or the development or change of public policy.”

The updated media contacts policy includes language about balancing “the right of the public to have access to information about the Department of Justice” with other factors in deciding whether to release information. Language in a different section about the department’s preference for open court proceedings hasn’t been changed since 2008.

The part of the manual addressing the Justice Department’s civil rights work was revised in March 2018. In a section discussing enforcement of the Voting Rights Act, the new version removes previous references to redistricting and racial gerrymandering. [more]

The Justice Department Deleted Language About Press Freedom And Racial Gerrymandering From Its Internal Manual

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