Justice Department investigators, including the FBI, will need Attorney General Bill Barr’s written permission to launch an investigation into a 2020 presidential campaign from now on.
On Wednesday, Barr established new guidelines on criminal and counterintelligence probes in a memo obtained by the New York Times.
The rules aim to prevent such investigations from tainting the outcome of this year’s election, according to the attorney general.
“In certain cases, the existence of a federal criminal or counterintelligence investigation, if it becomes known to the public, may have unintended effects on our elections,” he argued in the memo.
Therefore, he wrote, the DOJ “must be sensitive to safeguarding the department’s reputation for fairness, neutrality and nonpartisanship.”
The guidelines also require that the FBI inform department heads of any plans to open other “politically sensitive” investigations, such as probes into congressional campaigns or illegal campaign contributions from “foreign nationals.”
Barr had hinted at adding new requirements to campaign investigations last month in wake of a DOJ watchdog report that found errors in the FBI’s surveillance warrant application process.