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The Justice Department's dilemma over prosecuting politicians before an election

Henry L. Chambers Jr., Professor of Law, University of Richmond, The Conversation on

Published in News & Features

At issue is the importance of an investigation and the danger of pausing it.

If the public trusts the DOJ to make the decisions about the investigation without political bias, then following the 60-day rule may not be necessary. If the public does not trust the DOJ, then following the rule may be imperative.

The investigation regarding the national security implications of classified documents found at Mar-a-Lago is an important test.

Though Trump often claims federal probes into his behavior are no more than political witch hunts, there is no indication the Justice Department is continuing the investigation with the purpose of hurting or helping specific candidates or a specific party.

Quite naturally, any lengthy investigation may bump up against a midterm or presidential election cycle. But if halting the investigation could damage national security, then continuing it through the election season may be necessary even if the investigation affects a number of elections.

The rule is designed to protect the Justice Department’s reputation of neutrality by keeping partisan politics away from its investigations.

Arguably, the way to do that is to ignore the election calendar and run an investigation as if the election calendar did not exist.


Once an investigation’s course has been altered by the election calendar, it has arguably been infused with politics, and in some of those cases, justice delayed may be justice denied.

With strict adherence to the rule, a candidate may be elected because voters did not have all the information about the candidate’s behavior and character – an omission that challenges the democratic ideal of an informed citizenry.

This article is republished from The Conversation, an independent nonprofit news site dedicated to sharing ideas from academic experts. It was written by: Henry L. Chambers Jr., University of Richmond. Like this article? subscribe to our weekly newsletter.

Read more:
Trump faces possible obstruction of justice charges for concealing classified government documents – 2 important things to know about what this means

FBI’s Mar-a-Lago search warrant affidavit reveals how Trump may have compromised national security – a legal expert answers 5 key questions

Henry L. Chambers Jr. does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.


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