Justice Department briefing at White House fuels ethics worries


Thomas D. Homan, acting Director for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, speaks during a press briefing at the White House on July 27. | Alex Brandon/AP

Ex-officials question discussion of specific prosecutions in anti-gang drive.

A briefing a top Justice Department official and top Homeland Security official delivered at the White House Thursday on anti-gang efforts is drawing renewed warnings of blurred ethical lines between the White House and law enforcement.

Principal Associate Deputy Attorney General Rob Hur and Immigration and Customs Enforcement acting director Thomas Homan spoke from the press briefing room podium in a previously-unannounced addition to the not-so-regular White House briefing.

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Hur and Homan were flanked by some compelling visuals: TV monitors showing images of tattoos belonging to MS-13 gang members, including enough of the face of one alleged gang participant to identify him.

The scene troubled several former Justice Department officials, including Hur’s predecessor in the Obama administration, Matthew Axelrod. He said the move was particularly unwise at a time when Justice’s independence seems to be under challenge by President Donald Trump’s extraordinary and sustained public criticism of Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

“Voices from all corners have spoken out this week on why DOJ’s independence is critical to maintaining the rule of law. Having a DOJ official brief from the White House podium was an unfortunate decision that sends a distressingly mixed message,” said Axelrod, now a partner at the Linklaters law firm.

During the briefing Thursday, Hur and Homan both discussed specific ongoing criminal…

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