Attorney General Merrick Garland on Tuesday banned political appointees at the Department of Justice (DOJ) from participating in campaign events in any form, changing a longstanding agency policy.

“We must do all we can to maintain public trust and ensure that politics — both in fact and appearance — does not compromise or affect the integrity of our work,” Garland wrote in a memo to DOJ employees.

Previous policy allowed political appointees to sometimes attend partisan events in their personal capacities if they participated passively and obtained approval, but Garland on Tuesday barred those individuals from participating in partisan political events in any capacity, even if the event is private. 

The DOJ has previously limited attendance at partisan events during presidential election years but allowed exceptions for political appointees whose close family members were running for office and those attending events on the evening of Election Day.

Garland wrote in the memo that his new policy eliminates both of those exceptions.

“I know you agree it is critical that we hold ourselves to the highest ethical standards to avoid even the appearance of political influence as we carry out the Department’s mission,” he wrote. “It is in that spirit that I have added these new restrictions on political activities by non-career employees.”

The decision comes as the department faces intense scrutiny from Republicans after Garland signed off on a request to a judge asking for the approval of a search warrant for former President Trump’s Florida home.

FBI agents executed the court-approved search warrant at Mar-a-Lago earlier this month. Agents seized 11 sets of classified documents in connection with its investigation into whether Trump violated the Espionage Act and two other federal statutes, although the potential violations do not depend on whether the information was classified.

Trump and many Republicans have accused the FBI and DOJ of pursuing the investigation for political reasons. The DOJ is also conducting a criminal probe of efforts to overturn the 2020 presidential election.

Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) introduced articles of impeachment against Garland, while House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) has promised to investigate the DOJ if Republicans take back the House in November, telling the attorney general to “clear your calendar.”

Garland has forcefully pushed back on those criticisms as threats to federal agents increased in the wake of the Mar-a-Lago search.

“I will not stand by silently when their integrity is unfairly attacked,” Garland said in the days following the search, adding that the FBI and DOJ had been subject to “unfounded attacks” on their professionalism.

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