Trump's Justice Department reportedly edited its official manual to scrap a section on press freedom and add a section on leaks

  • The Department of Justice removed details of policies dealing with press freedom, racial gerrymandering, and prosecutorial authority in its manual as part of a recent review, Buzzfeed News reported.
  • This is the department's first major review of the manual since 1997.
  • Some affected sections are issues Attorney General Jeff Sessions and President Donald Trump have stressed in the past.

The Department of Justice overhauled its policy manual, and edited sections detailing press freedom and leaking confidential information, Buzzfeed News reported on Sunday.

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein ordered the first major review of the US Attorneys' Manual since 1997 "to identify redundant sections and language, areas that required greater clarity, and any content that needed to be added to help Department attorneys perform core prosecutorial functions," department spokesman Ian Prior said in a statement to Buzzfeed.

The manual contains policies and procedures to inform Justice Department work across every possible legal area, but is not an "exhaustive list" of rights, laws or principles, Prior said. Attorneys and prosecutors across the country use the manual as a guidebook for proper protocol and behavior.

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Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein speaks with U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions at a summit about combating human trafficking at the Department of Justice in Washington, U.S., February 2, 2018. REUTERS/Aaron P. Bernstein
United States Attorney General Jeff Sessions (L), Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and Associate Attorney General Rachel Brand, look on at a summit about combating human trafficking at the Department of Justice in Washington, U.S., February 2, 2018. REUTERS/Aaron P. Bernstein
U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions (L) and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein attend a summit on crime reduction and public safety in Bethesda, Maryland, U.S., June 20, 2017. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas
U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions (L) and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein attend a summit on crime reduction and public safety in Bethesda, Maryland, U.S., June 20, 2017. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas
WASHINGTON, DC - FEBRUARY 02: Attorney General Jeff Sessions (L), and Deputy U.S. Attorney General, Rod Rosenstein participate summit to discuss efforts to combat human trafficking, at the Justice Department, on February 2, 2018 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - FEBRUARY 02: U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions (L), and Deputy U.S. Attorney General, Rod Rosenstein participate in a summit to discuss efforts to combat human trafficking, at the Justice Department, on February 2, 2018 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - AUGUST 4: Attorney General Jeff Sessions, left, holds a press conference announcing on-going leak investigations, on August, 04, 2017 in Washington, DC. At right is Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. (Photo by Bill O'Leary/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
US Attorney General Jeff Sessions (L) and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein arrive to address the National Summit on Crime Reduction and Public Safety in Bethesda, Maryland on June 20, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / JIM WATSON (Photo credit should read JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images)
BETHESDA, MD - JUNE 20: U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions (L) and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein applaud during the National Summit on Crime Reduction and Public Safety at the Hyatt Regency hotel June 20, 2017 in Bethesda, Maryland. Attorney General Jeff Sessions has recused himself from the Justice Department's investigation into Russian involvement in the 2016 presidential election, when he served as an advisor to the campaign of President Donlad Trump. Rosenstein took over the Justice Department's investigation into Russian involvement in the 2016 presidential election after Sessions recused himself. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
BETHESDA, MD - JUNE 20: U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions (L) and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein sit next to each other on stage during the National Summit on Crime Reduction and Public Safety at the Hyatt Regency hotel June 20, 2017 in Bethesda, Maryland. Attorney General Jeff Sessions has recused himself from the Justice Department's investigation into Russian involvement in the 2016 presidential election, when he served as an advisor to the campaign of President Donlad Trump. Rosenstein took over the Justice Department's investigation into Russian involvement in the 2016 presidential election after Sessions recused himself. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
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Sections cut include "Need for Free Press and Public Trial" as well as references to the department's past efforts to combat racial gerrymandering, and cautions over prosecutorial power were edited down, according to Buzzfeed's examination of the old manual.

New sections in the manual include "Respect for Religious Liberty" and "Principles of Religious Liberty" that inform prosecutors to alert senior officials if a case involving religious liberty arises, and to follow an official memo Attorney General Jeff Sessions outlined in October, which President Donald Trump has also emphasized.

The changes in the department's dealing with press also include an outline of protections for whistleblowers who report concerns directly to the department instead of going to the press first, according to Buzzfeed.

Trump has been publicly frustrated with government leaks since he took office, most recently with former FBI Director James Comey after he publicly released detailed memos of interactions with Trump.

While the Justice Department had existing procedures to protect confidential information and deal with the press, the edits to the manual put them in official writing in the handbook all officials are supposed to follow.

Prior told Buzzfeed the manual's review was to get rid of redundant or outdated language, references, and policies to ensure it would be a useful resource for officials.

Read the full report from Buzzfeed »

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