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Lawyer Michael Avenatti arrested on a domestic violence charge. Also on the Thursday rundown: More testimony on Ohio's "anti-protest" bill; and we'll take you to the Dakotas to celebrate American Education Week.

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Attorneys Ask White House for Protocol on Law Enforcement Independence

A watchdog group wants the Trump administration to avoid political interference in law enforcement issues. (Michael Vadon/flickr.com)
A watchdog group wants the Trump administration to avoid political interference in law enforcement issues. (Michael Vadon/flickr.com)
March 16, 2017

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – As it stands, there is no protocol from the White House on how it will keep from interfering in law enforcement matters – and a group of attorneys is calling on it to do so.

Less than two months into the new administration, Ian Bassin, executive director of the legal watchdog group United to Protect Democracy, says there have been three reported instances of the White House appearing interfere with federal law enforcement.

He says the Trump administration needs to make public its plans to avoid even the appearance of inappropriate political interference.

"These rules are incredibly important to protecting the health of our democracy,” he stresses. “They are hallmarks of the difference between healthy democracies around the world and more authoritarian forms of government."

The group is made up of former Obama administration U.S. attorneys who helped craft rules of conduct, and Bassin says since Watergate both parties have abided by guidelines when it comes to contacts with federal enforcement agencies such as the Department of Justice and the FBI.

Bassin says there's no law preventing someone from the White House from speaking to the FBI, for example, about a current investigation that's under way. But he adds that's something normally left up to the White House Counsel's Office.

He says there have been extensive studies about democratic decline around the world.

"It's not always unlawful activity by an executive that really undermines the democracy,” he points out. “It's the slow unraveling of oftentimes legal activities, and it's incredibly important that we pay attention."

Bassin says the U.S. should be setting an example of what a healthy democracy should look like, and says it's hard for this country to do that if we aren't abiding by our own guidelines.

Bassin maintains it lowers the standards and hurts the democratic movement around the world. He says the American people need to know that the Trump administration will abide by rules protecting the independence of federal law enforcement.

Stephanie Carson, Public News Service - TN