Attorney General William P. Barr issued new restrictions on Wednesday over the opening of politically sensitive investigations, an effort meant to avoid upending the presidential election as the F.B.I. inadvertently did in 2016 when its campaign inquiries shaped the outcome of the race.
The order by Mr. Barr, announced in a memo reviewed by The New York Times, comes after a scathing report by the inspector general that showed how F.B.I. agents did not follow protocols and falsified information in their bid to investigate Carter Page, a former Trump campaign associate.
The memo, which said the Justice Department had a duty to ensure that elections are “free from improper activity or influences,” was issued on the same day that President Trump was acquitted on charges that he had abused his office to push a foreign power to publicly announce investigations into his political rivals. The memo said that the F.B.I. and all other divisions under the department’s purview must get Mr. Barr’s approval before investigating any of the 2020 presidential candidates.
Marcy Wheeler makes the case that this extends to campaign finance investigations.