Trump-Era DOJ Rule on Impeachment Inquiries Might End Up Helping Joe Biden, Says Report

Donald Trump and William Barr

AP Photo/Evan Vucci

Rules on impeachment inquiries set during the Trump administration may benefit Joe Biden following Tuesday’s announcement that the president will be formally investigated, according to a new analysis by Politico.

House Speaker Kevin McCarthy made the announcement without taking a House vote, which goes against a declaration by the Trump DOJ that a formal vote must be taken before an inquiry can begin.

The ruling came in Jan. 2020, as then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced her intention to investigate Donald Trump for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. According to Politico reporters Kyle Cheney and Josh Gerstein:

In January 2020, the Donald Trump-led Justice Department formally declared that impeachment inquiries by the House are invalid unless the chamber takes formal votes to authorize them.

That opinion — issued by the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel — came in response to then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s decision to launch an impeachment inquiry into Trump without initially holding a vote for it. Not only is it still on the books, it is binding on the current administration as it responds to Tuesday’s announcement by Speaker Kevin McCarthy to authorize an impeachment inquiry into Biden, again without a vote.

The Justice Department, FBI, and IRS are all bound by the OLC opinion and prevented from officially launching an inquiry without a vote. The report continued:

Biden, as the president, would have more flexibility about whether to heed the OLC opinion. But he could simply choose to follow Trump’s precedent. He also may have grounds to assert executive privilege that could similarly tie up GOP investigators — claims Trump also lodged to jam his own inquiry.

Trump was officially impeached for the first time in Dec. 2019 but was ultimately acquitted. He was impeached again after the 2021 Capitol riots, but acquitted once again by the Republican-led Senate.

Politico said neither the White House nor the current DOJ has commented on the impeachment inquiry rule.

Also on Tuesday, CNN reported that Trump himself spoke with congressional Republican leadership about their strategy for the impeachment inquiry into President Biden.

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