A recent analysis by Politico suggests that the rules governing impeachment inquiries established during former President Donald Trump’s administration could potentially work in favor of President Joe Biden. This analysis comes in the wake of Tuesday’s announcement that President Biden will face a formal investigation.
House Speaker Kevin McCarthy made this announcement without the requirement of a House vote, which deviates from a prior directive issued by the Trump Department of Justice (DOJ). The Trump-era ruling, dating back to January 2020, stipulated that a formal vote must precede the commencement of an inquiry.
This rule was established when then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi expressed her intent to investigate Donald Trump for allegations of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.
“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.
According to Politico reporters Kyle Cheney and Josh Gerstein, Trump underwent official impeachment proceedings for the first time in December 2019 but was ultimately acquitted. He faced a second impeachment following the events of the 2021 Capitol riots, resulting in another acquittal, this time by the Republican-led Senate.
As of now, neither the White House nor the current Department of Justice (DOJ) has issued any comments or statements regarding the rule governing impeachment inquiries.