Biden doesn’t want to launch divisive probes into Trump, aides say — but he won’t be pardoning him either
President-elect walks a fine line between moving forward and ensuring no one is above the rule of law
President-elect Joe Biden does not intend to politicize or intervene in Department of Justice affairs when he assumes the White House, according to a new report, and was not keen to investigate President Donald Trump or his inner circle.
The president-elect would instead be focused on key issues like the coronavirus pandemic and economic recovery efforts, his advisers told NBC News, noting how he “just wants to move on” from the Trump era.
“He’s going to be more oriented toward fixing the problems and moving forward than prosecuting them,” one aide told the news outlet.
However, Mr Biden would still consider authorizing warranted probes into certain actions by his predecessor or the former administration: another adviser said “it’s going to be very situational” when it comes to opening investigations into the Trump administration.
With nine weeks left until Mr Trump is forced out of office regardless of whether he concedes, the incoming Biden administration wanted to “make sure that people don't think there are no ramifications for any of their actions between now and the new presidency,” one source told the news outlet.
Mr Biden has said he does not plan to be involved with his justice department — a traditional relationship shared between the department and the White House that Mr Trump upended with his frequent calls for investigations into his political enemies.
“I will not interfere with the Justice Department's judgment of whether or not they think they should pursue a prosecution” of the former president, Mr Biden told NPR.
He has also suggested that seeking investigations into Mr Trump could prove further divisive, saying it would be a “very, very unusual thing and probably not very, how can I say it? Good for democracy — to be talking about prosecuting former presidents.”
Past presidents have typically imposed a tradition of moving beyond their predecessor’s wrongdoings, with former President Gerald Ford pardoning former President Richard Nixon.
Former President Barack Obama told ABC News in 2009 he wasn’t seeking to probe the wrongdoings of former President George W Bush’s administration, saying: “I don’t believe that anybody is above the law. On the other hand, I also have a belief that we need to look forward, as opposed to looking backwards.”
Mr Biden has pledged not to pardon Mr Trump, however, describing he and Attorney General William Barr’s actions in office as a “dereliction of duty” in a May interview.
The president currently faces a slew of legal battles, tax scrutiny and ongoing investigations involving his family and his companies, with attorneys in New York conducting a fraud investigation into Mr Trump and his business.