Presumptive president-elect Joe Biden privately told advisers he doesn’t want his presidency to focus on investigations into President Trump, despite Democrat pressure to pursue inquiries into his predecessor, his policies, and his administration, according to five people familiar with the conversations.
NBC News reported that the sources said Biden is concerned that investigations would lead to more division and would risk having his presidency consumed by Trump. Biden told advisers he “just wants to move on,” specifically noting he is hesitant to pursue federal tax investigations of Trump or any orders the president could issue giving immunity to staff members before he leaves office.
“He’s going to be more oriented toward fixing the problems and moving forward than prosecuting them,” one adviser reportedly said.
Despite Biden’s apparent apprehension, any decisions made by a new administration regarding Trump, his staff, his associates, his business or his policies wouldn’t impact state officials’ investigations.
Additionally, Biden is reportedly seeking to change the dynamic between the Justice Department and the White House, with each working independently from the other. Aides reportedly said Biden won’t tell federal law enforcement officials who or what they should investigate or not.
“His overarching view is that we need to move the country forward,” an adviser said. “But the most important thing on this is that he will not interfere with his Justice Department and not politicize his Justice Department.”
Biden’s administration will prioritize the economy, the coronavirus pandemic, climate change, and race relations rather than focusing on the previous administration, one advisor said.
“He can set a tone about what he thinks should be done,” a Biden adviser said. “He’s not going to be a president who directs the Justice Department one way or the other.”
It is unlikely that Biden’s team will send any signals of the Justice Department’s intent, or not, to investigate the Trump administration, particularly because of the roughly 70 days before Biden could take office, another person close to the discussions said.
“While they’re not looking for broad criminal indictments, they do want to make sure that people don’t think there are no ramifications for any of their actions between now and the new presidency,” this person said.
The issue between Biden and Democrat Party leaders mirrors a similar problem former-President Obama faced in 2009. Democrats demanded Bush administration officials be prosecuted for their involvement in policies allowing enhanced interrogations of terrorism suspects.
Obama calmed Democrats by releasing memos about the program before publicly rejecting prosecuting Bush administration officials for it.