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Photo: Erik McGregor/Pacific Press, LightRocket via Getty Images

The Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) advised President Trump that it was within his authority to nominate an official such as former DOJ chief of staff Matthew Whitaker as acting attorney general following Jeff Session's resignation, a senior DOJ official told reporters on Wednesday.

Between the lines: In its written opinion, the OLC argued that the Vacancies Reform Act (VRA) and AG Succession Act present two possible legal avenues for choosing a temporary AG successor, and that neither supersedes the other. The VRA allows the president to choose a high-level agency official who has served for 90 days, regardless of whether they have received Senate confirmation.

  • The OLC also argued that a person serving in a temporary or acting position is not considered a principal officer. Therefore, the office said Whitaker's appointment does not violate the appointments clause of the Constitution, which requires all principal officers be confirmed by the Senate.

The bottom line: Each of these points have been questioned by various legal experts and former DOJ officials. While there have been court rulings on similar situations, which are highlighted in the OLC's written opinion, legal experts have told Axios that there have not been any rulings that specifically address this legal issue. The legality of Whitaker's appointment could still ultimately be decided in court.

The backdrop: The OLC provides legal advice to the president as well as all executive branch agencies, although their opinions have been overturned in some cases — most notably, the "torture memos."

Go deeper: Read the full OLC opinion.

Go deeper

Updated 7 hours ago - World

Mexican President López Obrador tests positive for coronavirus

Mexico's President Andrés Manuel López Obrador during a press conference at National Palace in Mexico City, Mexico, on Wednesday. Photo: Ismael Rosas/Eyepix Group/Barcroft Media via Getty Images

Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador announced Sunday evening that he's tested positive for COVID-19.

Driving the news: López Obrador tweeted that he has mild symptoms and is receiving medical treatment. "As always, I am optimistic," he added. "We will all move forward."

7 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Sarah Huckabee Sanders to run for governor of Arkansas

Sarah Huckabee Sanders at FOX News' studios in New York City in 2019. Photo: Steven Ferdman/Getty Images

Former White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders will announce Monday that she's running for governor of Arkansas.

The big picture: Sanders was touted as a contender after it was announced she was leaving the Trump administration in June 2019. Then-President Trump tweeted he hoped she would run for governor, adding "she would be fantastic." Sanders is "seen as leader in the polls" in the Republican state, notes the Washington Post's Josh Dawsey, who first reported the news.

Coronavirus has inflamed global inequality

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

History will likely remember the pandemic as the "first time since records began that inequality rose in virtually every country on earth at the same time." That's the verdict from Oxfam's inequality report covering the year 2020 — a terrible year that hit the poorest, hardest across the planet.

Why it matters: The world's poorest were already in a race against time, facing down an existential risk in the form of global climate change. The coronavirus pandemic could set global poverty reduction back as much as a full decade, according to the World Bank.