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OPEC headquarters in Vienna, Austria. Photo: Beata Zawrzel/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Trump administration officials are divided over legislation that would allow the federal government to sue OPEC nations for attempting to control oil prices, Axios has learned.

Driving the news: The bipartisan measure, which has been introduced many times over the last 20 years, finally has a shot at becoming law — which experts say would upend global oil markets. President Trump has long been critical of the oil-producing group, and years earlier he backed the bill in question, but division is rampant elsewhere across the government, according to several people familiar with the dynamic.

"Like many things in this administration, the bureaucracy is trying to slow roll things as much as possible to keep it away from the political decision makers," said David Goldwyn, a former top energy official in President Obama's State Department.

  • Goldwyn, now president of his own consulting firm, says the policy has the makings of everything Trump likes, including expanded executive branch power and a chance to show off America's energy dominance. "If he gets it, he'll sign it. If someone asks him, he'll say yes," Goldwyn said.

Details: The legislation at issue is called the No Oil Producing and Exporting Cartels Act (thus the apt acronym NOPEC). It would give the U.S. attorney general the ability to bring lawsuits against OPEC for perceived anti-competitive conduct with petroleum commodities. Previous attempts to sue OPEC have lost in court.

For the record: A senior administration official told Axios: "The administration does not have a position on NOPEC legislation at this time." Requests for comments to the Justice Department and OPEC weren’t returned.

Go deeper

Off the Rails

Episode 4: Trump turns on Barr

Photo illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios. Photos: Drew Angerer, Pool/Getty Images

Beginning on election night 2020 and continuing through his final days in office, Donald Trump unraveled and dragged America with him, to the point that his followers sacked the U.S. Capitol with two weeks left in his term. Axios takes you inside the collapse of a president with a special series.

Episode 4: Trump torches what is arguably the most consequential relationship in his Cabinet.

Attorney General Bill Barr stood behind a chair in the private dining room next to the Oval Office, looming over Donald Trump. The president sat at the head of the table. It was Dec. 1, nearly a month after the election, and Barr had some sharp advice to get off his chest. The president's theories about a stolen election, Barr told Trump, were "bullshit."

In photos: Protests outside fortified capitols draw only small groups

Armed members of the far-right extremist group the Boogaloo Bois near the Michigan Capitol Building in Lansing on Jan. 17. About 20 protesters showed up, AP notes. Photo: Seth Herald/AFP via Getty Images

Small groups of protesters gathered outside fortified statehouses across the U.S. over the weekend ahead of President-elect Joe Biden's inauguration Wednesday.

The big picture: Some protests attracted armed members of far-right extremist groups but there were no reports of clashes, as had been feared. The National Guard and law enforcement outnumbered demonstrators, as security was heightened around the U.S. to avoid a repeat of the Jan. 6 U.S. Capitol riots, per AP.

Felix Salmon, author of Capital
9 hours ago - World

China's economy grows 6.5% in Q4 as country rebounds from coronavirus

A technician installs and checks service robots to be be used for food and medicine delivery in Jiaxing, Zhejiang Province, China, on Sunday. Photo: Hu Xuejun/VCG via Getty Images

China's economy grew at a 6.5% pace in the final quarter of 2020, the national statistics bureau announced Monday local time, topping off a year in which it grew in three of four quarters and by 2.3% in total.

Why it matters: No other major economy managed positive growth in 2020. Although the COVID-19 pandemic was first detected in China, the country got the virus under control and became one of the main positive drivers of the global economy even as the rest of the world was largely under lockdown.

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