Congressional rules have kept Trey Gowdy from joining President Trump’s legal team, at least for now.

Fox News and other outlets are reporting that Trump’s wish to hire former South Carolina Rep. Trey Gowdy for his legal team – as he faces a tough battle with House Democrats over impeachment – has unraveled, due to concerns about rules restricting Gowdy’s post-Congress activities. Last week, it was announced that Gowdy would be joining the president’s legal team. But a source familiar with the situation has told Fox News that a statute that prevents former lawmakers from communicating with, or appearing before their colleges for at least one year after leaving Congress, has sidelined Gowdy.

The rule was made to keep newly retired congressmen or women from lobbying lawmakers for at least one year after leaving office. Gowdy’s role as a member of Trump’s legal team, would not make him “a lobbyist.” However, he would have to likely appear before committees, and make TV appearances that are designed to communicate with and/or influence his former colleagues — which would fall under the restrictions imposed by the statute.

Gowdy retired from Congress earlier this year, meaning his one-year restriction would be up in January 2020.

Violations of these post-Congress restrictions immediately after leaving Congress, are considered a “felony.” But a source familiar with the situation stressed Gowdy’s decision had nothing to do with “lobbying work” but was simply about the rules prohibiting former members of Congress from doing anything to influence lawmakers – even as an attorney for the president. The source said Gowdy had lunch with Trump last Tuesday to discuss possibly working as an outside counsel. There was support from both White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney and White House Counsel Pat Cipollone for Gowdy to join the team. However, over the next couple of days, Gowdy became concerned that taking the job would run afoul of the congressional rules about “influence” and sought an outside legal opinion for guidance.

The source says Gowdy decided to err on the side of caution and informed Trump’s team that he would not be available to join them until Jan. 4.

At the moment, he is still expected to join the team on that date – with the caveat that a lot can change between now and then.

Gowdy had been a Fox News contributor. A company spokesperson said Gowdy was terminated last week and is no longer serving in that capacity.

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