Republicans led by Donald Trump are renewing their calls for Attorney General Merrick Garland to appoint a special counsel into Hunter Biden following a move to appoint one to investigate the former president.
On Friday, Garland selected Jack Smith, a longtime DOJ veteran and war crimes prosecutor at The Hague, to be special counsel and investigate Trump. The move came after Trump declared a third presidential bid despite facing DOJ investigations related to the Capitol riot of Jan. 6, 2021, and whether sensitive documents were inappropriately taken by Trump to his Mar-a-Lago Florida resort.
The news was taken kindly by Trump, who said over the weekend that he believed President Joe Biden’s son should also get the special counsel treatment.
“Joe Biden is a corrupt and incompetent political hack. You take a look at all of the money he has taken from foreign countries and others, much of it through his son Hunter, who is a corrupt drug addict and implementer for his father,” Trump remarked during an America First Policy Institute speech over the weekend. “Where is their special prosecutor, by the way?”
Garland explicitly said he moved to appoint a Trump special counsel in part because Trump is running again, and Biden has at least indicated he is.
Trump noted in his speech Biden “announced too” and so a special counsel should investigate Hunter Biden.
“Why isn’t there a special counsel being set up for them?” Trump added. “Tremendous corruption.”
The DOJ’s Hunter Biden investigation has been dogged by whistleblower allegations that the investigation is being stymied and by allegations of conflicts of interest.
Hunter Biden revealed he was under federal investigation for his taxes shortly after the 2020 election, and the federal agents who have been investigating him reportedly believe they have unearthed enough evidence to charge him with crimes related to tax fraud and lying during his purchase of a handgun.
The bigger questions remain whether the DOJ has been considering more significant charges tied to money laundering or foreign lobbying.
He controversially held a lucrative position on the board of Ukrainian energy giant Burisma while his father was vice president. He also pursued business deals in China and elsewhere during and after his father’s tenure, raking in millions thanks to these associations.
Garland’s announcement came three days after Trump announced he was running for president again in 2024. Trump pointed out Garland’s announcement also happened just one day after Reps. Jim Jordan (R-OH) and James Comer (R-KY), expected to lead the House Judiciary and Oversight committees respectively starting next year, announced reinvigorated investigations into Hunter Biden.
Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) also tweeted in the wake of Garland’s announcement: “This is an admission of a conflict of interest by DOJ; now acknowledge the obvious conflict of interest in Hunter Biden investigation and appoint a special counsel. #NoDoubleStandard.”
Cornyn helped organize a letter in September that called on Garland to grant special counsel authorities to Delaware U.S. Attorney David Weiss, arguing, “Given that the investigation involves the President’s son, we believe it is important to provide U.S. Attorney Weiss with special counsel authorities and protections to allow him to investigate an appropriate scope of potentially criminal conduct, avoid the appearance of impropriety, and provide additional assurances to the American people that the Hunter Biden investigation is free from political influence.”
The letter was signed by at least 33 Senate Republicans, including Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY), the Republican minority leader, and Grassley and Johnson, who have long led investigations into Hunter Biden’s overseas business dealings.
Then-Attorney General William Barr rejected the idea of a special counsel to investigate Hunter Biden in December 2020, but he now believes Weiss should be given special counsel powers.
Whistleblower allegations emerged this summer that FBI supervisory intelligence analyst Brian Auten opened an assessment in August 2020 that was used by FBI headquarters to mislabel accurate information about Hunter Biden as disinformation, according to disclosures made public by Grassley. Whistleblowers also said Timothy Thibault, the now-former FBI assistant special agent in charge of the Washington Field Office, shut down a line of inquiry into Hunter Biden in October 2020 despite the fact that some of the details were known to be true at the time.
Garland testified in February 2021 that Joe Biden had not discussed the Hunter investigation with him. When asked in October 2021 about a letter pushing him on appointing a special counsel at the time, the attorney general said, “We’ll be taking it under advisement.”
“I want to be clear, though: Special counsels are also employees of the Justice Department,” Garland said. “The question of whether to have a special counsel is one that is internal decision-making of the department, so I don’t want to make any judgments one way or the other, but I’m quite comfortable with the United States attorney for that district continuing in the role that he is playing.”
“He is supervising the investigation,” Garland said of Weiss. “There will not be interference of any political or improper kind.”
It is up to Weiss, the prosecutor overseeing the case, to decide whether to indict the president’s son. Last month, Grassley and Johnson shared more than 200 pages of investigative materials with Weiss.
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