U.S. Attorney David Weiss has been designated as special counsel for the ongoing investigation involving Hunter Biden, the son of President Joe Biden, according to an announcement made by Attorney General Merrick Garland on Friday.
In an official statement, the Justice Department outlined Weiss’s responsibilities, which include overseeing the continuing inquiry into President Biden’s son and any related matters stemming from the investigation. Weiss, already overseeing the Hunter Biden investigation from his location in Delaware, expressed his request to be appointed as special counsel earlier in the week. Garland acknowledged that he agreed to this appointment, citing its alignment with the public interest.
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This announcement coincided with an update from Weiss’s team of prosecutors, who indicated in a court filing that negotiations regarding potential pleas for tax and gun charges against Hunter Biden had collapsed. Consequently, the case is expected to proceed to trial, with potential venues being California or Washington, D.C. Prosecutors hinted at the possibility of introducing alternative charges in the new case against Hunter Biden.
It’s worth noting that Weiss’s nomination and confirmation history were detailed by the DOJ. He was nominated by then-President Donald Trump in 2017 and confirmed by the Republican-controlled Senate in 2018. Attorney General Garland emphasised that this appointment underscores the Department’s dedication to both independence and accountability, especially in sensitive investigations.
In response to these developments, Hunter Biden’s legal representative, Chris Clark, released a statement expressing the expectation of a fair resolution for his client. Clark noted that Weiss had been diligently investigating Hunter Biden for a five-year period and had proposed a resolution that they fully intend to pursue through legal channels. Clark’s statement emphasized that they have confidence in the viability of their position, given the actions taken thus far.
Hunter Biden had initially agreed to plead guilty to misdemeanor charges related to his failure to pay income taxes earlier this year. However, as he stood in court last month prepared to enter the plea, confusion surrounding a separate gun charge led to the agreement falling apart. Consequently, the judge requested both parties to revisit the agreement and return at a later date. As a result, Hunter Biden entered a not-guilty plea, leaving the matter to be resolved through litigation.
While the legal team representing Hunter Biden had previously indicated that the plea agreement would resolve all matters concerning the president’s son, prosecutors stated that on-going investigations persisted. Following the court hearing, attempts to negotiate a resolution reached an impasse, leading to the determination that a trial was necessary, as stated in the prosecutors’ filing on Friday.
In a subsequent filing on the same day, prosecutors indicated the possibility of new charges against Hunter Biden. They expressed their consideration of various tax charges to be filed in a different district, which could include either the same charges outlined in the current case or different ones.
Unnamed sources familiar with the situation informed reporters that the White House had not received advanced notice of the appointment of the special counsel.
Documents pertaining to the failed plea agreement were made public the previous week. The White House chose not to provide comment, directing reporters to the Justice Department and Hunter Biden’s legal representatives.
GOP lawmakers question integrity and transparency
Rep. James Comer, a Republican from Kentucky and the chair of the House Oversight Committee, who has been investigating the business dealings of the Biden family, criticized the appointment of David Weiss as part of an alleged attempt by the Justice Department to cover up matters involving the Biden family. Comer accused the Biden Justice Department of obstructing congressional oversight and questioned the integrity of the appointment.
Rep. Jim Jordan, a Republican from Ohio and the chair of the House Judiciary Committee, also voiced criticism of Weiss’s appointment, despite having previously advocated for the appointment of a special counsel. Jordan’s spokesperson accused Weiss of being untrustworthy and suggested that the appointment was an effort to downplay alleged corruption within the Biden family. The spokesperson also emphasized the expectation of full cooperation from the Department in their investigation, including access to requested interviews and Weiss’s commitment to testify.
In a letter dated July 25, 2023, U.S. Attorney David Weiss extended an offer to House Republicans to testify publicly before Congress in either late September or early October. This invitation was made in response to mounting concerns and criticisms raised by House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, who, like Representatives Comer and Jordan, questioned whether Weiss, given his prior involvement in the failed plea deal, could be entrusted as a Special Counsel. McCarthy stressed that the Department of Justice’s actions should not hinder congressional investigations or be seen as an attempt to conceal alleged corruption within the Biden family.
The plea agreement that was ultimately discarded would have seen Hunter Biden plead guilty to two misdemeanor charges related to tax evasion. In return, prosecutors would have recommended probation as the sentence. Additionally, a separate felony gun possession charge concerning an unlawfully owned Colt Cobra .38 Special handgun would have been dropped in two years if Hunter Biden adhered to the conditions of a diversion agreement.
During a plea hearing in the previous month, a judge appointed by former President Trump expressed reservations about endorsing the deal, citing “atypical provisions,” including one that could potentially have shielded Hunter Biden from additional tax-related charges.
Since assuming leadership of the Justice Department in 2021, Attorney General Merrick Garland has appointed two other special counsels. Jack Smith was designated as a special counsel in November 2022 to conduct investigations into former President Donald Trump, including his involvement in attempts to overturn the 2020 election and his handling of classified documents post-presidency. Smith has since secured indictments against Trump, one in a Florida court and another in a Washington, D.C. court, focusing on allegations of mishandling national secrets and defrauding the U.S. to prevent the transfer of power.
In January, 2023, Garland appointed Robert Hur as a special counsel to probe classified documents found in President Biden’s office and residence from his time as vice president.