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Garland appoints David Weiss as special counsel to oversee Hunter Biden probe

Special counsel appointed in Hunter Biden probe
Merrick Garland appoints David Weiss as special counsel in Hunter Biden probe 02:25

Washington — Attorney General Merrick Garland announced Friday that David Weiss, the U.S. attorney overseeing the investigation into Hunter Biden, has been appointed special counsel, giving him expanded powers to continue the probe.

A career federal prosecutor, Weiss was appointed by President Donald Trump to become the U.S. attorney in Delaware in 2018 and began investigating Hunter Biden, President Biden's son, the following year. He was asked to remain on as U.S. attorney under the Biden administration and has continued leading the investigation.

The elevation of Weiss to special counsel "reinforces for the American people the department's commitment to both independence and accountability in particularly sensitive matters," Garland said in remarks from the Justice Department.

The attorney general said Weiss informed him on Tuesday that his investigation had reached a stage where he believed his work should continue as special counsel, and asked for such a designation. Garland said he concluded it was "in the public interest" to appoint Weiss as special counsel given the "extraordinary circumstances" of the case.

Attorney General Merrick Garland speaks at the Department of Justice, Friday, Aug. 11, 2023, in Washington.
Attorney General Merrick Garland speaks at the Department of Justice, Friday, Aug. 11, 2023, in Washington. Stephanie Scarbrough / AP

The Hunter Biden investigation

In June, Hunter Biden reached an agreement with Weiss' office in Delaware to plead guilty to two misdemeanor tax charges and enter a diversion program in lieu of pleading guilty to a felony gun possession count. But a federal judge refused to sign off on the deal, and Hunter Biden instead pleaded not guilty last month.

The misdemeanor tax charges related to Hunter Biden's alleged failure to pay taxes for 2017 and 2018. A June filing from Weiss with the federal district court in Delaware indicated that Hunter Biden had at least $1.5 million in taxable income and owed at least $100,000. The president's son has fully repaid back taxes and fines, including $2 million reportedly paid to the government in 2022 with the assistance of a loan from his personal lawyer.

The gun charge, meanwhile, stemmed from alleged possession of a firearm, identified in a filing as a Colt Cobra 38SPL, by a drug user in 2018. Weiss said in a statement that Hunter Biden had the gun for 11 days in October 2018.

Minutes after Garland announced Weiss would become special counsel, Justice Department lawyers asked the court in Delaware to allow them to withdraw the case against Hunter Biden so charges could be refiled in Washington, D.C., and California, which they said were the proper venues to resolve the allegations. They said talks about a plea deal were at an impasse and the case now appears headed for trial.

Chris Clark, a lawyer for Hunter Biden, said in a statement that Garland's announcement doesn't change the legal team's understanding of Weiss' authority over his five-year probe.

"For years, both Mr. Weiss and the Department have assured us and the public that Mr. Weiss had more authority than a special counsel and full authority to negotiate a resolution of his investigation — which has been done," he said. "Whether in Delaware, Washington, D.C. or anywhere else, we expect a fair resolution not infected by politics and we'll do what is necessary on behalf of Mr. Biden to achieve that."

The decision to name Weiss special counsel

Garland said the decision to elevate Weiss confirms his earlier commitment to provide him with the required resources to pursue the investigation "based only on the facts and the law."

Weiss will continue to serve as the U.S. attorney in Delaware, but as special counsel will not be subject to day-to-day supervision by any Justice Department official.

"As special counsel he will continue to have the authority and responsibility that he has previously exercised to oversee the investigation and decide where, when and whether to file charges," Garland said.

Once Weiss concludes his investigation, he will provide Garland with a report explaining any prosecutorial decisions. The attorney general committed to making public as much of the report as possible.

"Today's announcement affords the prosecutors, agents and analysts working on this matter the ability to proceed with their work expeditiously and to make decisions indisputably guided by the facts and the law," Garland said. 

Republicans react to Weiss' appointment

The move to name Weiss special counsel did little to assuage House Republicans, who have pursued their own investigations into Hunter Biden's business dealings and claim he received special treatment with his initial plea deal.

A spokesperson for Rep. Jim Jordan, the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, said Weiss "can't be trusted" and claimed his appointment is a "new way to whitewash the Biden family's corruption."

"Weiss has already signed off on a sweetheart plea deal that was so awful and unfair that a federal judge rejected it," Russell Dye, Jordan's spokesperson, said in a statement. "We will continue to pursue facts brought to light by brave whistleblowers as well as Weiss's inconsistent statements to Congress."

Rep. James Comer, the chairman of the House Oversight and Accountability Committee, claimed the move is part of an attempt to cover-up wrongdoing by the Biden family amid congressional investigations.

"Let's be clear what today's move is really about. The Biden Justice Department is trying to stonewall congressional oversight as we have presented evidence to the American people about the Biden family's corruption," he said in a statement.

Weiss told House Republicans in a letter last month that he had been "granted ultimate authority over this matter, including responsibility for deciding where, when and whether to file charges and for making decisions necessary to preserve the integrity of the prosecution." He offered to speak with Congress "at the appropriate time."

The White House and top Justice Department officials have denied any involvement with Weiss' probe. The White House declined to comment on his appointment to special counsel.

"President Biden has made clear that this matter would be handled independently by the Justice Department, under the leadership of a U.S. attorney appointed by former President Trump, free from any political interference by the White House," the White House said in an earlier statement. "He has upheld that commitment."

Clare Hymes, Catherine Herridge, Matt Mosk and Graham Kates contributed reporting.

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