Attorney General Barr says special counsel not needed for Hunter Biden investigation, undercutting Trump

Key Points
  • Outgoing Attorney General William Barr said Monday that he saw no reason for a special counsel to take over the criminal investigation of Hunter Biden, son of President-elect Joe Biden.
  • Barr's statement undercuts President Donald Trump, who has mulled pushing for a special counsel.
  • Hunter Biden has said the U.S. attorney in Delaware is investigating his taxes.
AG Barr: Won't appoint special counsel in Hunter Biden case
AG Barr: Won't appoint special counsel in Hunter Biden case

Outgoing Attorney General William Barr said Monday that he saw no reason for a special counsel to take over the criminal investigation of Hunter Biden, son of President-elect Joe Biden, undercutting President Donald Trump yet again.

Trump has mulled pushing the Justice Department to appoint a special counsel for the probe, which is focused on Hunter Biden's taxes, and which is currently being handled by the U.S. attorney's office in Delaware.

"To the extent that there's an investigation, I think that it's being handled responsibly and professionally within the department," Barr said at a news conference, two days before his resignation from the Department of Justice takes effect.

"And to this point I have seen no reason to appoint a special counsel, and I see no reason to do so before I leave," Barr said.

"If I thought a special counsel was the right tool, I would name one, but I haven't."

Barr also said that he hopes the Biden administration will handle the Hunter Biden probe "responsibly."

Appointing a special counsel is seen as one means to prevent Joe Biden or other officials in his administration from exerting any pressure on the U.S. attorney's office to go easy on Hunter Biden.

Special counsels are appointed by the attorney general to investigate a person or issue when federal prosecutors or Justice Department divisions have a conflict of interest if they handled the probe.

The incoming acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen last week refused to say whether he would appoint a special counsel for the Hunter Biden investigation.

US Attorney General William Barr participates in a news conference to provide an update on the investigation of the bombing of Pan Am flight 103 on the 32nd anniversary of the attack, at the US Department of Justice in Washington, D.C, U.S., December 21, 2020.
Michael Reynolds | Reuters

Joe Biden has said that he will not interfere in the decision-making of federal prosecutors.

"It's not my Justice Department. It's the people's Justice Department," Biden said in a recent interview.

Barr submitted his resignation last week after infuriating Trump by contradicting the president's claim that he lost the presidential election to Joe Biden as a result of massive ballot fraud.

Barr had said in an interview with The Associated Press that the DOJ had not seen any evidence to warrant reversing Biden's election.

On Monday, Barr said he was commenting in that interview on whether there was systemic or broad-based voting fraud.

"I stand by that statement," he said.

Barr during the same news conference contradicted Trump's suggestion that Russia was not responsible for the so-called SolarWinds massive hack of U.S. government agencies. Barr said the hack "certainly appears to be the Russians."

Trump over the weekend claimed that the hack may have been the work of China. But Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said, before the president weighed in on Twitter, that, "I think it's the case that now we can say pretty clearly that it was the Russians that engaged in this activity."

U.S. Vice President Joe Biden (R) points to some faces in the crowd with his son Hunter as they walk down Pennsylvania Avenue following the inauguration ceremony of President Barack Obama in Washington, January 20, 2009.
Carlos Barria | Reuters

Hunter Biden, a lawyer and businessman, said nearly two weeks ago that he was the focus of an investigation by the Trump-appointed U.S. attorney in his home state of Delaware. The revelation came after the presidential election.

Trump was angered by the fact that Barr managed to keep the investigation secret before the election.

The president also has fumed for years about the appointment in 2017 of former FBI Director Robert Mueller as special counsel to investigate his 2016 presidential campaign and its contacts with Russians.

Both Hunter Biden and his father have said Hunter did not commit a crime.

Last week, when Joe Biden was asked by a reporter, "Are you confident your son Hunter did nothing wrong?" he replied, "I am confident."

Hunter Biden, in revealing the probe, said, "I take this matter very seriously but I am confident that a professional and objective review of these matters will demonstrate that I handled my affairs legally and appropriately, including with the benefit of professional tax advisors."