Merrick Garland Names Special Counsel in Hunter Biden Investigation as ‘Sweetheart Plea Deal’ Collapses
It’s a major blow for Hunter Biden, who’s now facing a criminal trial on tax charges and a greatly expanded investigation into his affairs that could lead to more serious charges.
Attorney General Garland has announced that the United States attorney for Delaware, David Weiss, has been elevated to special counsel in the “ongoing investigation” into Hunter Biden. This comes after two Internal Revenue Service whistleblowers claimed that Mr. Weiss had requested and was previously denied special counsel status and that Department of Justice higher-ups had been obstructing his probe and giving President Biden’s son special treatment.
Citing “extraordinary circumstances” surrounding the investigation into the first son, Mr. Garland announced Mr. Weiss’s appointment on Friday from behind a podium at Department of Justice headquarters. “I have concluded that it is in the public interest to appoint him as special counsel,” Mr. Garland said. “This appointment confirms my commitment to provide Mr. Weiss all the resources he requests.”
“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 only by the facts and the law,” he continued.
Also on Friday, Mr. Weiss’s prosecutors working Mr. Biden’s case said that a plea agreement with Mr. Biden over tax and firearm charges had collapsed. Mr. Biden had previously agreed to plead guilty to misdemeanor tax evasion and likely avoid prison, what House Republicans including Speaker McCarthy had denounced as “a sweetheart deal.”
During a July 26 hearing, though, a judge delayed the deal when the defense and prosecution could not agree if it would protect Mr. Biden from future charges, including a possible charge of violating the Foreign Agents Registration Act.
The judge, Maryellen Noreika, asked the two sides to renegotiate the deal. On Friday, prosecutors said in a court filing that those talks had reached an “impasse,” and that the tax and firearms charges would be refiled in California or at the District of Columbia and likely go to trial.
“The Government now believes that the case will not resolve short of a trial,” an assistant United States attorney, Leo Wise, wrote on Friday.
Mr. Biden fils, who’s pleaded not guilty to the tax and firearms charges, could now face prison time if he loses in court. And now that there’s a special counsel in his case, his foreign business dealings during his father’s vice presidency will likely come under prosecutorial scrutiny.
Three House committees, led by Republicans, have been investigating the younger Mr. Biden for months regarding possible self-dealing and influence peddling. The House Oversight Committee chairman, Congressman James Comer, has claimed that he has found evidence of multiple crimes, and his committee has released voluminous financial documents that show millions of dollars going to Mr. Biden from foreign clients in Ukraine, China, and other countries.
GOP investigators have been trying to make the case that the elder Mr. Biden was improperly boosting his son’s business deals and profiting from them, something the president has steadfastly denied.
Mr. Garland’s elevation of Mr. Weiss to special counsel will presumably address criticism that the president’s son is benefiting from favoritism. In July, two IRS whistleblowers testified before Congress that the DOJ had given “preferential treatment” to Mr. Biden in the course of their investigation, which included improperly denying Mr. Weiss special counsel status.
The whistleblowers, Gary Shapley and Joseph Ziegler, said Mr. Weiss was hamstrung by his superiors. The “normal investigative process” was not followed and the probe was “slow-walked,” and littered with “unnecessary … approvals and roadblocks,” Mr. Ziegler claimed.
For years, Mr. Shapley had worked on the case as a nonpartisan investigator, but felt he had to come forward after Mr. Weiss allegedly told him that his charging authority was limited by the DOJ. “I did not come running to Congress,” Mr. Shapley said, forcefully denouncing any assertion that he was seeking attention. He went through the “chain of command” at his agency, efforts that went unanswered, he said. It wasn’t until October 2022 that Mr. Shapley decided to come forward.
The “red line” for Mr. Shapley was when he heard Mr. Weiss privately say in an October 2022 meeting that he was blocked by DOJ higher-ups from attaining special counsel status. According to Mr. Shapley, just weeks before that, Mr. Weiss had sought to bring charges at the Central District of California, but the requests were delayed until Mr. Biden’s nominee for United States attorney in that jurisdiction, Martin Estrada, was confirmed by the Senate. Mr. Estrada, upon taking office, then declined to pursue charges against the first son.
Mr. Weiss publicly denied that he had ever asked for special counsel status. On Friday, though, Mr. Garland said that Mr. Weiss had indeed recently made the request, and that it had been granted.