The top Delaware federal prosecutor investigating Hunter Biden, the president’s son, has been granted more independent powers as a special counsel—akin to the autonomous prosecutor Jack Smith who’s investigating former President Donald Trump.
U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland announced the move at a brief press conference from the Department of Justice headquarters in Washington, D.C., on Friday.
David C. Weiss, the U.S. Attorney for the state of Delaware, was appointed by Trump and kept onboard by President Joe Biden. He has been overseeing all federal criminal cases in that state, including the sensitive probe into illegal activities by the president’s son. All the while, the Biden administration has affirmed that Weiss continued to conduct his own investigation without meddling from the White House.
However, Weiss approached Garland on Tuesday and privately asked to be elevated to the status of a “special counsel,” a position that traditionally further insulates a prosecutor from any potential outside political pressure, Garland said. During his announcement Friday, Garland said he agreed.
Weiss told him that the investigation, in his judgment, reached a stage at which he could better continue his work as a special counsel, Garland recalled, citing “extraordinary circumstances.”
“It is in the public interest to appoint him as special counsel,” Garland said, noting that Weiss would now get “all the resources he requests” and “has the authority he needs to conduct a thorough investigation and to continue to take the steps he needs independently.”
The DOJ has been under fire for the way it has handled the Hunter Biden investigation thus far, given that it has taken several years to prosecute what, at first glance, seems like a relatively straightforward criminal case. The younger Biden didn’t pay taxes for at least two years and wrote a book describing how he constantly used illicit drugs—at the same time that he bought a gun, which is also illegal.
In recent weeks, he was charged with federal crimes and prosecutors presented him with a plea deal that would have allowed him to avoid prison time and drop the gun charges. However, that deal fell apart in spectacular fashion during his court appearance last month, when questions by a federal judge revealed that Biden’s lawyers thought this was all over—while the feds revealed they planned to keep investigating other matters, such as his foreign business deals.
In the weeks since that courtroom surprise, federal prosecutors and Biden’s defense team have been negotiating how to proceed. It’s not working out. On Friday, prosecutors wrote to U.S. District Judge Maryellen Noreika with a sobering update.
“Since that time, the parties have engaged in further plea negotiations but are at an impasse,” wrote special assistant U.S. attorneys Leo J. Wise and Derek E. Hines. “Now that the parties are at an impasse, a trial is in order.”
On Friday, Garland noted that the wider Hunter Biden investigation does indeed remain open, which is welcome news to critical Republicans who claim—without yet presenting concrete evidence—that the younger Biden has abused his proximity to his father.
Weiss will remain the U.S. Attorney in Delaware, but he’ll now wear a dual hat that also allows him to investigate Hunter Biden.
“I am confident [he] will carry out his responsibility in an even-handed and urgent manner,” Garland said.
At this point, there are now three DOJ special counsels simultaneously running different investigations that delve into the highest elected office in the land. Special Counsel Robert Hur, who was also appointed by Garland earlier this year, is investigating how President Biden handled classified documents after his term as vice president during the Obama administration. Meanwhile, Special Counsel Jack Smith is investigating all kinds of alleged criminal activity by former President Donald Trump and has used two grand juries to indict him in Washington for plotting a coup and in Florida for mishandling classified records.