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Attorney General Merrick Garland names Trump-appointed Hunter Biden prosecutor as special counsel to investigate president’s son as plea deal crumbles

Hunter Biden

President Joe Biden’s son Hunter Biden leaves after a court appearance, Wednesday, July 26, 2023, in Wilmington, Del. The plea deal in Hunter Biden’s criminal case unraveled during a court hearing Wednesday after a federal judge raised concerns about the terms of the agreement that has infuriated Republicans who believe the president’s son is getting preferential treatment. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland revealed Friday afternoon that he has named David C. Weiss, the U.S. Attorney in Delaware already probing Hunter Biden, as a special counsel, meaning there will be a public report at the end of the investigation into President Joe Biden’s son.

Weiss, appointed by then-President Donald Trump in Feb. 2018, has been overseeing the Hunter Biden tax and gun probe since news of the investigation first emerged in late 2020.

Garland said that Weiss “asked to be appointed” as special counsel because the investigation has “reached a stage at which he should continue his work” in that capacity.

“Upon considering his request, as well as the extraordinary circumstances relating to this matter, I have concluded it is in the public interest to appoint him as special counsel,” Garland said.

“This appointment confirms my commitment to provide Mr. Weiss all the resources he requests. It also reaffirms that Mr. Weiss has the authority he needs to conduct a thorough investigation and to continue to take the steps he deems appropriate independently, based only on the facts and the law,” Garland said.

“As Special Counsel, he will continue to have the authority and responsibility that he has exercised previously to oversee the investigation and decide where, when, and whether to file charges. The Special Counsel will not be subject to the day-to-day supervision of any official of the Department, but he must comply with the regulations, procedures, and policies of the Department,” the attorney general continued. “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 … I am confident that Mr. Weiss will carry out his responsibility in an even-handed and urgent matter, and in accordance with the highest traditions of this Department.”

The Friday announcement from the attorney general came not long after Hunter Biden’s plea agreement for tax offenses and a gun charge hit a snag in federal court. DOJ noted that Weiss is also authorized to investigate “any other matters that arose or may arise” from the tax and gun probe.

In June, a letter from Weiss’ office revealed that Hunter Biden was facing misdemeanor tax charges for “willful refusal to pay federal income tax.” Prosecutors said Biden owed between $1.1 million and $1.5 million in taxes, but that he has since paid up in full — plus penalties and interest. Prosecutors said Biden agreed to plead guilty to the misdemeanors in exchange for probation. There was also initially an agreement to enter into a Pretrial Diversion Agreement for felony possession of a firearm by a person who is an unlawful user of or addicted to a controlled substance. The Weiss letter said Hunter Biden violated 18 USC §§ 922(g)(3) and 924(a)(2) by possessing a firearm while addicted to drugs and falsely writing “no” to a federal form question about using or being addicted to drugs.

But the agreement went off the rails in July, as U.S. District Judge Maryellen Noreika, also a Trump appointee, took issue with the “unusual” agreement containing “some atypical provisions.”

“So this is what I am going to do. These agreements are not straightforward and they contain some atypical provisions. I am not criticizing you for coming up with those, I think that you have worked hard to come up with creative ways to deal with this. But I am not in a position where I can decide to accept or reject the Plea Agreement, so I need to defer it,” the judge said from the bench, calling for further briefing on particularities.

On Friday, federal prosecutors filed a motion to vacate the briefing order, since it it is “no longer the case” that the “parties intend to continue towards a guilty plea in Criminal Action No. 23-mj-00274 and diversion in Criminal Action No. 23-cr-00061.”

“Following additional negotiations after the hearing held on July 26, 2023, the parties are at an impasse and are not in agreement on either a plea agreement or a diversion agreement. Therefore, the Government believes the Court’s briefing order should be vacated,” the filing said. “The United States requested the Defendant’s position on August 9, 2023, and asked for it by August 11, 2023. The Defendant responded and requested an extension of time until August 14, 2023, to provide his position, which the Government declined. As of the time of this filing, the Defendant has not yet provided his position.”

The government filed a proposed order to moot the briefing order. The judge has ordered Hunter Biden’s team to file a response by noon on Monday.

“IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that, by no later that NOON on Monday, August 14, 2023, Defendant shall file a response to the United States’ Motion to Vacate the Court’s Briefing Order,” the judge said.

Attorney General Garland did not take any questions from the press.

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Matt Naham is the Senior A.M. Editor of Law&Crime.