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Updated at 5:12 p.m. ET
Attorney General William Barr said on Monday he saw no reason to appoint a special advocate to lead the ongoing federal investigation into Hunter Biden or to further investigate President Trump’s allegations of widespread fraud in the 2020 election.
Barr’s comments, delivered at what was likely his last press conference as attorney general, put the brakes on two ideas the president has reportedly raised in recent days. But Barr’s ability to influence events almost wears off on Wednesday when he steps down as attorney general.
Hunter, the son of President-elect Joe Biden, announced this month that he was under a federal investigation into potential tax issues. Trump has been fuming since news of the investigation came to light, saying Barr should have made the inquiry public before the election – in violation of Department of Justice policy.
Some Republicans are pushing for the Justice Department to appoint a special advocate to handle the investigation, which would add an extra layer of protection against potential political influence in a sensitive case involving the president-elect’s son. When asked if he agreed with the idea, Barr said no.
“I think this is being handled in a responsible and professional manner right now within the department, and at this point I have seen no reason to appoint a special advocate, and I have no intention of doing so until leave, “he told reporters.
The Delaware office of the Attorney General is leading the investigation.
Barr was also asked if he saw the need to appoint a special advocate to investigate the president’s baseless allegations of widespread electoral fraud.
Barr previously said the ministry looked into the allegations and found no evidence of systemic fraud that could change the election outcome. On Monday, Barr said he was upholding the remarks.
“If I thought that a special advocate at this point was the right tool and was appropriate, I would appoint one, but I didn’t and I won’t,” he said.
According to media reports, the president has discussed with advisers the possibility of appointing a special lawyer for alleged electoral fraud. Trump has reportedly raised the idea of âânominating Sidney Powell, a lawyer who represented Trump’s former national security adviser Michael Flynn, for the role. Powell has also played a very public role in pushing the president’s baseless fraud allegations.
Barr also contradicted the president on a third subject: the recent hacking of US government agencies. Cyber ââsecurity experts and sources told NPR that Russia’s foreign intelligence service SVR appears to be responsible.
The Trump administration has not officially attributed the violation, although Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Friday that it was “quite clearly” the Russians.
“From the information I have, I agree with Secretary Pompeo’s assessment,” Barr said. “It certainly seems to be the Russians, but I’m not going to discuss it beyond that.”
President Trump, however, has disputed these assessments. On Twitter, he accused the media of overestimating the gravity of the violation, and suggested it could have been perpetrated by China, not Russia.