As Joe Biden continues to avoid specific responses to the Hunter Biden scandal, discussions are ongoing within the Department of Justice over whether to appoint a special advocate. Biden’s refusal to respond to the allegations only fueled concerns of some conflict for his Justice Department leading this investigation. His obstacle is the best argument for a special advocate, but some unknowns remain critical to the decision.
Attorney General William barrPhone and Email Recordings of Journalist Bill BarrCNN Secretly Obtained by Trump Administration: Report Democrats Urge DOJ to Stop Searching Journalists’ Phone Records George P. Bush Says 2020 Election Did Not been stolen MORE stepped down from his role this week after public disputes with President TrumpDonald Trump Cheney calls Greene’s comments on the House’s mask policy “ devilish madness ” Amash warns against turning lawmakers like Cheney into “ heroes ” Karen Pence confirms his return to Indiana: “ “ No place like home ” MORE, particularly his opposition to a special advocate to investigate the 2020 election and the Hunter Biden scandal. Barr was not opposed to such an appointment. He converted US attorney John Durham to special advocate to ensure Durham concludes his investigation into the handling of the collusion with Russia investigation.
The question is whether such motives could emerge as part of the Hunter Biden investigation. Department of Justice regulations permit the appointment of a special advocate where it is in the public interest, and an investigation or prosecution by a United States attorney or a litigation division of the Department of Justice “will present a conflict of interest. ‘interests for the Department of Justice or other extraordinary circumstances. . “
The case of a special advocate
Clear conflicts are present in this investigation for Biden. Obviously, the scandal concerns her son. Biden has also stated on several occasions that “no one has suggested that my son has done anything wrong”. But it is certainly not true. Many people agree that Hunter was engaged in gross influence schemes around the world. It may not be a crime, but it is an ethical mistake. Yet Biden continued with this claim after the disclosure that Hunter is the subject or target of a federal investigation. He called the allegations a continuation of a political “criminal act” against his family.
Democrats insisted that Trump’s dismissal of the Russia investigation as a “hoax” supported the appointment of a special advocate. Democrats like House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff have also said that Hunter’s laptop and emails uncovered before the election were “Russian disinformation” and that “all this slander about Joe Biden is from the Kremlin â. Biden responded in the affirmative as to whether the allegations were “Russian disinformation and a smear campaign.” Any crime prosecutors discovered would be an obvious embarrassment to Biden.
Additionally, serious apparent conflicts were revealed in the laptop and emails seized as part of the federal investigation. Biden declined to say the laptop and emails are genuine. He declined to address the contradictions in these emails. He declined to respond to accounts from witnesses, like business associate Tony Bobulinski, of his direct knowledge or involvement, in conflict with his denials. The emails refer to payments, office and other benefits for his family from foreign countries like China.
Finally, Biden has more than a son or his own credibility at stake. This investigation began in 2018 with a suspicious activity report filed with the Treasury Department. This does not mean that there was a crime, but the foreign financial transactions were deemed suspicious, and it appears that money laundering issues could have been raised.
References to Biden in the emails could create liability. Also, one of the reasons Biden didn’t call Bobulinski a liar is that he would likely launch a libel suit with sworn testimony and discovery. Biden is well aware of the dangers of such civil litigation. After all, he voted as a senator in President Clinton’s impeachment trial, which included allegations that Clinton lied under oath in his testimony.
The case against a special advocate
Much of that decision depends on the specific scope and underlying crimes of any investigation. Barr knew these facts when he rejected the need for a special advocate. If this is a narrow tax investigation, it is probably close to a conclusion. The key is not the appointment of a special advocate but the retention of the United States lawyer in his role.
Under Barr, the Justice Department handled various investigations that affected Trump, from the Robert Mueller investigation to investigations into Trump’s affairs and advisers like Rudy Giuliani and his aides. None needed special advice. Everything went on without interference under Barr. There is also a reluctance to allow special advice to proliferate unless there are few alternatives. The potential to embarrass a president is not enough. If everyone is a special advisor, they are not that special.
The biggest problem is that using influence is legal. It is the preferred form of corruption in Washington. While you can’t give a politician like Biden an envelope full of cash, you can give his son or other loved ones millions of dollars in bad contracts and loans. The regulations on special councils provide for “investigation or prosecution” only of criminal acts. Indeed, the Department of Justice does not probe unethical behavior or simple lies.
This case against a special counsel appointment is also the case for an investigation by Congress. Democrats have demanded investigations into the Trump family’s relations in foreign countries, including calls for a special lawyer. In 2018, Schiff wrote: “The American people deserve to know that our president is acting in their best interests and not in their own financial interests, or because they have been compromised by a foreign power.” The fear was that Trump would be beholden to foreign interests. The same fear exists now, and the same Democrats should support an investigation.
In the absence of clear crimes, Congress must investigate “suspicious activity” that could compromise a president or his administration. The Hunter Biden investigation does not warrant a special advocate, but the public deserves answers. The whole point of influence schemes is to influence important people. The question is whether the Chinese, Ukrainians and other foreign actors have received anything from their efforts.
Jonathan Turley is Shapiro Professor of Public Interest Law at George Washington University. You can find its updates online @JonathanTurley.