Even as Attorney General
prepares to leave office after resigning on Monday (see nearby), effective Dec. 23, Republicans and many on the right are demanding that he appoint a special counsel to investigate the business dealings of
son, Hunter. The better idea is to make the next AG responsible for how that case is handled.
Hunter acknowledged last week that his “tax affairs” are under investigation by federal prosecutors, who are also looking into his influence-peddling via deals with Chinese interests and a Ukrainian gas company. Most of the media ignored the story before the election, and we warned this could create troubles for a President Biden. And here we are.
One problem among many with special counsels is that they are often politically unaccountable, wandering into areas far beyond their remit.
team never did find proof of Russia-Trump collusion. But they did torment
on an unrelated charge that was unjustly brought. A special counsel can also bury a case in secret for years, and an AG can duck questions by saying that’s the special counsel’s job.
The U.S. Attorney for Delaware is reported to have opened a Hunter investigation in 2018, and there is good reason to believe it can complete its work—barring political interference. This would be the preferred outcome, since Democrats would have a harder time claiming any future charges brought by career prosecutors were politically motivated. Meantime, any effort by a Biden Justice Department to transfer staff, dictate outcomes, or shut down the probe would leak and have political costs.
A Republican Senate would also be watching if the GOP secures at least one Georgia runoff seat on Jan. 5. The country was alerted to Hunter’s potential legal jeopardy by Senators
who in September issued a detailed report about Hunter’s deals in Ukraine, Russia, China and Kazakhstan. The Senators continue to investigate and they’d have subpoena power.
President Trump is giving Mr. Barr flak over his decision to keep the Hunter investigation secret prior to the election. But Mr. Barr’s restraint was admirable and consistent with Justice policy not to bring cases close to an election lest that taint them as political.
Mr. Barr recently elevated U.S. Attorney
to special counsel, though that investigation into the FBI’s 2016 behavior is nearly done. Let the regular wheels of justice turn on Hunter, and hold the Biden Justice Department accountable for the result.
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Appeared in the December 15, 2020, print edition.