Attorney General Merrick Garland on Friday appointed U.S. attorney David Weiss to serve as special counsel over the investigation into Hunter Biden, the latest twist in a probe marred by allegations of political favoritism.
Garland during a Friday press conference said Weiss advised him this week that the investigation "had reached a stage" where Garland should appoint a special counsel, a designation that provides a measure of independence from the Justice Department. Weiss has investigated Biden's taxes and foreign business dealings since 2018, but he and Garland have come under scrutiny over what Republicans say is a sweetheart deal for the embattled first son.
Weiss in June agreed to a plea deal with Biden on two misdemeanor charges for failure to pay taxes. But that plea deal blew up during a July hearing, and now prosecutors and Biden's legal team are "at an impasse," Weiss said in a motion filed in federal court Friday as Garland spoke to the press.
"A trial is in order," Weiss said in the motion.
The announcement marks a stunning turnaround for Garland, who has resisted Republican calls to appoint a special counsel to handle the politically charged investigation. Republicans remain skeptical that Weiss will lead an impartial investigation, citing his "sweetheart plea deal" with the president's son.
"David Weiss can't be trusted and this is just a new way to whitewash the Biden family's corruption," Republicans on the House Judiciary Committee said in a statement.
Two IRS whistleblowers have accused Weiss and the Justice Department of pulling punches in the investigation for political purposes. Gary Shapley, one of the whistleblowers, has claimed that Weiss initially wanted to charge Hunter Biden with felony tax crimes and that Weiss sought special counsel status last year. Republicans have also criticized Weiss for failing to charge Biden with violating foreign agent laws regarding his work in China, Ukraine, and Romania.
"Weiss advised me that in his judgment his investigation had reached a stage at which he should continue his work as a special counsel, and he asked to be so appointed," Garland said Friday.
Weiss also requested in his Friday motion to move Biden's criminal tax case from Delaware to the Central District of California or to the District of Columbia, the jurisdictions where the first son committed his alleged offenses.
The request to move jurisdictions could help explain why Garland granted Weiss special counsel status. IRS whistleblower Shapley testified before Congress in June that Joe Biden-appointed prosecutors in California and Washington, D.C., had rejected Weiss's requests in 2022 to charge the first son in their jurisdictions. Shapley claimed the moves had prevented Weiss from bringing more aggressive charges against Hunter Biden.
But Weiss in a July letter to Senate Judiciary ranking member Lindsey Graham rejected Shapley's accusations, saying he had "never been denied the authority to bring charges in any jurisdiction."
Shapley's attorney, Tristan Leavitt, on Friday offered a more nefarious explanation for Weiss's appointment, calling it a "strategy to forestall congressional investigations."
Weiss's motion indicates additional charges against Hunter Biden could also be on the table.
"The government, in the exercise of its prosecutorial discretion, is considering what tax charges to bring in another district and may elect to bring the same charges set forth in the instant information or different ones," Weiss said in the motion.