After DOJ's Reversal on Hunter Biden Special Counsel, the Media Still Suspect Nothing

Merrick Garland (Getty Images)
August 16, 2023

The mainstream media largely accepted the Justice Department's claim that there was no need for a special counsel in the investigation of Hunter Biden's influence peddling. Then, after a failed attempt to give Biden a sweetheart plea deal, the Justice Department appointed a special counsel last week.

The media have hardly questioned the reversal.

Then: Attorney General Merrick Garland in June scoffed at the idea that the lead prosecutor in the Biden probe needed special counsel powers, saying, "Weiss had, in fact, more authority than a special counsel would have had." The prosecutor, David Weiss, quickly agreed with Garland and denied whistleblowers' testimony that he had asked to be made a special counsel in the face of internal resistance to his probe of the president's son. That seemed to be good enough for the press.

CNN: "US Attorney Leading Hunter Biden Probe Refutes Whistleblowers’ Politicization Claims":

US Attorney David Weiss, who is overseeing the Hunter Biden criminal probe, says in a letter obtained by CNN that he did not ask to be named as a special counsel and was never refused authority to bring charges anywhere in the country, refuting two key allegations from IRS whistleblowers.

New York Times: "Prosecutor Rebuts IRS Official’s Account of Request in Hunter Biden Case":

In Monday’s letter—a follow-up to a less detailed response he sent to House Republicans in late June—Mr. Weiss backed up an earlier statement by Mr. Garland that he had been given full authority in the case.

Hill: "Hunter Biden Prosecutor Disputes GOP, IRS Whistleblower Claim":

Echoing earlier statements that he had total control over the investigation, Weiss’s Monday letter is his clearest language yet in pushing back on [IRS whistleblower Gary] Shapley’s testimony.

ABC News: "US Attorney David Weiss Says He Has Not Asked For Special Counsel Status in Hunter Biden Investigation":

The letter appears to bolster Garland's repeated assurances that he did not improperly seek to interfere in the Hunter Biden investigation, despite assertions from House Republicans who have taken steps toward initiating impeachment proceedings against Garland in recent weeks.

NBC News: "Prosecutor Who Made Hunter Biden Plea Deal Contradicts IRS Whistleblower, Says He Had OK to Bring Charges Anywhere in US":

Weiss’s new statement adds context to an assertion by whistleblower Gary Shapley, a former IRS criminal investigator, who told Republicans that Weiss spoke to the U.S. attorney’s offices in the District of Columbia and California about bringing charges, and that those offices were not supportive. Weiss and the Justice Department have not denied those discussions took place—but Weiss is now essentially saying that, if he believed those charges were warranted, he could have brought them.

MSNBC: "Trump-Appointed Prosecutor Contradicts GOP in Hunter Biden Case":

The more the U.S. attorney in the Hunter Biden case sets the record straight about his investigation, the more he tells Republicans what they don’t want to hear.

Now: Garland announced on Friday that he had elevated Weiss to special counsel after the prosecutor told him the powers were necessary to continue the Biden investigation. The media have sounded curiously incurious about the two men's apparent reversals of their earlier positions.

New York Times: "Why Naming Weiss Special Counsel in the Hunter Biden Case May Not Change Much":
One oddity about Attorney General Merrick B. Garland’s decision to give special counsel status to David Weiss, the Trump-appointed U.S. attorney for Delaware who has been leading the investigation into President Biden’s son Hunter, is that both Mr. Garland and Mr. Weiss have already said the prosecutor was empowered to act independently.
That means making Mr. Weiss a special counsel may be more of a cosmetic gesture—essentially formalizing what has already been the case—than a new reality.
Politico: "Prosecutor Overseeing Hunter Biden Probe is Named Special Counsel":
As special counsel, [Weiss] has authority to bring criminal charges related to his probe in any part of the country he wishes. Garland had said previously that Weiss already enjoyed that authority, but two IRS agents told Congress that Weiss was blocked from bringing charges in different judicial districts. Weiss has disputed the agents’ accounts and promised to testify to Congress himself.
PBS: "What The Special Counsel Appointment Means For The Hunter Biden Case":

So, exactly what changed is unclear. But we do know that the attorney general, Merrick Garland, said, David Weiss came to him, called him on the phone on Tuesday, and said he had entered a new stage of this investigation, and he believed it was important to appoint him as special counsel.

To be fair, some journalists have tentatively started to ask questions.

CNN: "Why Was Weiss Named Special Counsel to Investigate Hunter Biden? It’s Complicated.":

That [elevation to a special counsel] raises the question of whether the ongoing Hunter Biden probe has moved closer to the president, though there is no public indication that this is the case.

Washington Post: "DOJ Names Special Counsel in Hunter Biden Case as Plea Agreement Falls Apart":

The development carries with it significant new legal peril for the president’s son, who may now face multiple felony charges. It also brings dramatic consequences for his father, who has been unable to shake the political albatross of his son’s continuing legal troubles.

But so far, even the most dramatic contradictions in the case—like Weiss trying and failing to give Biden a sweetheart plea deal while the investigation was supposedly ongoing—have not been enough for the media to demand answers.