Barr Snubs Trump’s Demands, Sees No Counsel in Biden Case

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Attorney General William Barr said he sees no reason to appoint a special counsel to oversee an investigation of President-elect Joe Biden’s son, Hunter Biden, a statement sure to frustrate President Donald Trump and his closest advisers.

Barr said Monday that a probe into the younger Biden, believed to be linked to tax-related issues over his business dealings in China, is being handled “responsibly” by Justice Department prosecutors. In what may be his final public briefing before stepping down on Wednesday, Barr said he has no plans to appoint a special counsel.

“To this point I have not seen a reason to appoint a special counsel and I have no plan to do so before I leave,” Barr told reporters at what may have been his final public appearance before stepping down.

Barr also said he sees no reason to appoint a special counsel to look into election fraud, standing by his previous statement that there’s been no evidence of widespread fraud that would overturn Joe Biden’s Nov. 3 election win. Trump continues to claim without evidence that the vote was “rigged.”

“If I thought a special counsel at this stage was the right tool and was appropriate, I would name one, but I haven’t and I’m not going to,” Barr said. The attorney general said he also sees “no basis now for seizing machines by the federal government,” something Trump has reportedly inquired about.

Senate Judiciary Chairman Lindsey Graham -- a confidant of Trump -- last week called for a special counsel to be named in order to see if Hunter Biden “presents a conflict for the Biden administration regarding his business dealings in Ukraine, which is overrun with Russian agents, and any activity he had with the Chinese government.”

“My concern is the scope of the Delaware investigation is limited to tax fraud and will not be a thorough review of Hunter Biden’s extensive business dealings with foreign nations,” Graham tweeted after Barr’s press conference.

Senator Tom Cotton and Trump have also expressed interest in a special counsel to investigate the president-elect’s son.

Biden’s transition team announced Dec. 9 that Hunter Biden was under federal criminal tax investigation. The Bidens have repeatedly insisted no wrongdoing was committed.

Hunter Biden has been the target of more than one federal criminal investigation, according to a person familiar with the matter.

The probes include one led by the Delaware U.S. Attorney’s office into whether he violated tax laws, and another by the U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Pennsylvania into his activities in Ukraine and potential money laundering, the person said.

The investigation into Biden’s Ukraine work was launched based on information provided by Trump’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, spurring tensions between Justice Department officials over how credible the allegations were.

It wasn’t clear if the Ukraine-related investigation is still ongoing. Hunter Biden was a board member of Burisma, a Ukrainian gas company, when his father was vice president. Joe Biden worked with international allies to have Ukraine’s top prosecutor fired over other matters.

U.S. officials also have conducted a counterintelligence assessment related to Biden’s activities, the person said.

Touching on another area likely to draw Trump’s wrath, Barr said he agreed with Secretary of State Michael Pompeo that Russia was most likely behind a large-scale hack of U.S. government agencies and major companies. Trump suggested China may have been responsible for the attack, despite intelligence experts saying it had the signature of Russian intelligence.

In a letter to Trump last week, Barr said he intends to step down Dec. 23. He’ll be replaced in an acting role by Deputy Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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