US attorney leading Hunter Biden probe is now a special counsel, Garland announces

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Washington
CNN
 — 

Attorney General Merrick Garland announced Friday that the Trump-appointed US attorney who is investigating Hunter Biden has been given “special counsel” status after plea talks between the Justice Department and the president’s son fell apart.

This gives the senior prosecutor, David Weiss, more powers than a typical US attorney and puts the nation in uncharted territory – with three special counsels at the Justice Department currently investigating matters related to the sitting president, his son, and the previous president.

The move could also lead to a trial of President Joe Biden’s son.

Garland’s order appointing Weiss said he is authorized to “conduct the ongoing investigation … as well as any matters that arose from that investigation or may arise” as the probe continues.

Weiss made a request to be elevated to a special counsel on Tuesday. In a court filing Friday, Weiss said that plea talks between his team and Hunter Biden broke down in recent weeks after a hearing in Delaware last month where the judge said she wasn’t ready to accept the complex plea deal that was negotiated.

“After the hearing, the parties continued negotiating but reached an impasse,” prosecutors said. “A trial is therefore in order.”

A senior Justice Department official said Weiss will write a report, which the attorney general is expected to publicly release when the probe is over. This has been the common practice of special counsels in recent years, like Robert Mueller and John Durham.

The probe appeared to reach its conclusion when a plea deal was announced in June. In a two-pronged agreement, Hunter Biden would plead guilty to two tax misdemeanors, and prosecutors would agree to drop a separate felony gun charge in two years if he stayed out of legal trouble and passed drug test.

Federal prosecutors also agreed to recommend probation, and no jail time, for Hunter Biden.

But at a stunning three-hour court hearing last month, the deal nearly collapsed under scrutiny from the federal judge overseeing the case. District Judge Maryellen Noreika said the intertwined deals to resolve the tax and gun charges were “confusing,” “not straightforward,” “atypical” and “unprecedented.” At the end of that hearing, she ordered the Justice Department and Hunter Biden’s lawyers to file additional legal briefs defending the constitutionality of the deal.

Calls for a special counsel have intensified in recent months, with leading Republicans claiming Hunter Biden got a “sweetheart deal,” and IRS whistleblowers alleging that the Justice Department gave him preferential treatment in a plea deal earlier this summer.

Two career IRS agents who worked on the Hunter Biden probe went public as whistleblowers, claiming there was political meddling in the probe.

Federal prosecutors have spent five years investigating Hunter Biden for potential felony tax evasion, illegal foreign lobbying, money laundering, and other possible crimes.

This story is breaking and will be updated.

Sumber: www.cnn.com

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