WASHINGTON (AP) — Attorney General Merrick Garland announced Friday he has appointed a special counsel in the Hunter Biden probe, deepening the investigation of the president’s son ahead of the 2024 election.
Garland said he was naming David Weiss, the U.S. attorney in Delaware who has been probing the financial and business dealings of President Joe Biden’s son, as the special counsel. It comes as plea deal talks in Hunter Biden’s case hit an impasse.
The attorney general noted the “extraordinary circumstances” of the matter in making the announcement at the Justice Department.
Garland said that Weiss asked to be appointed to the position and told him that “in his judgment, his investigation has reached a stage at which he should continue his work as a special counsel.”
“Upon considering his request, as well as the extraordinary circumstances relating to this matter, I have concluded it is in the public interest to appoint him as special counsel,” Garland said.
Hunter Biden’s attorney did not immediately return messages seeking comment on Friday.
The announcement of a special counsel is a momentous development from the typically cautious Garland and comes amid a pair of sweeping Justice Department probes into former President Donald Trump, who’s Joe Biden’s chief rival in next year’s election.
It also comes as House Republicans are mounting their own investigation into Hunter Biden’s business dealings. The Republicans are struggling to connect the son’s work to his father, and so far they have not been able to produce evidence to show any wrongdoing.
Justice officials did not explain what prompted the sudden move after years of investigating Hunter Biden, who used drugs and whose personal entanglements have trailed his father’s political career.
Legal proceedings are dramatically shaping the 2024 presidential race in an unprecedented way. Garland has now named special counsels to investigate Trump’s handling of classified records and his role in the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol as well as Friday’s announcement into Biden’s son.
Garland said he expects Weiss, as special counsel, to work “expeditiously” and in an “even-handed and urgent manner.” He said Weiss will have “all the resources he requests” to probe the matter.
Last month, Hunter Biden’s plea deal over tax evasion and a gun charge collapsed after U.S. District Court Judge Maryellen Noreika, who was appointed by Trump, raised multiple concerns about the specifics.
Republicans had derided that agreement as a “sweetheart” deal as they pushed their own probe.
Rep. James Comer, the Republican chair of the House Oversight Committee, has been leading the congressional inquiry into Hunter Biden’s financial ties and transactions. The Kentucky lawmaker has obtained thousands of pages of financial records from various members of the Biden family through subpoenas to the Treasury Department and various financial institutions.
Shortly after Hunter Biden reached an initial agreement with the government, Comer joined forces with two chairmen of powerful committees to launch a larger investigation into claims by two IRS agents who said the Justice Department improperly interfered in the yearslong case.
The Republicans claimed Weiss was being blocked from becoming a special counsel. It’s a claim Weiss and the Justice Department denied.
Since then, Comer has brought in a former business associate of Hunter Biden, Devon Archer, who provided fresh insight during closed-door testimony into how the Democratic president’s son capitalized on his relationship with his father, who was then vice president, to court foreign investors.
Archer said Hunter Biden was using the “illusion of access” in Washington. But he offered no tangible evidence that Joe Biden played any role in his son’s work beyond saying hello during their daily family calls.
By being named special counsel Weiss will have broader authority to conduct a more sweeping investigation across various areas.
Weiss was nominated by Trump to serve as Delaware U.S. attorney in 2017 and was retained after Biden took over so he could continue to oversee the Hunter Biden investigation. He had been a prosecutor for years before, handling both violent crimes and white-collar offenses, and worked in private practice between stints in the federal prosecutor’s office.
Associated Press writers Farnoush Amiri and Nomaan Merchant contributed to this story.