President Joe Biden on Friday said he had no comment and deferred to the Department of Justice when asked for his reaction to the special counsel appointment in the case of his son, Hunter Biden.
“I have no comment on any investigation that’s going on,” the president said during a trilateral news conference with the leaders of Japan and South Korea at Camp David. “That’s up to the Justice Department, and that’s all I have to say.”
The answer to a reporter’s question was the first time the president had spoken publicly about the appointment of a special counsel since David Weiss was elevated to the role last week. Biden had previously ignored reporter questions on the matter.
Attorney General Merrick Garland announced last week that Weiss – a Trump-appointed US attorney who has been leading an investigation into Hunter Biden for years – had been given special counsel status after plea talks between the Justice Department and the president’s son fell apart. Weiss asked for the new authority after plea talks to resolve tax and gun charges fell apart.
The probe appeared to reach its conclusion when a plea deal was announced in June. In a two-pronged agreement, Hunter Biden planned to plead guilty to two tax misdemeanors and prosecutors would drop a separate felony gun charge in two years if he stayed out of legal trouble and passed drug tests.
Federal prosecutors also agreed to recommend probation, and no jail time, for the president’s son. The GOP had criticized the plea deal, accusing Weiss of giving Hunter Biden preferential treatment.
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 agreement. Weiss said last week that the talks had failed.
By naming Weiss as a special counsel, Garland gave him further independence from the Justice Department as he embarks on an unprecedented trial against the son of the sitting president, and as Republicans claim the department is politicized.
The probe into Hunter Biden is now one of two special counsel investigations – the other being an inquiry into his father’s handling of classified documents after leaving the Senate and the vice president’s office – that both appear poised to extend for months to come. But the probe into Hunter Biden is among the most sensitive subjects inside the West Wing.
Multiple Biden advisers conceded privately this week that special counsels have a history of uncovering information they hadn’t set out initially to discover. The fact that the probe into Hunter Biden is also a delicate family matter, people close to Biden say, is creating a level of personal angst unlike any other challenge for the president.
This story has been updated with additional reporting.