The Hunter Biden investigation began in 2018 and became the focus of then-President Donald Trump’s 2020 re-election defeat. Initially, the investigation focused on Hunter Biden’s finances related to overseas business ties and consulting work. Over time, investigators at multiple agencies closely watched whether he failed to report all of his earnings and whether he lied on gun purchase documents in 2018, according to people familiar with the matter who spoke on the condition of anonymity. ongoing cases.
A few months ago, agents determined they had opened a viable criminal case against the young Biden. But ultimately it is up to Justice Department prosecutors, not surrogates, to decide whether to file charges if prosecutors believe the evidence is sufficient to lead to a possible conviction at trial.
Given the strong political interest in a criminal investigation involving the son of the current president, Attorney General Merrick Garland made it clear that U.S. Attorney David C. Weiss) is overseeing the case.
Garland has vowed not to interfere politically or otherwise improperly in the Hunter Biden case, and has not acted to push Weiss to a decision, the people said. It is not uncommon for Justice Department investigations to take years to complete. DOJ policy will require that any criminal tax charges be approved by the DOJ tax department.
A spokesman for Weiss declined to comment, as did spokespeople for the Justice Department, the FBI and the Internal Revenue Service, the two main investigative agencies.
When asked about the case, Hunter Biden’s attorney Chris Clark accused investigators of leaking information. “It is a federal felony for a federal agent to leak information about a grand jury investigation,” Clark said in a written statement. “Any agent you reference in your article has clearly committed such a felony. We hope the Department of Justice has committed such a felony. These bad actors will be carefully investigated and prosecuted. As appropriate and required by law, we trust the prosecutors in this case to be diligent and to weigh thoroughly not only the evidence presented by the attorney, but all other witnesses in this case, including defense witnesses. That’s the job of prosecutors. They shouldn’t be pressured, rushed or criticized for their job.”
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Any decision to charge in the Biden case is particularly concerning because Trump and his allies have made allegations of corruption in Hunter Biden’s business dealings a major line of attack against Democrats before and after the 2020 presidential campaign. At the height of the campaign, Trump allies revealed that a Delaware computer store owner handed over a laptop apparently belonging to Hunter Biden to the FBI. Trump and others have argued that the data on the laptop showed evidence of unethical and potentially illegal business dealings; Joe Biden and his supporters denounced the efforts as a smear.
In March, The Washington Post reported that two computer security experts reviewed thousands of emails purportedly from Hunter Biden’s computer and found that they were genuine communications based on encrypted signatures from Google and other tech companies. This article was unable to determine whether the laptop and its contents were useful to the Department of Justice’s investigation.
In recent months, the Justice Department and the FBI have launched larger, more public investigations into whether Trump mishandled classified material at Mar-a-Lago, as well as a separate federal probe into efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 election. The Biden investigation comes as relatively little progress has been made. Trump and his allies have sharply criticized federal law enforcement in both cases.
Questions about Biden Jr.’s foreign businesses have long plagued his father’s political life. Trump and his Republican allies specifically cited Hunter Biden’s work for a Ukrainian gas company during his father’s tenure as vice president and the ethics of his China-related business affairs. In a July 2019 phone call, Trump urged Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate Joe and Hunter Biden — a pressure campaign that led to Trump’s first of two impeachment trials in Congress a part of.
In December 2020, federal agents attempted to interview a young Biden, leading him to publicly admit that he was under investigation. Hunter Biden said in a statement at the time: “I take this matter very seriously, but I believe that a professional and objective review of these matters will demonstrate that I have conducted my affairs lawfully and properly, including With the help of a professional tax advisor.” .
Hunter Biden’s attorney, Clark, said in a statement Thursday that he “has no connection whatsoever with any federal investigator. As such, this “agent” interpretation of the case is inherently biased, one-sided and inaccurate Indeed. Regrettably, the law enforcement officer appears to have broken the law by adversely affecting a targeted person simply because of his last name.“
Republicans have urged the Biden administration to appoint a special counsel to take over the probe into the president’s son, a step they believe is needed to ensure public confidence in the findings. However, any special counsel will still be accountable to the attorney general under the Justice Department. Garland chose not to make such an appointment and instead handed the case over to Wes, whose previous career as a federal prosecutor dates back decades, including violent crime and white-collar cases.
Early in the Biden administration, a Justice Department official said that because Weiss was overseeing the Hunter Biden case, removing him from his role as U.S. attorney could spark a major political backlash.
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In April, Garland was asked at a Senate hearing how the Justice Department was handling the case after White House Chief of Staff Ron Crane said Biden “believes his son did not break the law.”
Weiss “responsible for that investigation. There will be no political or improper form of interference,” Garland replied. “We’re putting the investigation in the hands of a Trump appointee from the previous administration.”
The main focus of the tax probe is whether Hunter Biden failed to declare income related to his various business ventures, including overseas. The firearms paperwork for the investigation stems in part from 2018, during which, according to his own account, Hunter Biden used cocaine.
In October of that year, Biden purchased a handgun and filled out a federal form allegedly asking him if he “used or indulged in marijuana or any sedative, stimulant, narcotic, or any other controlled substance?”
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He used drugs heavily that year, according to a book Hunter Biden later wrote about his struggles with substance abuse.
Prosecution for False Statements Gun buying forms are relatively rare, but they do happen. In the fiscal year Hunter Biden bought that pistol, Justice Department records show prosecutors received 478 referrals for lying on the form. Of these, 298 cases, or about 60%, were prosecuted.
Federal agents have called such cases “lying and buying.” Historically, prosecutors have had a great deal of discretion in deciding what merits federal resources.
“Prosecutors can say they have a bigger fish to catch, or they can decide to pursue a deal,” said Joseph Green, a retired special agent for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. “As agents, we always try to bring as many charges as we can, but it’s ultimately up to the prosecutors to decide which charges they’ll bring.”
Ann E. Marimow contributed to this report.