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Son investigation risks hanging off Biden’s weight as he takes office

WASHINGTON – The recently disclosed federal tax investigation into his son will test President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s stated commitment to independent law enforcement while leaving him in a hopeless situation that could prove to be entertaining at best and politically and legally perilous. at worst.

Unless President Trump’s Justice Department briefs Hunter Biden of his wrongdoing before he leaves office, the new president will be faced with the prospect of his own newly installed administration deciding how or whether to proceed. to an investigation that could expose her son to criminal prosecution. Already some Republicans are ask for special advice be appointed to protect the case from political influence.

During the election campaign, Mr. Biden criticized Mr. Trump’s efforts to use the FBI and the Justice Department to pursue enemies and take it easy with friends, promising to restore some autonomy for law enforcement if he won the election. News of the Hunter Biden investigation now focuses even more attention on the selection of the new president for the post of attorney general, and it will inevitably raise questions if he names someone perceived as a political ally rather than someone. ‘one considered more independent from the White House.

“This should not be investigated by a person appointed by the president, nor if any member of his cabinet is accused of something or his national security adviser” said Richard W. Painter, former ethics counselor to President George W. Bush who became a big critic of Mr. Trump and changed parties.

Mr Painter said Mr Biden should establish a permanent special advocate to handle politically sensitive cases and restore faith that the Justice Department is not just a tool of the president. “This is an opportunity for the new president and attorney general, whatever he chooses, to say that this is exactly why we need a special advocate office,” he said. declared.

The president-elect has made no comment since Hunter Biden revealed on Wednesday that he had been briefed on the U.S. attorney’s investigation in Delaware beyond a statement released by his staff expressing support for his son. His office had no further comment on Thursday on how he would deal with the matter once he becomes president.

Mr Trump, who himself engaged in dubious schemes to avoid paying taxes, including cases of outright fraud, took to the matter to say journalists and even his own administration should have revealed the Hunter Biden investigation in time to help him win the election. . “Why didn’t the Fake News Media, the FBI, and the DOJ report the Biden case BEFORE the election?” he wrote on Twitter Thursday, using the Justice Department’s initials, before falsely claiming he won anyway.

Other Republicans and conservative media also focused their anger on Twitter, Facebook and the news media, which they said had underestimated or dismissed allegations about Hunter Biden’s business dealings in China ahead of the election. They have vowed to push for inquiries if the party retains control of the Senate after the second round of voting in Georgia next month.

“I’m not going to turn a blind eye to this,” Senator Ron Johnson, Republican of Wisconsin and chairman of a Senate committee that released a report criticizing Hunter Biden ahead of the election, told Fox News Wednesday. “We will continue to dig.”

But it is not clear whether the newly disclosed federal investigation corroborated the Republican claims. The investigation originally focused on possible money laundering but did not gather enough evidence for prosecution, according to people familiar with the case. Instead, he turned to tax matters. The federal government and the city of Washington, DC, issued liens against Hunter Biden for the unpaid taxes, but have since released them.

Either way, the case now looks likely to dangle Mr Biden’s weight even as he takes office. If he refuses to appoint a special advocate and his Justice Department chooses not to prosecute his son, many will invariably suspect the favoritism. If he takes legal action, then the president will face the prospect of seeing his own son threatened with criminal prosecution.

For presidents, few aspects of White House life are more upsetting than the allegations against the family; either they feel disappointed by a parent or the feeling that a loved one has been unfairly targeted just because of the relationship. President Jimmy Carter’s brother Billy Carter has been investigated for lobbying the Libyan government, while President George Bush’s son Neil Bush has been accused by regulators in connection with the collapse of savings and loan. President Bill Clinton eventually pardoned his own brother, Roger Clinton, on drug charges.

Mr. Trump’s children have faced multiple legal issues during his presidency. Special Advocate Robert S. Mueller III reviewed a meeting Donald Trump Jr. held with a Kremlin-linked lawyer during the 2016 campaign, while Jared Kushner, his son-in-law and senior adviser, was stripped of his top security -secret. clearance on questions about its commercial relations.

Just last week, Ivanka Trump testified in a lawsuit filed by the Washington City Attorney General over the inauguration finances. New York prosecutors are looking into tax write-offs of advisory fees that apparently went to him before his father won the presidency.

Even if it ultimately turns out that Hunter Biden didn’t break any laws, the investigation could be problematic for a new president promising a clean break from the many conflicts of interest under his predecessor. Billy Carter, who like Hunter Biden has experienced substance abuse issues, has been the subject of four investigations and the subject of a 92-page White House report from his own brother who criticized his judgment, but none foul play was found.

“If Carter’s experience is any indication, the Hunter Biden case will worsen for months and distract the administration,” said Jonathan Alter, author of “His Very Best,” a new biography of Jimmy Carter. . “But there is one important difference: the post-Watergate press suspected the president of doing something wrong and harassed him for it. In this case, Joe Biden was pushed and probed for months and not involved, which gives him more presumption of innocence than Carter.

But that may not relieve Mr. Biden of the searing outburst from Republican investigators and the conservative news media, who were eager to prove Hunter Biden’s corruption in part to justify Mr. Trump’s efforts to lobby. on the Ukrainian government to investigate him, an effort that ultimately led to his impeachment by the Democratic-controlled House for abuse of power.

“Republicans of the 1970s weren’t vicious and reckless about the facts, and when Carter defended himself well at the press conference, they backed down on the story,” Mr. Alter said. “It’s unlikely to happen this time.”

Democrats were immediately suspicious of the Hunter Biden tax investigation, deeming it partisan. “All of the allegations we have reviewed about Hunter in impeachment have proven to be unfounded,” said Norman L. Eisen, who served as the Democrats’ lawyer on the House Judiciary Committee during the impeachment battle. “They were nothing burgers. There are plenty of reasons to believe that Trump-Barr’s DOJ is not above another abuse of power, an abuse of starting power.

Mr. Trump has made it clear that he believes the Justice Department and the FBI should initiate or cancel investigations according to his own wishes. He repeatedly pressured them to investigate Mr Biden, former President Barack Obama, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and other suspected adversaries, only to be frustrated when Attorney General William P. Barr did not comply.

But under pressure from Mr Trump, Mr Barr decided to reduce the sentencing recommendation from longtime friend and advisor to the President, Roger J. Stone Jr., and to quash the guilty pleas. Former national security adviser to President Michael T. Flynn, despite objections from career prosecutors, some of whom have resigned or stepped down in protest. Mr. Trump ultimately went further by switching Mr. Stone’s sentence and pardoning Mr. Flynn.

Noah Bookbinder, executive director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, said it has always been important for an attorney general to demonstrate independence from the White House on individual investigations.

“The conduct of President Trump and Attorney General Barr over the past few years has made this need even more evident, and this latest issue reinforces it,” he said. Still, he has yet to approve special advice in the Biden case. “I don’t think we know enough about the state and nature of the Hunter Biden investigation to know if a special advocate is appropriate.”