WASHINGTON: President Donald Trump is considering getting a special attorney appointed to carry out a federal tax investigation into President-elect Joe Biden’s son, arranging a potential showdown with incoming Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen.
Trump – angry that outgoing Attorney General William Barr did not publicly announce the ongoing two-year investigation Hunter Biden – consulted on the matter with White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, White House Advisor Pat Cipollone and outside allies.
This is according to several Trump administration officials and neighboring Republicans the White House who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity to discuss private matters.
In addition to appointing a special prosecutor to investigate the young Biden, sources said Trump is interested in having another special adviser appointed to look into his baseless claims of election fraud. But if he expects his newly appointed interim attorney general to go further than Barr on both issues, he could quickly end up disappointed.
Barr announced on Monday night that he will step down with effect at the end of next week, revealing his plans about a week after Hunter Biden publicly revealed that he is being investigated in relation to his finances. It is generally the policy of the Department of Justice not to disclose ongoing investigations, although the subjects of such investigations may do so.
Rosen, the deputy attorney general, will enter the main role of the Department of Justice in an acting role. Longtime litigation, he’s been Barr’s top deputy since May 2019, but he largely steers away from the spotlight.
He said in a statement Tuesday that he was “honored” to serve and “will continue to focus on implementing the Department’s key priorities.”
Trump is still weighing his options, considering whether to press Rosen to schedule the appointment of the special adviser or, if necessary, replace the interim attorney general with someone more inclined to fulfill his wishes. He also asked his team of lawyers, including a personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani, to verify whether the president has the power to appoint a special adviser himself.
A key question will be whether Rosen will be able to withstand presidential pressure – and potentially violent attacks – in the waning weeks of the Trump administration. If not, Rosen could be sidelined in favor of others more willing to follow Trump’s orders.
Believing that an investigation into special advice could hurt a Biden administration before it even begins, Trump aides have urged the president to push for special advice, which would ensure that the investigation cannot be easily stopped by the president. incoming. No final decision has been made.
Trump announced that Barr would step down from his position on December 23, amid persistent tensions between the president and the attorney general over the Hunter Biden investigation.
Trump was angry for days after learning that Barr knew about Hunter Biden’s tax investigation before the election, but he didn’t disclose it.
He was also unhappy that Barr claimed in a widely reported interview with the AP that the Justice Department had not uncovered widespread election fraud that would affect election results.
For much of his tenure, Barr was perceived as one of the president’s most loyal cabinet members, especially after framing the results of Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation in a Trump-friendly manner, although the special adviser did not exonerate. the president from obstruction to justice. .
It was Barr who first appointed a US lawyer to look into the case against the former national security adviser Michael Flynn and then tried to dismiss the criminal charges against Flynn, who twice pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI.
When Barr comes out, the most important thing hanging over the Trump Justice Department by far is his investigation into Hunter Biden, which involves multiple US law offices and FBI field offices.
Appointing a special consultant could prove complicated, requiring consolidating different angles of investigation and hiring someone new to run the probe and catch up.
Under federal regulations, a special attorney can only be fired by the attorney general and for specific reasons such as misconduct, non-performance of duties or conflict of interest – reasons that must be specified in writing.
The appointment of a special consultant for the Hunter Biden investigation would also signal a more protracted and complicated investigation than the current investigation, so far largely focused on his taxes. A subpoena seeking documents from young Biden asked for information relating to more than two dozen entities, including the Ukrainian gas company Burisma.
In any case, the investigation is complicating Joe Biden’s choice for the Attorney General, on whose shoulders this investigation would land. Any candidate for the office of attorney general risks facing a mountain of questions in a confirmation hearing about how to oversee the investigation.
It could be that Rosen will remain in the position for a few weeks after Biden was sworn in on January 20. If Trump doesn’t fire him, that’s it.