He gave the kind, fatherly response here, the same comment his team made on his behalf when Hunter announced a few days ago that he was being investigated over his “tax affairs.”
But this isn’t going to hack it forever.
Or will it? Once he’s president, he’ll swat away questions about the DOJ probing Hunter with “I can’t comment on an active investigation.” Same goes for if Hunter is indicted: “I can’t comment on a pending prosecution.”
After a conviction, maybe then we’ll hear something of substance. Watch, then read on.
An obvious question hanging over Biden right now: Will his AG appoint a special counsel to handle the Hunter investigation? Even Trump critics like Richard Painter believe one is obviously warranted here — and maybe not just for the Hunter matter.
“That should not be investigated by someone appointed by the president any more than if one of his cabinet members is accused of something or his national security adviser,” said Richard W. Painter, a former ethics counsel to President George W. Bush who became a leading critic of Mr. Trump and switched parties.
Mr. Painter said Mr. Biden should establish a permanent special counsel to handle politically sensitive cases and restore faith that the Justice Department is not simply a tool of the president. “This is the opportunity for the incoming president and attorney general, whoever he chooses, to say this is exactly why we need an office of special counsel,” he said.
Tom Cotton also thinks a special counsel is in order, as does Andy McCarthy. “[T]he classic situation for a special counsel is when the Justice Department has a profound conflict of interest because (a) there is substantial evidence of wrongdoing, and (b) the case requires investigating the president, those close to him, or other high administration officials,” McCarthy wrote. This case obviously qualifies. One way Bill Barr could reingratiate himself to Trump and MAGA fans would be to take it upon himself to appoint one, having already elevated John Durham to special-counsel status to make sure that Durham’s probe will endure even after Biden takes office.
Although, as a matter of raw politics, you wonder which would be better for the GOP, Hunter being successfully prosecuted for tax evasion or Biden succumbing to the temptation to fire the prosecutor who’s chasing him. The latter can’t happen if that prosecutor is a special counsel. (I mean, it can, but that would require Biden to break a norm that even Trump wouldn’t break.) It’d be easier for him and his AG to meddle with a standard prosecution. But that would look so corrupt, and so, so, so hypocritical after Democrats’ complaints about Trump meddling with the DOJ to make sure his cronies enjoyed special treatment, that I think the GOP would get more political mileage out of it than from a successful Hunter prosecution. Look at it this way: As sleazy as it would be to find that Hunter skirted his tax obligations, a case like that wouldn’t necessarily touch Joe Biden. Whereas if the Biden White House interfered with the Justice Department on Hunter’s behalf, that’s a nuclear scandal.
But I don’t think the Biden White House would do that, precisely because it would make a mockery of his entire “return to norms” campaign pitch. If Biden’s going to intervene somehow on Hunter’s behalf, I’d guess there’s a tiny but nonzero chance that he’d pardon him late in his term — but even then, probably only if Trump sets a precedent of blanket-pardoning his own children first. I think it’s far more likely that Sleepy Joe would grit his teeth and accept the prospect of Hunter having to do some time than enlist his administration to try to prevent that. Especially with Trump waiting in the wings in 2024 to say, “See, I told you. The left points fingers at me but look what they do when they’re in charge!”
Whatever happens, “President’s Son Faces New Round of Legal Trouble” will be a bad headline for Biden for months to come. Team Joe is probably hoping that whatever happens with Hunter happens soon, as it’ll be awkward if the decision to charge him is made by the Biden DOJ — and it’ll be *really* awkward if the decision *not* to charge him is. In fact, Biden might be hoping Barr appoints a special counsel in the matter just so that it’s out of his administration’s hands.
One last point. I wonder if the Hunter business will lead Biden to opt for Merrick Garland as AG. His name’s been floated before, but more as a longshot alternative to Doug Jones and Sally Yates. Now that Biden’s own son might be prosecuted, he might be looking for someone with a reputation of unimpeachable integrity to handle the matter. A former federal judge who was nominated to the Supreme Court is an obvious possibility.