Let’s talk about two plausible scenarios. If there currently is a prosecutable case against Hunter, it’s possible he could be indicted in the coming weeks. On the other hand, if there is a likely criminal case that needs more investigation, charges may not be imminent, but the probe will be continued. That is the tendency when cases involve foreign streams of money, evidence of which is hard to collect; and when there are potential tax counts, investigations of which tend to develop slowly. (In the Justice Department, no matter where the investigation is being run, tax charges have to be approved by Main Justice’s Tax Division.)

In either of those scenarios, it is likely that the current Justice Department would appoint a special counsel. One need not be a fan of that institution (I believe it is a pernicious one that should be avoided when practical) to grasp that the 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. Furthermore, Attorney General Bill Barr has already appointed a special counsel for the Russiagate probe, and the argument for such an appointment is even stronger here, where at issue is an investigation of the incoming president’s son under circumstances where the incoming president’s own conduct is involved.

It’s unclear how covert the Hunter Biden investigation has been for the past two or three years. But it is overt now, and that is most likely because some critical decisions have to be made — quickly.