Wyoming Senators Mum on Hunter Biden Special Counsel Appointment

Other GOP lawmakers, including Rep. Hageman, harshly criticized the move

  • Published In: Politics
  • Last Updated: Aug 14, 2023

Rep. Harriet Hageman (R-Wyo.) harshly criticized Trump-appointed U.S. attorney in Delaware David Weiss's appointment as special counsel, labeling it "absurd" and "ridiculous." (Photo via Fox News)

By Jacob Gardenswartz

Special to the Wyoming Truth

WASHINGTON — U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland’s surprise announcement on Friday that he’d elevated David Weiss, the Delaware U.S. attorney scrutinizing Hunter Biden’s financial dealings, to special counsel status seemed on its face like a victory for Republican critics of the Biden administration.

Citing the “extraordinary circumstances” involved in the matter, Garland said he’d granted Weiss’s recent request to become a special counsel as a means of “reaffirm[ing]” his commitment to a thorough and independent investigation.

“I am confident that Mr. Weiss will carry out his responsibility in an even-handed and urgent manner, and in accordance with the highest traditions of this Department,” Garland concluded in brief remarks from the Justice Department.

Republican lawmakers have for months alleged wrongdoing in the department’s inquiry into the younger Biden, suggesting there was political interference by the president and attempts to censor media reporting into the matter. Many claimed vindication after a plea deal brokered by Weiss broke down last month amid questioning from a federal judge about the terms. Had the deal gone through, Biden would have pleaded guilty to two misdemeanor crimes pertaining to unpaid taxes, avoiding jail time and further scrutiny into a 2018 felony gun charge.

Attorney General Merrick Garland said the appointment would ensure independence in the ongoing investigation into Hunter Biden. (AP Photo/Stephanie Scarbrough)

Yet though numerous Republicans had once called for Weiss’s appointment as a special counsel, few were celebrating this weekend.

“This is a man who has failed by every metric for the last five years to actually hold Hunter Biden accountable for his illegal acts,” Rep. Harriet Hageman (R-Wyo.) said on Fox Newson Sunday. “This is absurd. This is ridiculous.”

Shifting stance on special counsels

Despite Hageman’s criticisms, many GOP lawmakers were once strong supporters of Weiss — a 2018 appointee of former President Donald Trump who has an extensive history of prosecuting both white-collar and violent crime and who’s been investigating Hunter Biden since well before President Joe Biden took office.

Last April, a group of House Republicans wrote to Garland calling on him to appoint a special counsel in the Hunter Biden matter: “[W]e ask that you appoint a Special Counsel to oversee this

critical investigation,” the lawmakers concluded.

On the Senate side, 32 officials, including Sens. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) and Cynthia Lummis (R-Wyo.), similarly wrote to Garland in September, specifically asking that Weiss be the one granted special counsel status.

“We the undersigned write to request that United States Attorney David C. Weiss be extended special counsel protections and authorities to conduct the Hunter Biden investigation,” they wrote. “This is one important action that you can take that will go a long way in restoring faith in

our governmental institutions.”

Other top critics of the administration were harshly critical of Garland’s failure to do so. “To date, you have declined to appoint a special counsel in this matter, despite appointing special counsels in other investigations. Your refusal to appoint a special counsel here is conspicuous in this context,” Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, wrote this February.

Since Friday’s announcement, however, many have changed their tune. Jordan on Friday suggested the delay in Weiss’s appointment meant “[s]omething’s not right,” and Republicans on the House Judiciary Committee went so far as to claim on X, the social media site formerly known as Twitter, that the announcement was “just a new way to whitewash the Biden family’s corruption.”

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), who signed the letter calling for Weiss’s special counsel appointment, criticized the move on Sunday as “camouflage” and a “cover up.”

But Barrasso and Lummis have thus far stayed mum; neither responded to the Wyoming Truth’s inquiries about the appointment or their previous support of Weiss.

What comes next

Weiss’s appointment as special counsel has a few direct implications — both on legal and political fronts.

Legally, the move means it’s unlikely Biden’s plea deal, in limbo since last month, will be revived; indeed, officials in the White House and the Bidens’ orbit said they were surprised by the appointment and not consulted on the matter — statements Garland will surely use to attest to the Justice Department’s independence.

Logistically, Weiss’s new powers give him authority to bring charges outside Delaware, meaning Biden may now face legal scrutiny in more than one venue. And though the lesser tax charges have thus far been the focus of public attention, the 2018 gun charge — felony possession of a firearm as a drug user — carries with it up to 10 years of jail time.

For Republicans in Congress who are simultaneously pursuing inquiries Hunter Biden’s conduct, the appointment of a special counsel could damper their investigations. Special counsels have historically been granted greater leeway and secrecy while their work is ongoing, as by law they are required to produce a report to the attorney general explaining the prosecution or declination decisions they reached once they have concluded.

In his Friday remarks, Garland pledged to make “as much of his report public as possible, consistent with legal requirements and Department policy.”

And politically, it remains unclear how the move will shake out — though both parties are trying to spin it in their favor.

Democrats are privately resigned to the fact that scrutiny into Hunter Biden is here to stay. Still, they’re quick to highlight investigators have uncovered no evidence tying President Biden to his son’s misconduct, and point to polling showing most Americans don’t believe the prosecution is politically motivated.

In the short term, Democrats are highlighting what they describe as hypocrisy from Republican lawmakers attacking a man they once suggested be appointed special counsel.

“House Republicans’ opposition to Trump appointee David Weiss’s appointment as special counsel is nothing more than another political stunt,” Kyle Herrig, executive director of the Congressional Integrity Project advocacy group that defends Biden from congressional investigations, said in a statement. “After months of calling for this, their dismay makes clear that they will stop at nothing to weaponize Congress to interfere with an ongoing investigation and harm Joe Biden.”

And despite their public criticisms, some Republicans are privately giddy at the move, sure to keep Hunter Biden’s name in the headlines throughout the 2024 presidential campaign. GOP strategists have long sought to use Biden’s son’s legal troubles as a foil against the burgeoning legal exposure Trump faces. Weiss’s appointment, whatever they think of him, will certainly help.

Even though Weiss “stinks,” said Trump spokesman and top campaign aide Jason Miller on Newsmax Friday, Republicans’ shouldn’t “lose sight of the big prize here.”

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