Barr Sees ‘No Purpose’ for Particular Counsels for Hunter Biden, Election

WASHINGTON – Two days before his resignation, Attorney General William P. Barr again distanced himself on Monday from President Trump, saying he saw no reason to appoint special advisers to deal with the Justice Department’s ongoing criminal investigation against Hunter Biden, the president-elect’s son, to monitor Joseph R. Biden Jr. or to investigate Mr. Trump’s unsubstantiated claims of widespread election fraud.

At a press conference announcing charges in an unrelated terrorism case, Mr. Barr said he saw “no reason to appoint a special adviser” to oversee the younger Mr. Biden’s tax investigation.

“I don’t plan to do this before I go,” said Mr. Barr. “As far as there is an investigation, I think that it is being handled responsibly and professionally.”

He also said that he would appoint a special lawyer to oversee an election fraud investigation if he believed one was warranted. “But I haven’t and I won’t,” said Mr. Barr.

Following the loss of Mr Trump to Mr Biden, the president and his allies have seized on conspiracy theories about election fraud and considered legally questionable measures to question the validity of the outcome or even attempt to overturn it. The statements made by Mr. Barr during his last few days at work appeared to indicate that the Justice Department had no appetite to be drawn into such efforts.

However, it is unclear how much pressure Mr Trump could put on Mr Barr’s successor, Jeffrey A. Rosen, the current Assistant Attorney General, who will lead the division on an acting basis for the remaining weeks of the President’s tenure and how he will deal with it Mr. Trump is unknown.

At the very least, Mr Barr’s statements on Monday cover Mr Rosen not to appoint special advisers to deal with election fraud or Hunter Biden and would make the look of any decision to make such appointments more difficult for both Mr Rosen and Mr Trump.

Mr. Rosen has not signaled his specific intentions. However, according to a person familiar with these conversations and not empowered to discuss them publicly, he has had discussions about the implications of the appointment of a special envoy to oversee the investigation against Hunter Biden.

In an interview with Reuters last week, he said he would make decisions on any matter, including the possible appointment of a special adviser, “based on the law and the facts.”

Mr Barr’s comments will further poison his relationship with Mr Trump, who believes the attorney general should have used the Justice Department more intensely in the weeks leading up to the election to attack Mr Biden and his family and cast doubt on the judiciary Results after voting.

Long considered Mr. Trump’s most loyal and effective cabinet member and a believer in the power of the President, Mr. Barr brought the Justice Department closer to the White House than any attorney general since John Mitchell, who led President Richard M. Nixon’s inauguration – Election campaign and was deeply involved in Watergate.

Mr Barr’s treatment of the Special Envoy’s inquiry into the Russia Interface and Mr Trump’s 2016 campaign was a gift to the President. He presented it to Mr Trump in the best possible light prior to its release and eventually concluded that the President had not obstructed the judiciary despite his efforts to shut down the investigation.

The Department of Justice’s independent inspector general found that the bureau’s senior officials had sufficient reason to open the investigation. A judge later called the summary of Mr Barr’s report by Special Envoy Robert S. Mueller III misleading.

The transition of the president


Apr. 21, 2020 at 3:17 am ET

Convinced that the FBI had exceeded its authority in investigating the Trump campaign, Barr asked a federal attorney, John H. Durham, to investigate the origins of the Russia investigation. In October, the Attorney General appointed him a special adviser to further investigate whether the investigation was wrongly opened.

Mr Barr broke longstanding norms when he spent the months leading up to the election reiterating Mr Trump’s unsubstantiated claims that postal ballot papers would lead to widespread electoral fraud. In strikingly political remarks for a prosecutor general, he later said that the country would be “irrevocably committed to the socialist path” if the president is not re-elected.

He also cleared criminal charges against Michael T. Flynn, the president’s first national security adviser, and overruled prosecutors who moved a long-standing verdict on Roger J. Stone Jr., one of Mr. Trump’s long-time advisers.

But his relationship with the president collapsed after the election after he said in an interview earlier this month that he hadn’t seen enough election fraud to change the outcome.

Tensions between them escalated after it became clear that Mr Barr had kept the investigation of Mr Biden’s son under wraps during the presidential race. While it is the department’s policy not to discuss any investigation that could affect the outcome of an election, Mr. Trump accused his attorney general of infidelity for not making the matter public during the election campaign.

With the president growing angrier and his allies constantly attacking Mr. Barr on social media and cable news for his perceived infidelity, the president said last week that Mr. Barr would leave on Wednesday.

Mr Trump’s efforts to overturn the election have become more frantic since he announced that Mr Barr will step down. On Friday he discussed with aides in the Oval Office about the appointment of Sidney Powell as special adviser to oversee an election fraud investigation. Ms. Powell, who served as a campaign lawyer, has advocated unsubstantiated conspiracy theories that Venezuela used voting machines to rig the presidential elections.

Mr Trump has raised the possibility of an executive order ordering the Department of Homeland Security to confiscate voting machines and examine them for signs of tampering. His personal attorney, Rudolph W. Giuliani, has also attempted to have the department confiscate the machines, an idea rejected by Homeland Security officials.

White House attorneys have advised Mr Trump that he has no authority to take these measures, but his allies have urged the president not to heed their advice.

Now Mr Rosen has to grapple with the possibility of Mr Trump launching a parallel print campaign against the Justice Department.

Mr. Rosen, a long-time corporate attorney with no experience as a prosecutor, had never worked in the Justice Department before being named Mr. Barr’s senior deputy in May 2019. His previous government service included serving as General Counsel to the Department of Transportation and the Office of Administration and Budget of the White House under George W. Bush and No. 2 officer in the Transportation Department under Mr. Trump.

How far an attorney general can and should go to advance Mr Trump’s political agenda has defined the terms of office of Mr Barr and his most recent predecessor, Jeff Sessions. But Mr. Rosen will step into the role at a time when the question is more intense than ever.

Unlike Mr. Barr and Mr. Sessions, Mr. Rosen doesn’t have a long relationship with the department and no one is sure how much he tends to control the president and protect the long-term interests of the department.

Mr. Rosen worked in the department mostly in Mr. Barr’s shadow. After Mr. Barr announced that he would leave, Mr. Rosen said that he was “honored by the trust and confidence” that Mr. Trump had shown in him as the head of the department and that he “continued to focus on the implementation of the department will focus on “key priorities” and “rule of law”.

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