Trump – angry that outgoing Attorney General William Barr did not publicly announce the ongoing two-year investigation into Hunter Biden – consulted White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, counsel for the White House Pat Cipollone and outside allies.
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That’s according to several Trump administration officials and Republicans close to the White House who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity to discuss private matters.
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Beyond appointing a special prosecutor to investigate young Biden, sources said Trump wanted to see another special advocate appointed to examine his own baseless allegations of election fraud. But if he expects his new acting attorney general to go further than Barr on either subject, he could quickly be disappointed.
Barr announced Monday night that he would step down as of the end of next week, revealing his plans about a week after Hunter Biden publicly revealed he was under investigation over his finances. The Department of Justice generally has a policy of not disclosing ongoing investigations, although the subjects of those investigations may.
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Rosen, the Deputy Attorney General, will serve as the Justice Department’s senior post in an interim role. A longtime lawyer, he has been Barr’s main deputy since May 2019, but is largely shying away from the spotlight. He said in a statement Tuesday that he was “honored” to serve and that he “will continue to focus on implementing the Department’s key priorities.”
Trump is still weighing his options, considering pressuring Rosen to make the appointment of a special advocate or, if necessary, replacing the acting attorney general with someone more likely to fulfill his wishes. He even asked his team of lawyers, including personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani, to check whether the president has the power to appoint special counsel himself.
A key question will be whether Rosen can resist presidential pressure – and potentially diminishing attacks – in the final weeks of the Trump administration. Otherwise, Rosen could be sidelined in favor of others more willing to respond to Trump’s offer.
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Believing that a special advocate investigation could hurt a Biden administration before it even begins, Trump aides urged the president to push for a special advocate, which would ensure that the investigation could not be easily arrested by the new president. No firm decision has been taken.
Trump announced that Barr would step down from his post on December 23, amid continuing tensions between the president and the attorney general over the Hunter Biden investigation. Trump was angry for days after learning that Barr was aware of the Hunter Biden tax investigation before the election but did not disclose it.
He was also unhappy that Barr said in a widely reported interview with the PA that the Justice Department failed to uncover widespread electoral fraud that allegedly affected the election results.
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For much of his tenure, Barr was seen as one of the most loyal members of the President’s cabinet, especially after framing the results of Robert Mueller’s Russia inquiry in a Trump-friendly manner. , although the special advocate did not exonerate the president of obstruction of justice. . It was Barr who first appointed an American attorney to review the case against former national security adviser Michael Flynn, and then sought to dismiss the criminal charges against Flynn, who has twice pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI.
By far the biggest thing hanging over Barr’s Justice Department upon Barr’s exit is his investigation into Hunter Biden, which involves several U.S. law offices and FBI field offices. Appointing a special advocate could prove complicated, requiring bringing together different investigative angles and bringing in someone new to lead the investigation and keep up to date.
Under federal regulations, a special advocate can only be dismissed by the Attorney General and for specific reasons such as misconduct, dereliction of duty or conflict of interest – reasons that must be set out in writing. Appointing a special advocate for the Hunter Biden investigation would also mean a longer and more complicated investigation than the ongoing investigation, so far largely focused on his taxes. A subpoena requesting documents from the younger Biden requested information regarding more than two dozen entities, including Ukrainian gas company Burisma.
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Anyway, the investigation complicates the choice of Joe Biden for the attorney general, on whose shoulders this investigation would land. Any candidate for the post of attorney general will likely face a mountain of questions during a confirmation hearing on how he would oversee the investigation.
Rosen could be left at the post for a few weeks after Biden was sworn in on January 20. If Trump doesn’t fire him, that’s fine.
Rosen has been the public face of some of the Justice Department’s biggest actions, including its antitrust case against Google and the criminal case against opioid maker Purdue Pharma. Before joining the Ministry of Justice, he worked at the Ministry of Transport as General Counsel then Deputy Secretary.
At Rosen’s confirmation hearing in 2019, he suggested he was prepared to push back political pressure from the White House, if necessary. He told lawmakers that criminal investigations should “be based on facts and the law” and that prosecutions should be “free from inappropriate political influence.”
“If the correct answer is to say no to someone, then I will say no,” he said at the time.
© 2020 The Canadian Press