Attorney General William Barr said Monday he sees no need to appoint a special counsel to oversee investigations related to Hunter Biden or the 2020 presidential election, rebuffing ideas that have gained steam in conservative circles in the weeks since President-elect Joe Biden’s victory.
Barr said the ongoing probes into the younger Biden are already being capably handled by attorneys within the Department of Justice.
“I think to the extent there’s an investigation, I think that it’s being handled responsibly and professionally currently within the department,” Barr said at what is likely his last news conference before his resignation takes effect later this week. “To this point I have not seen a reason to appoint a special counsel, and I have no plan to do so before I leave.”
Hunter Biden revealed early this month that the U.S. attorney for Delaware was investigating him for possible tax-related issues. POLITICO later reported the securities fraud unit for the Southern District of New York, which investigates major white-collar crimes, was looking into his financial dealings as well and that the scope of the investigations go beyond just taxes.
Conservatives have used Hunter Biden’s legal cloud as a cudgel against the former vice president and have raised concerns that Joe Biden or his yet-to-be-named attorney general could shut down probes into his son shortly after taking office in January. They have pushed the Trump administration to insulate that investigation by appointing a special counsel.
Jen Psaki, who Biden tapped to be his White House press secretary, said Sunday that the president-elect is refraining from talking about his son’s potential legal issues with any candidates to be attorney general in his administration.
“He will not be discussing an investigation of his son with any attorney general candidates. He will not be discussing it with anyone he is considering for the role. And he will not be discussing it with a future attorney general,” she said on “Fox News Sunday.”
Barr said he hopes that Biden would refrain from meddling into any investigation related to his son and allow such probes to proceed freely.
“I’m hoping that the next administration handles that matter responsibly,” he said.
Barr also dismissed the idea of seizing voting machines in service of efforts by Trump and his allies to overturn his loss to Biden in November.
“I see no basis now for seizing machines by the federal government,” he said.
The far-fetched idea was pushed by former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani, who is leading Trump’s legal effort to challenge the results of the presidential election, and alarmed members of the Trump administration.
Ken Cuccinelli, a top official at the Department of Homeland Security, reportedly expressed doubt that the agency had the legal authority to do what Giuliani and other Trump allies were proposing, among other concerns.
Trump has also entertained the idea of appointing a special counsel to investigate his loss to Biden and empowering attorney Sidney Powell — who has disseminated numerous conspiracy theories about the election — to pursue the issue.
For nearly two months, Powell has led a wide-ranging legal campaign to invalidate the 2020 election results, a mostly fruitless effort that has been rebuked in state and federal courts across the county.
Barr said if he thought such a special counsel was necessary he would have already done so. He also stood by his previous public statements that he has not seen evidence of rampant voter fraud sufficient to swing the results of the election.
The attorney general also sided with the assessment of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and others that Russia was behind a recent cyberattack that targeted several parts of the federal government. The Kremlin has denied involvement, and Trump over the weekend downplayed both the severity of the breach and the likelihood that it came from Russia.
The attorney general’s comments came after announcing criminal charges against a former Libyan intelligence officer allegedly tied to the 1988 terrorist bombing of Pan Am flight 103, timed to the 32nd anniversary of the attack over Lockerbie, Scotland.
The majority of the 270 victims were Americans — including nearly 36 Syracuse University students returning from a semester abroad — and Barr has long been personally invested in the case. It dates back to his first stint as attorney general, and he said the new charges help bring the tragedy “full circle” for him.
“At long last, this man responsible for killing Americans and many others will be subject to justice for his crimes,” Barr said of the alleged bombmaker, Abu Agela Masud, who is currently in Libyan custody.
Barr said American and Scottish authorities are working to bring him overseas to face charges.