The Scope of U.S. Attorney’s Authority Becomes a Contentious Issue in the Hunter Biden Investigation

by Madison Thomas
Hunter Biden investigation

In a heated hearing on Wednesday, House Republicans interrogated Attorney General Merrick Garland about the Justice Department’s ongoing inquiry into Hunter Biden. The session examined dimensions of the criminal justice process that usually remain behind closed doors until a case is brought before the public in a courtroom setting.

Members of Congress directed numerous queries toward the protracted investigation of the President’s son, who is currently facing scrutiny for his commercial ventures and has also been indicted on a federal firearms charge, accusing him of dishonesty regarding his drug use during a 2018 gun purchase.

Whistleblower testimony from agents of the Internal Revenue Service suggests that the investigation has been deliberately delayed, and that the supervising prosecutor’s powers were curtailed by the Justice Department. Although Attorney General Garland vehemently rejects these allegations, they may become a pivotal focus in any forthcoming impeachment proceedings against President Joe Biden.

Though the Hunter Biden case is atypical, it nonetheless highlights some of the lesser-known but critical elements of the criminal justice system.

Frequently Asked Questions About Criminal Prosecutions

How Are Cases Initiated?

Within the federal judicial system, investigations usually commence with law enforcement agencies such as the FBI, DEA, or Homeland Security. There are 94 U.S. Attorney’s Offices where prosecutors evaluate evidence to determine if charges should be filed. While some inquiries result in criminal charges, prosecutors may opt not to proceed in others. Prosecutors generally possess considerable latitude in deciding whom to charge, the extent of the charges, and their gravity—choices that may deviate from the initial findings of the investigators.

What Happens When an Investigation Spans Multiple States?

When an ongoing investigation uncovers allegations that cross state lines, prosecutors have multiple routes available for filing charges. One option is for the U.S. Attorney’s Office to collaborate with the other state’s prosecutors to jointly file the case. Alternatively, a U.S. Attorney can seek authorization to pursue a case beyond their jurisdiction through a mechanism known as a “515 order” within the Justice Department.

Garland characterized this procedural mechanism as “very common” and “not cumbersome.” In the context of the Hunter Biden investigation, allegations have been made that David Weiss, the Delaware U.S. Attorney supervising the case, was rebuffed by his counterparts in Washington and California when he sought to file tax-related charges.

What Is a Special Counsel?

A Special Counsel is a lawyer appointed to handle investigations where the Justice Department identifies a conflict of interest or believes public interest necessitates external oversight. Though they operate outside the day-to-day jurisdiction of the Justice Department, special counsels must adhere to its regulations, guidelines, and practices. While the Attorney General reserves the right to overrule a special counsel, such a decision must be reported to Congress.

During the Wednesday hearing, questions arose about Weiss’s August appointment as a Special Counsel. Critics argued that a pending plea agreement indicated that Weiss was not the optimal choice for the role. Garland stated that the appointment was made upon Weiss’s request and cautioned against “changing horses midstream.”

Complexities Surrounding the Hunter Biden Case

Congressional Republicans have been rigorously scrutinizing not only Hunter Biden’s business activities but also the Justice Department’s management of his case. Multiple federal agents have offered conflicting views on the scope of Weiss’s authority during the final stages of last year’s investigations.

Veteran IRS agent Gary Shapley testified that Weiss had stated he was not the “deciding person” concerning the filing of charges against Hunter Biden. However, senior FBI agents Thomas Sobocinski and his deputy contradicted this, affirming that they did not recall Weiss ever making such a statement. “I never thought that anybody was there above David Weiss to say no,” Sobocinski clarified.

This divergence in perspectives further complicates the already contentious landscape surrounding the Hunter Biden case, highlighting the complexities in the operation and oversight of high-profile criminal investigations.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Hunter Biden investigation

What is the main subject of the article?

The article primarily focuses on the Justice Department’s investigation into Hunter Biden, especially the role of U.S. Attorneys and Special Counsels, and how these have become points of contention in Congressional hearings.

Who is Hunter Biden and why is he under investigation?

Hunter Biden is the son of U.S. President Joe Biden. He is under federal investigation for his business dealings and has been indicted on a federal firearms charge related to dishonesty about his drug use during a 2018 gun purchase.

What role does the U.S. Attorney play in federal investigations?

A U.S. Attorney supervises federal investigations within their jurisdiction. They evaluate evidence and decide whether to file criminal charges. Their authority can be extensive, but this has become a contentious point in the Hunter Biden case.

What is a “515 order” in the context of the Justice Department?

A “515 order” allows a U.S. Attorney to pursue a case outside of their jurisdiction. The order grants what is generally known as “special attorney” status and requires approval from a senior Justice Department official, such as the Attorney General.

What is a Special Counsel and when are they appointed?

A Special Counsel is an attorney appointed to oversee an investigation where the Justice Department may have a conflict of interest, or where it is deemed to be in the public interest to have external oversight. They are not subject to day-to-day supervision by the Justice Department but must follow its regulations and policies.

Why are Congressional Republicans scrutinizing the Hunter Biden case?

Congressional Republicans are questioning the thoroughness and impartiality of the investigation into Hunter Biden. They are also probing into the role and authority of the U.S. Attorney overseeing the case, questioning whether he has full discretion to act.

What are the conflicting testimonies in the Hunter Biden investigation?

Some federal agents have testified that David Weiss, the U.S. Attorney overseeing the Hunter Biden case, stated he was not the “deciding person” on filing charges against Hunter Biden. However, senior FBI agents have contradicted this, stating they do not recall Weiss making such a statement.

Who is Merrick Garland and what is his role in the case?

Merrick Garland is the U.S. Attorney General. He was questioned by Congressional Republicans about the Justice Department’s handling of the Hunter Biden case during a heated hearing. He has largely remained hands-off on the case to avoid perceptions of political interference.

What implications could the Hunter Biden case have for President Joe Biden?

The Hunter Biden investigation could potentially become a major focus in any forthcoming impeachment proceedings against President Joe Biden, especially if allegations of interference or misconduct are substantiated.

More about Hunter Biden investigation

  • Justice Department’s Role in Federal Investigations
  • Understanding the Function of a U.S. Attorney
  • The Scope and Authority of a Special Counsel
  • Congressional Hearings and Oversight
  • The Legal Implications of the Hunter Biden Investigation
  • Who is Merrick Garland? A Profile of the U.S. Attorney General
  • Overview of Federal Firearms Charges
  • Whistleblower Testimonies in Federal Cases
  • Conflict of Interest in Legal Investigations
  • Impeachment Proceedings: How They Work

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AutoFanatic September 21, 2023 - 3:14 am

Off topic but can we get articles like this on the auto industry? Great detail and depth here.

JohnDoe September 21, 2023 - 6:17 am

Wow, this is heavy stuff. It really goes deep into the weeds of the justice system. Kudos for laying it all out.

TruthSeeker September 21, 2023 - 6:19 am

If Weiss isn’t the deciding authority, then who is? Smells fishy to me.

LegalEagle September 21, 2023 - 6:40 am

Amazing breakdown, esp on the role of Special Counsels. Most ppl have no idea what they really do.

Mike_the_Analyst September 21, 2023 - 7:15 am

So, Republicans are really digging into this huh? Interesting how Weiss’s authority is questioned. Raises a lot of qs for me.

FinanceGuru September 21, 2023 - 9:08 am

What impact will this have on the stock market? Biden investigation and all these hearings make me nervous.

PoliticalWatcher September 21, 2023 - 10:18 am

Garland’s been really cautious here. Smart move or is he avoiding something?

CryptoQueen September 21, 2023 - 11:36 am

Hunter Biden and crypto next? I mean, is anything off limits in this investigation? LOL.

CuriousReader September 21, 2023 - 11:39 am

whats a 515 order? Never heard of it b4 this article. Good to know.

Sarah92 September 21, 2023 - 3:19 pm

Super informative. i always wondered how U.S. Attorneys work, and this article nailed it.


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