Joe Biden famously told Ukrainian leaders regarding a prosecutor investigating Burisma – where his son served as a board member -- “If the prosecutor is not fired, you’re not getting the money.” The Ukrainians fired the prosecutor after the 2015 ultimatum and maintained the $1 billion U.S. loan.
As it turns out, the prosecutor in the United States investigating Hunter Biden more directly didn’t suffer the same fate. President Biden’s purging of the Justice Department dodged what might have been a scandal in his first month in office by allowing Delaware U.S. Attorney David Weiss to stay in his job.
The U.S. attorney’s investigation could potentially expand in many directions, as Hunter Biden’s web of business deals span the globe, as detailed in my book, “Abuse of Power.” This could turn into a severe headache for the president and the entire administration.
The decision to keep Weiss was a double-edged sword for the administration, but firing him would have been a much sharper edge by avoiding what could have turned into a scandal—even if he did fire the other U.S. attorneys.
Media compliance has its limits, and sacking Weiss risked appalling optics for the new administration. It would have given Republicans an excuse to demand a special counsel – since a Biden-appointed prosecutor could hardly seem an honest broker for delving into his son’s ventures, and Attorney General-nominee Merrick Garland could feel compelled to distance himself from such a case.
Presidents Donald Trump and Bill Clinton learned that special prosecutor probes can become unwieldy affairs that consume a presidency.
The most potentially troubling issue for President Biden himself is Hunter’s deal with CEFC, one of China’s largest energy firms. The New York Post reported on a trove of emails referring to a “remuneration packages.” One message mentioned “10 Jim” and “10 held by H for the big guy?” The presumption is a reference of 10 percent and that “Jim” is Jim Biden (Joe's brother) and the “big guy” is Joe Biden. That’s not certain at this point.
Then of course there was Hunter’s job on the board of directors for Burisma, the Ukraine energy firm, getting paid $50,000 per month while his father handled the Obama administration’s Ukraine policy. The then-vice president also pressured the Ukrainian government to fire a prosecutor that was investigating Burisma. This matter that played a key role in the first Trump impeachment may not yet be over.
Emails from Hunter Biden’s laptop even show connections with Burisma and VP Biden’s office, according to computer repairman John Paul Macisaac, who had access to the laptop before handing it off to the FBI.
“There was a lot of coordination. I saw a couple of emails coming directly out of the White House to members of Burisma staff, including the vice president’s schedule, any discussions that were going on about Ukraine and policies with Ukraine, and policies with Ukraine were being sent directly to Vadym, who is the number two at Burisma,” Issac said during an interview with Sean Hannity on Jan. 22.
Issac was referring to Burisma executive Vadym Pozharskyi. His claim isn’t verified, but is verifiable for any prosecutor looking into what the elder Biden--or at least what the vice president’s staff at the time might have known—about Hunter’s foreign capers.
During the Obama years, Hunter co-founded Rosemont Capital, which reportedly formed a partnership Chinese private-equity fund Bohai Capital, or BHR. On Dec. 4, 2013 Hunter flew with his father on Air Force Two to China, and arranged a meeting with BHR chief Jonathan Li and his father. After this, Rosemont got a $1 billion private equity deal with a subsidiary of the Bank of China.
“Abuse of Power” delves into these deals and others. A federal investigation has been going since 2018, but so far as we know, Hunter Biden was involved in entirely legal ventures. Just as we don’t know Biden’s motives in demanding the firing of the Ukraine prosecutor. So, the Weiss probe should play out.
Trump appointed Weiss, who took office in February 2018 to serve a four-year term. So, he’s in for at least another year. Weiss had the endorsement of Delaware’s Democratic senators Tom Carper and Chris Coons.
“David is a career prosecutor and dedicated public servant, longtime Delawarean, and valued member of our law enforcement community,” Coons said when Trump nominated Weiss.
Weiss has been an apolitical career federal prosecutor, working as assistant U.S. attorney from 1986 to 1989. He went into private practice in 1989, but returned in 2007 as the first assistant to the U.S. attorney – the top career prosecutor job in the Delaware office. Trump nominated him to be U.S. attorney for the district of Delaware in 2017.
While a special counsel would have been a bigger problem, the record for Weiss indicates he will pursue any investigation without fear or favor. And Biden would have a lot of explaining to do if he did fire the U.S. attorney in the near future.
Fred Lucas is the author of “Abuse of Power: The Three Year Campaign to Impeach Donald Trump,” (Bombardier Books, 2020) and White House correspondent for The Daily Signal.