An executive order from President Biden instructs all his appointees to sign a pledge to refrain from “improper interference” with any prosecutorial or investigative decisions at the Justice Department.
The new directive comes after Biden selected Judge Merrick Garland to be his nominee for attorney general and as Biden’s son, Hunter, is under a federal criminal investigation. There is also a criminal inquiry into the Trump-Russia investigation being conducted by special counsel John Durham.
“I recognize that this pledge is part of a broader ethics in government plan designed to restore and maintain public trust in government, and I commit myself to conduct consistent with that plan,” the Biden administration pledge reads, adding, “I commit to conduct that upholds the independence of law enforcement and precludes improper interference with investigative or prosecutorial decisions of the Department of Justice. I commit to ethical choices of post-Government employment that do not raise the appearance that I have used my Government service for private gain.”
“More than anything, we need to restore the honor, the integrity, the independence of the Department of Justice in this nation that has been so badly damaged,” Biden said, telling Garland and his other DOJ picks: “I want to be clear to those who lead this department who you will serve. You won’t work for me. You are not the president’s or the vice president’s lawyer. Your loyalty is not to me. It’s to the law, the Constitution, the people of this nation to guarantee justice.”
Garland, a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit who was former President Barack Obama’s ill-fated 2016 nominee for the Supreme Court, pointed to Justice Department policies, such as “guaranteeing the independence of the department from partisan influence in law enforcement investigations,” and promised that “if confirmed, my mission as attorney general will be to reaffirm those policies as the principles upon which the department operates.” He added that “the essence of the rule of law is that like cases are treated alike — that there not be one rule for Democrats and another for Republicans, one rule for friends and another for foes.”
Jen Psaki, who is now the White House press secretary, said in December that Biden would not discuss the investigation of his son Hunter with any of his candidates for attorney general, even after one takes office, but declined to say whether Biden would keep on David Weiss, the U.S. attorney for Delaware known to be investigating the younger Biden’s taxes.
“It will be up to the purview of a future attorney general in his administration to determine how to handle any investigation,” Psaki told Fox News. “As you know, U.S. attorneys are — that’s a personnel decision. We’re far from there in the process … But we’re going to allow the process to work how it should, which is for the Justice Department to be run independently by the attorney general at the top.”
Hunter Biden has been under criminal investigation stretching as far back as 2018 as federal authorities scrutinize his taxes and foreign business dealings, and the 50-year-old’s financial transactions with China are likely at the forefront. Biden’s campaign, along with many in the media, dismissed the Hunter Biden laptop story and other allegations as being part of a Russian disinformation operation, though Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe said he had not seen “intelligence that supports that … Hunter Biden’s laptop is part of some Russian disinformation campaign.”
Biden talked about the investigation into his son during a December interview on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, when the host asked the former vice president what he will do about people who want to “use your adult son as a cudgel against you.”
“I have, we have, great confidence in our son,” Biden replied, adding, “I’m not concerned about any accusations that have been made against him.” Biden claimed that “it’s used to get to me” and “I think it’s kind of foul play.”
Biden said: “Don’t get me wrong, doesn’t mean I’m not angry — doesn’t mean I wasn’t angry, and it doesn’t mean if I were back in the days in high school I wouldn’t say, ‘Come here,’ you know, and go a round.”
Chris Wallace of Fox News asked Psaki about that interview a few days later, pressing her on whether Biden believes the investigation into his son is legitimate.
Psaki said Biden’s attorney general “will oversee an independent department” and “will be overseeing whatever investigations are happening at the Department of Justice.”
Durham, a federal prosecutor from Connecticut, has been looking into a host of issues related to the origins and conduct of the investigation into Russian meddling and alleged collusion with Trump, and his criminal inquiry has netted one guilty plea already, with ex-FBI lawyer Kevin Clinesmith admitting to altering an email to say that former Trump campaign associate Carter Page was “not a source” for the CIA as the bureau pursued flawed Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act warrants against him, relying upon British ex-spy Christopher Steele’s discredited dossier.
Biden has not said whether he will allow Durham to finish his investigation.
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