As you may have heard, Attorney General Merrick Garland just escalated the investigation into the Hunter Biden affair.
Which, by my count, makes absolutely no one happy. Or at least that’s what they want you to think.
Joe Biden isn’t talking, but we can safely assume that Garland’s decision to promote U.S. Attorney David Weiss — just hours after a judge, in a different matter, had ruled that Donald Trump’s First Amendment rights were “not absolute” — was not his favorite news story of the day. Joe Biden just wants this family tragedy to be over and done, meaning he can have Hunter over for, say, a state dinner without fear of ridicule from a random columnist who might call Hunter “the clown prince of the capital’s buck-raking demimonde.”
Meanwhile, Republicans, who had been calling for a special counsel, are unhappy — no, make that outraged — because Weiss is the same U.S. attorney who has been investigating the president’s son for what seems like approximately forever and who negotiated that so-called “sweetheart deal” with Hunter.
The difference is that Joe Biden’s unhappiness with the escalation is real — Hunter’s case may now actually go to trial, meaning he could actually go to prison — and that the Republican outrage is entirely phony. As they know, this is a gift for anyone who would have you believe there is such a thing as a Biden Crime Family.
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But Biden and the outraged Republicans do have one thing in common: Neither actually wants to see Hunter Biden in prison.
Whatever they’re saying, Republicans don’t really care about a special counsel, whether it’s Weiss or Torquemada or anyone else. A special counsel’s authority isn’t much different from the authority Weiss enjoyed — or maybe didn’t — as a U.S. attorney.
For that matter, they don’t really care if Hunter Biden is locked up, just as they didn’t really care if Hillary Clinton was locked up.
They don’t really care that the so-called sweetheart deal — which would have given Hunter Biden no jail time in exchange for a plea in the case of two tax misdemeanors and a felony gun charge — has blown up. Prosecutors said they couldn’t reach a deal after a judge questioned the agreement and called for a different plea offer.
They don’t care that prosecutors want new charges filed in different states. (Actually, maybe they do. A trial would be great for business).
In fact, whatever Garland and Weiss and the DOJ team do, Republicans don’t want to claim victory because the only thing they want from the Biden affair is for it to never end — or at least not before Tuesday, Nov. 5, 2024, which is coincidentally Election Day.
And so we see Garland, who tends to blow with the wind and who had previously said a special counsel was unnecessary, bow to pressure. This looks to be far more a political move than a legal one. In fact, it’s so clear that the Washington Post headlined the notion, in a straight news story, that Garland was trying to rebut “GOP criticism that the process has been politicized.”
In other words, Garland acted for much the same reason he did when he appointed a clearly unneeded special counsel to investigate Joe Biden’s handling of classified documents, in which bothsidesism morphs into both-need-special-counselsism.
But Republicans, for the most part, are having none of it.
Ron DeSantis said the Biden administration was just looking “for a way to give (Hunter Biden) the soft-glove treatment.”
Rep. James Comer, the House Oversight Committee chair, said it was “part of the Justice Department’s efforts to attempt a Biden family coverup.”
Comer’s committee, which has been investigating as many Bidens as possible, expanded on Comer’s statement with its own, saying the “coverup” comes as the committee is reporting “mounting evidence of President Joe Biden’s role in his family’s schemes selling ‘the brand’ for millions of dollars to foreign nationals.”
Of course, if you’ve been paying attention, there is no real mounting evidence of Joe Biden’s involvement in what were, yes, Hunter Biden’s schemes to make millions using his father’s name. But saying so, whether true or not, is how you also get to say the words “Biden Crime Family.”
Which is precisely what a Trump spokesman said in discussing the special counsel decision. He said it was just one more way in which “Crooked Joe Biden, Hunter Biden, and the entire Biden Crime Family have been protected by the Justice Department for decades …”
And yes, Sen. Lindsey Graham criticized the move. And yes, House Speaker-for-now Kevin McCarthy criticized it. You can go down the long list of usual suspects.
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And, as you’d expect, that would include Rep. Lauren Boebert, who may be more interested in getting Joe Biden impeached than in even seeing Hunter behind bars. She weighed in, saying, “Given how Hunter has been treated this far, pardon me if I’m not extremely excited that anything will actually come of this.”
This far? So far? Thus far? A bridge too far?
Anyway, you get the point. Republicans want the Hunter fiasco to last as long as possible — while criticizing the Department of Justice at every turn — as a way to distract, if only briefly, from the real-life narrative of Trump’s many engagements with the law.
Which was the bigger story Friday — a special counsel being named for Hunter Biden or a federal judge, the one overseeing Trump’s trial on charges of attempting to overturn the 2020 election, warning the former president against trying to “intimidate witnesses or prejudice potential jurors”?
If it was even close — and I’m guessing that in most cases, Hunter topped the news — then you know who won the day. No matter what anyone says.
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