Washington (CNN) — The federal investigation into Hunter Biden’s business activities nears a critical juncture as investigators weigh potential charges and prosecutors confront Justice Department guidelines to generally avoid bringing politically sensitive cases closer to presidential elections. midterm, according to people briefed on the matter.
While no final decision has been made on whether to bring charges against Hunter Biden, the son of President Joe Biden, sources say the investigation has intensified in recent months along with discussions between Delaware prosecutors, who are leading forward the investigation, as well as with officials from the Department of Justice headquarters.
David Weiss, the federal prosecutor for Delaware, is leading the investigation, which dates back to 2018.
Discussions recently have focused on the possibility of filing charges that could include alleged tax violations and making a false statement in connection with Biden’s purchase of a firearm at a time when he would have been barred from doing so due to his acknowledged struggles. against drug addiction.
The investigation of the president’s son looms large among the politically tense issues facing Merrick Garland as attorney general. Weiss is one of a handful of former President Donald Trump appointees the Biden administration kept in office because they were overseeing politically sensitive investigations.
Adding to the pressure, Republicans in Congress have already announced that if they take control of the House of Representatives after the midterm elections in November, they plan to launch new investigations and hold hearings to examine the conduct of Hunter Biden and other members of the House. president’s family.
Also potentially at stake are Justice Department guidelines governing politically sensitive investigations during an election year. Current and former Justice Department officials say there is an unwritten rule that prosecutors avoid bringing politically sensitive cases within 60 days of an election.
Some current and former court officials have debated whether the rules necessarily apply in this case, since Joe Biden is not on the ballot in the midterm elections.
An attorney for Hunter Biden declined to comment. The US Attorney’s Office in Delaware declined to comment.
Hunter Biden has not been charged with any crime and has previously denied any wrongdoing. His father, President Joe Biden, is not part of the investigations into his son’s business activities, according to informed sources.
The investigation against Hunter Biden
The Justice Department investigation initially focused on Hunter Biden’s financial and business activities in other countries dating back to when his father was vice president of the United States. But investigators have examined a broader range of conduct, including whether Hunter Biden and his associates violated money laundering, campaign finance, tax and foreign lobbying laws, as well as whether the president’s son violated federal gun regulations. fire and others, various sources said.
As the investigation has entered its final stages, prosecutors have narrowed their focus to tax and gun-related charges, the sources say.
Judicial officials have debated the strength of the case for months and have held discussions about whether more work is needed before deciding on possible charges. Those discussions have involved investigators from the FBI and the IRS criminal investigation agency and prosecutors in Delaware and at Justice Department headquarters, CNN previously reported.
Hunter Biden has spoken publicly about his own struggles with substance abuse, with some Justice officials questioning whether his outspoken statements about his past drug use could weaken his case if they did make one.
Some officials have noted that Biden could argue that he was unaware of wrongdoing because he was high on drugs, a source said. CNN previously reported that some officials worried it might be a defense, but more recently, Justice officials have coalesced around the view that Biden’s own public accounts of his recovery show that he was fully responsible for the crimes. actions that are now under scrutiny, according to the person familiar with the discussions.
In the meetings, officials also discussed the timing of any potential indictment given the sensitivity of bringing a politically related case closer to an election, another person said.
The Justice Department memos warn prosecutors not to file any case or take open investigative action for the purpose of affecting an election or providing an advantage or disadvantage to any candidate.
Garland issued a memo in May to prosecutors reiterating the department’s position on election year sensitivities. The memo is one that attorneys general send out each election year and generally advises prosecutors to avoid making major investigative or prosecutorial decisions close to an election to avoid perceived partisan motives.
In 2018, the last year of midterm elections, prosecutors in the U.S. attorney’s office in Manhattan brought two politically sensitive cases in August: one against Michael Cohen, Trump’s former personal attorney, and another against Chris Collins, then a Republican congressman and early Republican. Trump supporter who ran for re-election that year.
In both cases, prosecutors made their charging decisions with the election in mind, people familiar with the cases said.
Cohen pleaded guilty in August to campaign finance, tax and other charges and served a three-year prison sentence. Collins, who won his re-election while under indictment, later pleaded guilty and resigned his seat. Collins was sentenced to 26 months in prison, but only served two months after former President Donald Trump pardoned him.
Trump Justice officials turned down a request by New York prosecutors to execute a search warrant against Rudy Giuliani, one of Trump’s personal attorneys, during the months leading up to the 2020 election. Biden’s Justice Department subsequently gave green light for the search, which was approved by a federal judge.