Attorney General Bill Barr has known about investigations involving Hunter Biden’s business and financial dealings since at least this spring, the Wall Street Journal reported late Thursday.
A person familiar with the matter told the publication that the top DOJ official had made efforts to keep the investigations from public view during the campaigns leading up to last month’s election even as President Donald Trump and his Republican allies urged Barr to investigate the younger Biden.
Trump’s obsession with digging up dirt on Hunter Biden leading up to the 2020 campaign, including a July 2019 call to pressure Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky into helping, ultimately led to the President’s impeachment.
It remains unclear exactly when or how Barr learned of the inquiries, but investigators — likely quite aware of the potential impact of their work and the President’s interest in fodder to smear his opponent — tried to keep the cases at a very low profile by taking few obvious steps in the weeks before the November election according to the Journal. The probe, which began in 2018, predates Barr’s tenure as attorney general.
In October, as Biden gained momentum in the competing election campaigns, Trump’s Republican allies in Congress dug into a pressure campaign, urging Barr to appoint a special counsel to investigate Hunter Biden.
But the efforts to keep the investigations quiet to avoid appearing to impact the election’s outcome accord with Justice Department guidelines.
Federal investigators served a subpoena on Hunter Biden seeking detailed financial information in connection with a criminal tax investigation by the U.S. attorney’s office in Delaware in one investigation that made headlines earlier this week.
Federal prosecutors in Manhattan had also been looking at Hunter Biden’s business and financial dealings, as part of a broader criminal investigation. Two sources told the Journal that the broader investigation had been going on for at least a year, adding that Hunter Biden was not a specific target for criminal prosecution.
Neither of the investigations implicates President-elect Joe Biden, the Journal noted. The Biden transition team released a statement saying that President-elect was proud of his son, who had survived “vicious personal attacks of recent months, only to emerge stronger.”
Hunter Biden said in a statement Wednesday that he took the matter very seriously but remained “confident that a professional and objective review of these matters will demonstrate that I handled my affairs legally and appropriately, including with the benefit of professional tax advisors.”
The revelation that Barr reportedly knew of the investigations, comes as President Trump told reporters when asked whether he still had confidence in Barr that he would need to revisit the question “a number of weeks from now.”
Trump’s recent anger at his typically dutiful ally, came after the attorney general told the Associated Press in an interview that the Justice Department “not seen fraud on a scale” that would overturn the results of the recent presidential election.
On Thursday night, that anger bubbled over as Trump tweeted his frustration over the investigation which had unwound quietly ahead of the election. “Why didn’t the Fake News Media, the FBI and the DOJ report the Biden matter BEFORE the Election,” he wrote.
Early Friday, Trump doubled down on his attacks of Barr in another tweet, saying he “predicted Biden corruption,” amid news of the investigations that have not drawn any such conclusions. He further asserted that Barr “perhaps knew of the corruption during the impeachment hoax?”
A Bloomberg News report on Thursday indicated that Barr had no intentions for a premature departure, unless Trump fires him during his final days in office.