A Special Counsel for Hunter

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Quick Hits: Today’s Top Stories

  • Attorney General Merrick Garland announced Friday he had appointed David Weiss—the U.S. Attorney from Delaware who has been overseeing a probe into Hunter Biden since 2018—to serve as a special counsel to complete his investigation of the president’s son. The move comes weeks after the plea deal negotiated by Weiss and Hunter Biden’s legal team fell apart under scrutiny in federal court, leading many Republicans to argue the prosecutor is ill-equipped to handle the special counsel investigation. 
  • U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan on Friday rejected a broad protective order sought by federal prosecutors that would have barred former President Donald Trump from publicly discussing any evidence that’s part of the case related to his efforts to overturn the 2020 election. Chutkan did, however, agree to place certain restrictions on Trump’s ability to share sensitive material beyond potential witnesses and his defense team. “Mr. Trump, like every American, has a First Amendment right to free speech, but that right is not absolute,” Chutkan said. “In a criminal case such as this one, the defendant’s free speech is subject to the rules.”
  • The death toll from the wildfire in West Maui rose to at least 96 over the weekend, making it the deadliest wildfire in the U.S. since 1918. Officials estimated that the cost of rebuilding will likely exceed $5 billion, as the fires burned more than 2,000 acres and destroyed the historic town of Lahaina. Hundreds of FEMA personnel and National Guard troops have been dispatched to the island to aid in recovery efforts.
  • Attorneys for President Joe Biden have been negotiating the terms of an anticipated interview in the investigation into his handling of classified documents for about a month, NBC News reported Friday. The Department of Justice appointed former federal prosecutor Robert Hur as special counsel in January to investigate the president’s actions after classified documents were found in his Delaware home and a private office in November.
  • China’s Ministry of State Security said Thursday Beijing had arrested a Chinese national for allegedly spying on behalf of the U.S., providing military secrets in exchange for cash and an expedited immigration process for his family. The rare statement comes one week after the Justice Department charged two U.S. Navy sailors in California—one of whom was born in China—with spying for Beijing.
  • The data are incomplete, but COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations appear to be on the rise across the country as a new Omicron subvariant—EG.5, or “Eris”—becomes the most dominant strain of the virus. “While EG.5 has shown increased prevalence, growth advantage, and immune escape properties,” the World Health Organization said, “there have been no reported changes in disease severity to date.”
  • The Islamic State claimed responsibility for an attack on a bus that killed at least 33 Syrian soldiers on Friday and wounded another 10. The terrorist group said it targeted the “two military buses” with “heavy weapons and rocket-propelled grenades,” and promised such attacks would continue. Islamic State violence has become more frequent in recent weeks as the group seeks to project force despite acknowledging for the first time that its leader, Abu al-Hussein al-Husseini al-Qurayshi, had been killed.
  • Conservative talk show host Steve Deace formally endorsed Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ presidential campaign Friday. Deace has long been a prominent voice among religious conservatives in Iowa, where DeSantis and other GOP presidential hopefuls spent the weekend courting voters ahead of the state’s caucus in January.

If Everyone’s a Special Counsel, No One Is

Attorney General Merrick Garland arrives to speak at the U.S. Department of Justice August 11, 2023 in Washington, DC. Garland announced that U.S. Attorney David Weiss will be appointed special counsel in the ongoing probe of Hunter Biden, the son of U.S. President Joe Biden. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

In late June—shortly after IRS whistleblowers alleged U.S. Attorney David Weiss of Delaware had been stymied in his investigation of Hunter Biden—Attorney General Merrick Garland defended his decision not to appoint the federal prosecutor as a special counsel. “Mr. Weiss has more authority than a special counsel would have,” Garland said. “He had—and has—complete authority to bring a case anywhere he wants, in his discretion.”

Fast forward to Friday, and the attorney general was singing a different tune. “On Tuesday of this week, Mr. Weiss advised me that in his judgment, his investigation has reached a stage at which he should continue his work as a special counsel,” Garland told a hastily assembled group of reporters. “Upon considering his request, as well as the extraordinary circumstances relating to this matter, I have concluded that it is in the public interest to appoint him as special counsel.”

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