Washington — Outgoing Attorney General William Barr said Monday he does not see a reason to appoint a special counsel to lead the investigation into Hunter Biden, and split with President Trump over who is likely behind the massive cyberattack targeting several federal agencies, saying Russia “certainly appears” to be responsible.
In a press conference at the Justice Department, which was likely Barr’s last before leaving his post-Wednesday, the attorney general said he believes the investigation led by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Delaware into Hunter Biden’s “tax affairs” is “being handled responsibly and professionally.”
“To this point, I have not seen a reason to appoint a special counsel, and I have no plan to do so before I leave,” Barr told reporters when pressed about the probe involving Hunter Biden, the son of President-elect Joe Biden. Barr announced his resignation last week, and his last day is Wednesday.
“I haven’t, and I’m not going to”: Attorney General William Barr says he won’t appoint a special counsel for Hunter Biden or election fraud — two things President Trump has pushed to investigate. https://t.co/mc4RJ7wPt0 pic.twitter.com/zDud4W1sW7— CBS News (@CBSNews) December 21, 2020
Hunter Biden announced he learned of the tax investigation earlier this month, and the probe began in 2018, two sources told CBS News.
The attorney general also poured water on naming a special counsel to investigate allegations of voter fraud, which have been pushed by Mr. Trump and his allies in an effort to overturn the outcome of the 2020 election. The president weighed appointing Sidney Powell, an attorney who has promoted conspiracy theories about the election, to examine voter fraud in the 2020 presidential contest, two advisers to Mr. Trump told CBS News.
“If I thought a special counsel at this stage was the right tool and was appropriate, I would name one, but I haven’t and I’m not going to,” Barr said.
The attorney general said there is fraud in “most elections,” including the November general election, but told The Associated Press in early December that the Justice Department did not uncover evidence of widespread voter fraud that would change the outcome of the election.
Barr’s comments on special counsels to investigate Hunter Biden and instances of voter fraud put him at odds with Mr. Trump, who he has defended throughout his tenure leading the Justice Department. The Associated Press reported last week the president is considering pushing to appoint a special counsel to take over the tax investigation into Hunter Biden, and he has continued to push unfounded claims the election was rife with fraud.
Barr also broke with the president over who was behind a massive cyber espionage campaign discovered this month, which U.S. officials believe to be the work of Russian hackers. The perpetrators breached computer networks through a popular software product from SolarWinds, a Texas-based company with a customer base in the thousands.
Several government agencies, including the Departments of Treasury, State and Energy, said they were among the victims of the hack, though the full scope of it remains unclear.
SolarWinds has said an “outside nation-state” was behind the breach, and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told conservative radio host Mark Levin on Friday that “we can say pretty clearly that it was the Russians that engaged in this activity.”
But on Saturday, Mr. Trump contradicted his secretary of state, suggesting on Twitter that China could be behind the cyber campaign and accusing the media of blowing the breach out of proportion.
Barr told reporters he agrees with Pompeo’s assessment.
“It certainly appears to be the Russians,” he said.