Discussing the decision to keep Mr. Weiss on to complete the Hunter Biden investigation in February 2021, after the Biden administration took office and most Trump political appointees resigned, Mr. Garland noted: “As I said before, Mr. Weiss would be permitted to continue his investigation, take any investigative steps he wanted, and make the decision whether to prosecute in any district.”
He added: “Mr. Weiss has told Congress that he has been granted ultimate authority over this matter, including the responsibility for deciding where, when, and whether to file charges and for making decisions necessary to preserve the integrity of any prosecution, consistent with federal law, the principles of federal prosecution, and departmental policies.”
In many ways, that description of Mr. Weiss’s previous authority does not sound notably different from the power he will now wield under the rules for special counsels, who also operate with day-to-day autonomy. In a statement on Friday, Chris Clark, a defense attorney for Hunter Biden, said the prosecutor’s new status did not appear to be a substantive change.
“This doesn’t change our understanding of Mr. Weiss’ authority over the five-year investigation into Mr. Biden,” he said. “For years, both Mr. Weiss and the department have assured us and the public that Mr. Weiss had more authority than a special counsel and full authority to negotiate a resolution of his investigation — which has been done.”
The differences between the rules governing U.S. attorneys and special counsels are less about law enforcement powers than they are about protections intended to bolster public confidence that they are operating free from political interference. For example, special counsels cannot be arbitrarily fired without a cause, like a finding of misconduct.