Harvard University law professor Jack Goldsmith thinks President Joe Biden should “stop” commenting about ongoing probes in the wake of the tax investigation against his son, Hunter Biden, saying that it makes the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) job “much harder.”
Biden on Friday defended his son ahead of a potential decision by federal prosecutors to issue tax violation charges against Hunter after a four-year criminal investigation. The president told Stephanie Ruhle, host of The 11th Hour on MSNBC, that his son has “done nothing wrong,” and that he has faith in him.
Hunter Biden might face charges for failing to file taxes related to a business expense, according to NBC News. The president’s son denied any wrongdoing in the tax case and said that he handled his matters “legally and appropriately.” The case expanded to also include a possible gun-related charge in connection with the president’s son allegedly making a false statement on a form linked to a gun purchase in 2018, according to Insider.
Aides in the Biden administration insisted that the president’s advisers didn’t interfere or influence the course of the investigation. An unnamed senior adviser to the president said that advisers in the White House “don’t direct or advise” Hunter Biden’s lawyers on how to act, according to CNN.
Still, Goldsmith expressed concern that the president’s commentary on his son’s “sensitive and fraught” investigation might affect the DOJ’s work.
“Biden’s statement was one of the most egregious and ill-timed breaches of the norms of Justice Department independence since Watergate,” the Harvard professor wrote about Biden’s Friday comment in a Lawfare blog on Sunday.
He explained that presidents should not be involved in, or comment on, pending DOJ investigations, “especially ones that impact the president,” despite having authority under Article II to direct criminal investigations. Goldsmith wrote that, like Biden, former presidents have commented on DOJ investigations in the past while they were in office. He mentioned that former President Barack Obama breached the norm by commenting on Hillary Clinton’s email case and that former President Donald Trump repeatedly commented on prosecutors’ work while he was in office.
The Harvard law professor believes that Biden’s “inappropriate commentary” came at a bad time as federal prosecutors are nearing a decision in Hunter’s case after a four-year-investigation. David Weiss, the U.S. attorney for Delaware who is leading the probe and who will decide on whether or not to charge Hunter, said that a decision is expected to come soon, The Washington Post reported on Wednesday.
Though Goldsmith criticized Biden’s commentary, he also pointed that it could be coming from a place where a father is simply expressing his emotional stance towards his son.
“However understandable it might be for a father to express confidence in a son, and however rowdy House republicans are acting toward Hunter, this is a very serious violation of the norm,” he wrote in his blog. “It is hard for me to believe that Biden’s comment will actually impact what the prosecutors decide to do; if anything, it will make exonerating Hunter harder. But that does not make the statement any less bad.”
House Republicans have been heavily targeting Hunter Biden over contents he had on his laptop that was reportedly leaked and revealed information about his foreign business dealings. In addition, some GOP lawmakers are trying to prove whether the president had any connection with his son’s business affairs while he served as vice president during the Obama administration.
Newsweek reached out by email to Goldsmith and the White House for comment.