By Catherine Yang
Attorneys Brian McManus, Matthew Salerno, and Timothy McCarten of Latham & Watkins LLP withdrew from representing Hunter Biden in the tax misdemeanor case brought against him by the Department of Justice.
The lawyers filed the motion to withdraw on Aug. 18, and the motion was approved by Judge Maryellen Noreika on Aug. 21. No reason was given for the withdrawal.
“Mr. Biden has been advised of, and consents to, our withdrawal. He also agrees this withdrawal will cause no material adverse effect or prejudice to him and remains completely satisfied with Messrs. Lowell’s and Jones’s continued representation of him,” the filing reads, noting that the prosecution was also made aware. “Accordingly, our withdrawal as counsel will have no material adverse effect on Mr. Biden’s interests.”
The motion came a day after Judge Noreika dismissed the tax judges in Delaware at the request of DOJ prosecutors led by special counsel David Weiss, who cited venue problems. The dismissal would allow the tax charges to be brought against Mr. Biden in another jurisdiction, such as California or Washington, D.C. The Delaware venue was something the prosecution and Mr. Biden’s lawyers had agreed to when they had still sought a plea deal, according to court filings (pdf).
Abbe David Lowell of Winston & Strawn LLP and Richard I.G. Jones, Jr. of Berger Harris LLP will continue to represent Mr. Biden “in this matter through its conclusion,” according to the filing.
The attorneys were not immediately available for comment.
Before the case was dismissed in Delaware, Mr. Biden’s attorney Christopher Clark had also stepped down from the case.
On Aug. 15, Mr. Clark and attorney Mr. Jones wrote in a filing that Mr. Clark may appear as a material witness.
“Under the ‘witness-advocate’ rule, it is inadvisable for Mr. Clark to continue as counsel in this case,” they wrote in the filing.
They anticipate that the plea bargain for Mr. Biden, which fell apart during his first hearing in Judge Noreika’s court, may be an issue raised during his trial.
“Based on recent developments, it appears that the negotiation and drafting of the plea agreement and diversion agreement will be contested, and Mr. Clark is a percipient witness to those issues,” the filing reads.
Mr. Biden was charged with two misdemeanor crimes of failure to pay more than $100,000 in taxes from more than $1.5 million in income in 2017 and 2018, and one charge of possessing a firearm in 2018 as a drug user.
DOJ Investigation Under Scrutiny
In June, Mr. Weiss, who had not yet been appointed special counsel, announced a plea deal in which Mr. Biden would plead guilty to the tax charges, which carry up to one year in prison, and pretrial diversion for the gun charge, which carries up to 10 years in prison and a fine up to $250,000, and the DOJ would not prosecute Mr. Biden for other things they had already investigated. The limit of this immunity was one reason the deal fell apart.
The deal was panned as a “sweetheart deal” by Republicans, who are investigating Mr. Biden’s foreign financial dealings in House committees. When later Mr. Weiss was appointed special counsel on Aug. 11 by Attorney General Merrick Garland, the same Republicans were vocal in their criticism.
The DOJ made public their investigation of Mr. Biden in 2020, and Mr. Weiss led the DOJ’s investigation beginning in February 2021.
Retired Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz told Fox Business that the appointment was “illegal.”
“The regulation provides clearly that special counsel have to come from outside the government for good reason. What’s so special about a special counsel is that he doesn’t have to answer to the present administration, he’s independent,” he said.
House Oversight Committee Chair James Comer (R-Ky.), who held a public hearing where two whistleblowers from the IRS alleged the DOJ was purposefully slow to act in their investigation into Mr. Biden, had called the appointment a “coverup.”
“Let’s be clear what today’s move is really about,” Mr. Comer said in a statement. “The Biden Justice Department is trying to stonewall congressional oversight as we have presented evidence to the American people about the Biden family’s corruption.”
The House Ways and Means Committee, also investigating Mr. Biden on related issues, had previously heard from the whistleblowers in a closed-door testimony, and later made public the transcripts while withholding one of the whistleblowers’ names.
The Ways and Means Committee is investigating the “sweetheart plea deal” and the Oversight Committee is investigating whether the Biden family’s international business dealings “compromise U.S. national security and President Biden’s ability to lead with impartiality.”
The whistleblowers had claimed knowledge that Mr. Weiss previously asked for and was denied special counsel status, and sought to bring charges in California and was refused. Mr. Garland and Mr. Weiss later publicly refuted those allegations.
President Biden has denied any wrongdoing and has told the press he has no knowledge of his son’s business dealings. In a rare comment, he told reporters recently that his son’s case was “up to the Justice Department, and that’s all I have to say.”