Former U.S. Attorney General Bill Barr, who resigned in the final weeks of former President Donald Trump's administration, chimed in on the Department of Justice's handling of the Hunter Biden investigation, remarking that he believes "things can be shameful without being illegal."
During the appearance on CBS' "Face The Nation," Barr was pressed several times if he thought a special counsel was necessary for the Hunter Biden case.
"Things can be shameful without being illegal, and yes, I think it’s grotesque the cashing in on the office like that, apparently. I think it’s legitimate. It has to be investigated as to whether there was a crime there and that’s one of the things I’m concerned about is that it was thoroughly investigated after I left," Barr, who resigned in December 2020, said.
"Some of the whistleblowers raised concerns in my mind," Barr added, seemingly pointing to the congressional testimony of two IRS whistleblower agents – Gary Shapley and Joseph Ziegler – who detailed to Congress how the Biden Justice Department allegedly quashed the probe into the president's son.
"Before the election there were reasons to defer certain investigative steps under Justice Department policy but after the election I don’t see reasons for deferring investigative steps and apparently somebody said it was the optics, well what are the optics after the election? That it was the president-elect’s son? That’s not a reason not to investigate," Barr added.
U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland wasn't sworn in as attorney general until March 2021. He named Special Counsel Jack Smith as special counsel in the Trump probe in November 2022.
This comes after Delaware U.S. District Judge Maryellen Noreika rejected a probation-only plea agreement for Hunter Biden in a case involving the president's son's alleged tax crimes, drug offenses and a firearm violation. The deal had been announced by Delaware U.S. Attorney David Weiss, who has repeatedly denied claims by the two IRS whistleblowers that officials at the Justice Department, FBI and IRS interfered with Weiss’ five-year investigation into Hunter Biden.
"In order to appoint a special counsel, you should have or ought to have a conflict of interest. I had no conflict of interest investigating Hunter Biden," Barr said Sunday. "If there was a conflict it would be Garland’s. And he had to make the decision when he took office of whether or not it could be fairly handled within the department or whether or not a special counsel was necessary. "
"I felt that if I prejudged that and preempted his decision it would have actually set things up that he probably or the administration would have just canceled the investigation," he said, defending his own actions. "And I felt that he would keep our U.S. attorney in place, but once Garland came in, he had the responsibility of determining whether a thorough investigation was being done and was being done fairly."
Eventually, Barr said he agreed with the House Republicans' position that a special counsel should have been named "at some point" – but failed to clarify if he thinks there's still time for Garland to name one now. "Well, practically it may have passed because there’s not very much time to get to the bottom of things unless Weiss has been doing it conscientiously, and we have to hear from Weiss as to what he’s done," Barr said.
Earlier in the segment Sunday, Barr flatly agreed that he would appear as a witness during the trial against Trump regarding Jan. 6 and alleged efforts to overturn the 2020 election. Though he declined to confirm whether he was interviewed as part of Smith's probe, Barr did say the "Rubicon was passed here" when Garland tapped Smith to take over.
"It’s certainly a challenging case, but I don’t think it runs afoul to the First Amendment," he said.