DOJ Sits on Documents That Could Address Accusations of Bias and Conflicts in Hunter Biden, Durham Investigations
- July 18, 2022
While urging transparent and timely disclosure to other agencies, Justice refuses to provide documents about waivers to ethics rules
Today, watchdog Protect the Public’s Trust announced a federal transparency lawsuit against the Department of Justice (DOJ) for DOJ’s refusal to comply with requests for records regarding waivers to federal ethics laws and potential conflicts of interest among high-level staff. Media reports and publicly available documents indicate the potential for bias or conflicts of interest among several officials with respect to high-profile cases, such as the Hunter Biden and Durham investigations and an upcoming Supreme Court case that could affect affirmative action in higher education.
The Biden Administration has filled some of the highest ranks of DOJ with officials who have been criticized for possible bias or potential conflicts of interest in high-profile cases. The President appointed Nicholas McQuaid as Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General in the Criminal Division. Just prior to the Administration taking power, a former colleague of McQuaid, with whom McQuaid jointly represented at least one client, was hired by Hunter Biden, who is reportedly “under investigation for possible tax and money laundering activities, with a potential counterintelligence component.”
Susan Hennessey was appointed General Counsel in the national security division at DOJ in the face of accusations of potential conflicts and political bias. Prior to joining DOJ, she slammed the Durham investigation. a probe that revealed abuse of the government’s surveillance system to target a political operative, as “partisan silliness.”
Have these officials been granted waivers to participate in these matters, which would likely fall into their portfolios? Over a year ago, PPT submitted a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to DOJ seeking ethics waivers and documents that could help shed light on whether these officials were given the green light to participate in these matters. By its refusal to properly respond to this FOIA request, as required by law, DOJ is hiding this information from the American public.
In addition, at least three other officials at DOJ have certainly received waivers that the Department has not released. Jonathan Kanter, Rachael Rollins, and Solicitor General Elizabeth Prelogar indicated on their Certificates of Ethics Agreement Compliance (EA Cert) that they received waivers that have not yet been made public by DOJ. Ms. Prelogar, a lecturer at Harvard Law School prior to her joining the Administration, received a waiver to the Biden Ethics Pledge allowing her to participate in Students for Fair Admissions Inc. v. President & Fellows of Harvard College, a case the Supreme Court is likely to hear next term. Her EA Cert also indicates she received another type of waiver with respect to this case as well as four others, which DOJ has not released to the public.
“During Transparency Week, Attorney General Merrick Garland made a strong case for the importance of FOIA in ‘ensuring transparency, accessibility, and accountability in government,’” Michael Chamberlain, Director of Protect the Public’s Trust stated. “But even where serious concerns about bias, impartiality, and conflicts of interest in his own agency could be alleviated with a little transparency, Protect the Public’s Trust has run into a stonewall. It’s little wonder trust in the government continues to decline.”