The Justice Department appeared to reveal on Friday that its acting criminal division chief, who until recently was a law firm colleague of the defense attorney representing Hunter Biden, has recused himself from matters related to the federal investigation into President Biden’s son.
Nicholas McQuaid, a former federal prosecutor, was appointed acting chief of the Justice Department’s criminal division at the start of the Biden administration. Hunter Biden confirmed in early December, after his father won the 2020 election, that his business dealings were subject to a federal criminal investigation. McQuaid, now an acting assistant attorney general, was a partner at Latham & Watkins, with Biden defense lawyer Christopher Clark, and worked on cases with him right until McQuaid took the job at the Justice Department, according to court filings reviewed by the Washington Examiner.
Two Republican senators, Chuck Grassley of Iowa and Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, pushed acting Attorney General Monty Wilkinson for answers in early February as Biden's pick to lead the Justice Department, Judge Merrick Garland, awaits Senate confirmation. The Justice Department responded on Friday in a letter that appeared to relay that McQuaid had recused from the Hunter Biden investigation led by Delaware U.S. Attorney David Weiss, though the Biden DOJ letter left some questions unanswered.
“We have confirmed that the Acting Assistant Attorney General recently received ethics and professional responsibility training as appropriate for incoming attorneys. In addition, we have confirmed that the Acting Assistant Attorney General has signed the Ethics Pledge as required under the Executive Order on Ethics Commitments by Executive Branch Personnel,” acting Assistant Attorney General Helaine Greenfeld said in a Friday letter obtained by the Washington Examiner. “Pursuant to this pledge and applicable standards set forth in statutes, regulations, as well as longstanding Department policies and procedures, the Acting Assistant Attorney General is screened and recused from matters in which he has a financial interest or a personal business relationship, including matters involving his former law firm.”
The Justice Department did not say when McQuaid’s apparent recusal had occurred.
In early February, Biden asked all Senate-confirmed U.S. attorneys for their resignations, with Weiss as an exception, with Wilkinson asking him to stay on as he investigates Hunter Biden. John Durham was asked to step down as U.S. attorney from Connecticut but was kept on as special counsel.
Grassley and Johnson noted early this month that “it is unclear what role, if any, Mr. McQuaid has in the Hunter Biden case or whether he has any access to the case.”
The Justice Department’s government ethics outline states that “an employee is recused for one-year from a particular matter in which her former firm, former employer, or a client she provided services to within the previous year, is a party or represents a party.”
Biden signed an executive order in January that instructs all his appointees to sign a pledge to refrain from “improper interference” with any prosecutorial or investigative decisions at the Justice Department.
The Republican letter sought “to better understand what role, if any, Mr. McQuaid has played in the Hunter Biden investigation.” It included questions about what role McQuaid had with the Hunter Biden investigation, whether McQuaid had access to the DOJ’s case file on Hunter Biden, and whether McQuaid has spoken with the Delaware federal prosecutor or with Clark since he took the DOJ gig. Those specific questions did not appear to be answered in the DOJ letter back, and the Justice Department declined to comment on the Washington Examiner's follow-up questions.
Hunter Biden has reportedly been under criminal investigation stretching as far back as 2018 as federal authorities scrutinize his taxes and potentially his foreign business dealings, and the 50-year-old's financial transactions with China might be at the forefront.
McQuaid served as a deputy White House counsel during the Obama administration and spent years as a prosecutor with the Southern District of New York. McQuaid and Clark are listed on court filings together throughout 2020.
In December, Law.com reported, “Hunter Biden hired Latham & Watkins partner Christopher Clark.” Clark, listed as a New York partner at Latham & Watkins, did not respond to the Washington Examiner’s questions about his work with McQuaid or his representation of Hunter Biden. McQuaid’s name has been removed from the Latham & Watkins website, but he had been listed as a New York partner.
On Jan. 21, the day after Biden's inauguration, McQuaid was reportedly picked for the DOJ job. That same day, McQuaid told the court he had withdrawn from the case with Clark.
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