a close colleague of his son’s defense lawyer to lead the Justice Department’s
criminal division. The inauguration-day
was one of Biden’s first actions as president, and comes as DOJ
continues to investigate his son, Hunter Biden, for possible tax and money
laundering activities. Senators Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Ron Johnson
(R-Wis.) are raising concerns that the arrangement has created, at a minimum,
an appearance of a conflict of interest potentially in violation of DOJ ethics
letter today, the Senators are seeking details on what, if any, involvement or
access acting Assistant Attorney General Nicholas McQuaid has to DOJ’s ongoing
Hunter Biden investigation. They are also seeking information on whether Mr.
McQuaid has communicated with Hunter Biden’s defense lawyer, Christopher Clark,
officials leading the Hunter Biden investigation, or DOJ ethics officials.
February 3, 2021
Department of Justice
Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Acting Attorney General Wilkinson:
to recent news reports, the Biden administration hired Nicholas McQuaid as
Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Criminal Division on January 20, 2021.
Mr. McQuaid was employed at Latham
&Watkins until January 20, 2021, and worked with Christopher Clark, who
Hunter Biden reportedly hired to work on his federal criminal case a month
before President Biden’s inauguration.
unclear what role, if any, Mr. McQuaid has in the Hunter Biden case or whether
he has any access to the case. As a general
matter, all government employees must avoid situations that create even the
appearance of impropriety and impartiality so as to not affect the public
perception of the integrity of an investigation.
Moreover, the Justice Department ethics guide
cites 28 C.F.R § 45.2 which states, in part:
employee shall participate in a criminal investigation if he has a personal or
political relationship with […] [a]ny person or organization substantially
involved in the conduct that is the subject of the investigation or
prosecution; or [a]ny person or organization which he knows has a specific and
substantial interest that would be directly affected by the outcome of the
investigation or prosecution.
Biden’s recently issued executive order on ethics imposes similar requirements.
In complying with this rule, the employee
must report the matter to his supervisor. If the supervisor determines that a personal
or political relationship exists the employee shall be relieved unless the
supervisor determines, in writing, the relationship will not “render the employee’s
service less than fully impartial and professional” and the employee’s
participation “would not create an appearance of a conflict of interest likely
to affect the public perception of the integrity of the investigation or
order to better understand what role, if any, Mr. McQuaid has played in the
Hunter Biden investigation and what steps, if any, the Department and Mr. McQuaid
have taken to mitigate all conflicts, please answer the following no later than
February 17, 2021:
- What steps has the Department taken to
ensure that Mr. McQuaid’s reported connection to Hunter Biden’s attorney
does not cause conflicts of interest with the Department’s ongoing
criminal investigation involving Hunter Biden? Please explain.
- Please describe what role, if any, Mr.
McQuaid has or had in the Hunter Biden investigation, either as a
government employee or prior to departing Latham & Watkins.
- Does Mr. McQuaid have access to the Department’s
Hunter Biden case file? If so,
please explain why and whether Mr. McQuaid has accessed the file.
- Please provide all records of
communications between and among Department officials relating to access
to the Hunter Biden case.
- Has Mr. McQuaid communicated with the U.S.
Attorney for the District of Delaware?
If so, when and what was discussed?
- Has Mr. McQuaid communicated with
Christopher Clark since he became Acting Assistant Attorney General for
the Criminal Division? If so, when
and what was discussed?
- Has Mr. McQuaid communicated with any Department
ethics officials with respect to the Hunter Biden case? If so, when and what was discussed?
have any questions about this request, please contact Joshua Flynn-Brown of
Senator Grassley’s staff at (202) 224-5225 and Brian Downey and Scott Wittmann
of Senator Johnson’s staff at (202) 224-4751.
Thank you for your attention to this matter.
Daniel Chaitin and Jerry Dunleavy, Tucker Carlson
reports DOJ hired ex-business partner of Hunter Biden criminal defense attorney
, Washington Examiner (Jan. 29, 2021).
Lachlan Markay, Ex-colleague of Hunter Biden’s lawyer gets
top DOJ post,
Axios (Feb. 1, 2021).
C.F.R. § 2635.502, advises that a government employee should seek clearance before
participating in any matter
that could cause his or her
impartiality to be questioned. Executive Order 12674, “Principles of Ethical
Conduct for Government
Officers and Employees,” makes clear
that “[e]mployees shall not hold financial interests that conflict with the
performance of duty,” “[e]mployees
shall act impartially and not give preferential treatment to any private
individual,” and “[e]mployees shall
endeavor to avoid any actions creating the appearance that they
are violating the law or the
standards set forth in this part.” Emphasis added.
Executive Order on
Ethics Commitments by Executive Branch Personnel (Jan. 20, 2021).