Barr will not appoint special counsels to probe Trump's election fraud claims, or Hunter Biden

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. Attorney General William Barr has no plans to appoint special counsels to investigate President-elect Joe Biden’s son, Hunter Biden, or to investigate President Donald Trump’s unfounded claims of election fraud, he said on Monday.

Speaking to reporters two days before he plans to step down from his position as the nation’s top law enforcement official, Barr once again distanced himself from Trump’s claims, contrary to evidence, that his election defeat was the result of widespread fraud.

Barr, one of Trump’s staunchest supporters, said he saw “no basis” for the federal government to seize voting machines used in the Nov. 3 presidential election and affirmed earlier comments that he saw no evidence of systemic fraud in the election.

“I stand by that statement,” Barr said on Monday, referring to comments made in a Dec. 1 interview with the Associated Press.

Barr last week said he would leave office on Dec. 23, a little less than a month before Biden is sworn in on Jan. 20. Trump announced Barr’s resignation after criticizing him for not supporting his fraud claims.

Barr declined to say if he thought Trump could pre-emptively pardon himself, which would effectively immunize him from federal investigations after leaving office. The U.S. courts have not resolved if a president as a legal right to do this, as no president has yet attempted a self-pardon.

State and federal election officials have repeatedly said there is no evidence to support Trump’s claims that his defeat was the result of widespread fraud. Multiple courts have rejected lawsuits brought by Trump supporters advancing those claims.

Slideshow ( 5 images )

Biden beat Trump by 306 to 232 votes in the state-by-state Electoral College that chooses the president, as well as by more than 7 million ballots in the popular vote.

Hunter Biden disclosed earlier this month the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Delaware is investigating his tax affairs.

The Hunter Biden investigation “is being handled responsibly and professionally currently within the department,” Barr told a news conference.

Last week, Barr’s successor, Deputy Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen, in a Reuters interview declined to say if he would appoint a special counsel to investigate Hunter Biden or election issues, but said he would he would act on any issues “on the basis of the law and the facts.”

In May 2019, Barr tapped federal prosecutor John Durham to investigate Obama-era intelligence and law enforcement officials for possible crimes in connection with their early-stage probe of whether Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign colluded with the Russian government.

On Dec. 1, Barr disclosed he had elevated Durham to the role of special counsel in October so that he could continue his criminal investigation - a move that will make it politically difficult for Biden to remove him from the post until the probe has concluded.

Barr said on Monday he expected Durham and his team “will be able to finish their work.”

Trump was impeached by the Democratic-led U.S. House of Representatives in December 2019 on charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress stemming from his efforts to pressure Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden and Hunter Biden. Trump was acquitted by the Republican-led Senate in February.

Trump has privately been mulling whether to pressure the Justice Department to appoint a special counsel to look in to Hunter Biden, according to a person familiar with the matter, Reuters reported earlier.

Reporting by Mark Hosenball and David Shepardson in Washington; Writing by David Shepardson; Editing by Scott Malone and Matthew Lewis