Exclusive: Successor to exiting U.S. attorney general Barr won't say if he will name special counsels

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Incoming acting U.S. Attorney General Jeffrey A. Rosen declined to say on Wednesday whether he would name special counsels to investigate President Donald Trump’s claims of election fraud or the tax issues of President-elect Joe Biden’s son Hunter.

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Rosen, who is set to take over when William Barr steps down on Dec. 23, told Reuters in an interview at the Justice Department that he would continue “to do things on the merits and to do things on the basis of the law and the facts. That’s how I thought about it from the beginning and that’s how I’ll think about it through the end.”

Republican Trump, who leaves office on Jan. 20, has been considering calling for the appointment of a special counsel for Hunter Biden, according to a person familiar with the matter. Trump has also continued to claim contrary to evidence that his election defeat to Democrat Biden was the result of widespread fraud, claims that have been rejected by state and federal officials and several courts.

During his expected few weeks in the top job, Rosen said “I think of it a little bit like a developer with a punch list. We’re going to try to finish the work we’re here to do.”

Rosen added: “Let’s continue on the course we’ve had.”

Rosen declined to say if he agreed with Barr’s assessment in a recent Associated Press interview that “we have not seen fraud on a scale that could have effected a different outcome in the election.”

Rosen also declined to say if he had spoken to Trump since he was tapped.

On Dec. 9, Hunter Biden said the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Delaware is investigating his tax affairs.

Rosen, a lawyer who has served as deputy attorney general since May 2019 and was previously deputy transportation secretary under Trump, in his current role oversees the day-to-day operation of an agency that employs more than 100,000 people at prosecutors’ offices, federal prisons and FBI offices across the United States.

During his tenure he has overseen the government’s antitrust probes into Alphabet Inc’s Google and other tech companies, national security investigations and a major settlement between OxyContin-maker Purdue Pharma and the Justice Department.

“I’ve been in this job for 19 months. It’s not like starting from scratch,” Rosen told Reuters.

Rosen declined to say if a pardon would be appropriate for former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden, but did note a judge found the United States is entitled to more than $5.2 million from book royalties and speeches.

“It’s not proper for people to make the decision on their own to disclose classified information,” Rosen said.

Trump in August said he was considering pardoning Snowden, and has his term winds down, is expected to issue pardons for multiple allies and possible pre-emptive pardons for himself and members of his family as state prosecutors in New York investigate Trump business interests.

Reporting by David Shepardson and Sarah N. Lynch; additional reporting by Steve Holland; Editing by Scott Malone and Grant McCool