The US Justice Department on Friday escalated its investigation into President Joe Biden’s son Hunter, naming a special counsel amid allegations he engaged in illicit business deals overseas.

Attorney-General Merrick Garland appointed Delaware federal prosecutor David Weiss, who recently investigated Hunter Biden on tax and gun charges, in a case that remains open.

Mr Weiss, who opened his probe in 2019, recently revealed that he was investigating Mr Biden along other lines, and Mr Garland said Mr Weiss had requested special counsel status to be able to pursue his probe more widely.

“Upon considering his request, as well as the extraordinary circumstances relating to this matter, I have concluded that it is in the public interest to appoint him as special counsel,” Mr Garland said.

Hunter Biden has come under investigation in Congress over business deals he did in China, Ukraine and elsewhere during and after his father’s 2009-2017 term as vice president.

A former business associate told Congress recently that Mr Biden had gotten his father involved in telephone calls with his foreign partners several times.

The president’s Republican opponents allege Joe Biden used his political position to help his son — a claim the elder Biden denies.

The move comes as Joe Biden is running for re-election, possibly in a rematch with former president Donald Trump, himself accused of felony crimes in the investigation by another Justice Department special counsel, Jack Smith.

The appointment of Mr Weiss reaffirms that he “has the authority he needs to conduct a thorough investigation and to continue to take the steps he deems appropriate independently based only on the facts and the law,” Mr Garland said.

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