Nebraska Sen. Ricketts seeks investigation of Hunter Biden attorneys
LINCOLN — Saying there “needs to be accountability for any misconduct or favoritism,” U.S. Sen. Pete Ricketts is urging a disciplinary review of allegations that Hunter Biden’s legal team misled the judge in his case.
Nebraska’s junior Republican senator has sent a letter with his concerns to professional disciplinary committees in both New York and the District of Columbia. In it, he called for the committees to take “swift action” to investigate.
Although Ricketts is not involved with the case against President Joe Biden’s son, he said Tuesday that he wrote the letter to “help restore integrity to the justice system.”
“I’ve heard from countless Nebraskans who are concerned our justice system is being weaponized against President Biden’s political opponents while his son gets preferential treatment,” he said. “It’s incumbent on all of us to ensure that the justice system is treating all Americans fairly.”
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Ricketts’ statement echoed concerns raised by former President Donald Trump and his supporters about “weaponization” of the justice system, particularly as the number of criminal indictments against Trump increases. Trump is the front-runner for the GOP presidential nomination in 2024.
But Jane Kleeb, executive director of the Nebraska Democratic Party, criticized the senator’s action.
“Sen. Ricketts should spend more time looking into the multiple indictments and corruption of the leading Republican Party presidential candidate Donald Trump rather than dragging down a private citizen,” she said. “But this is what we have come to expect from the clown car show of the Republican Party.”
On Tuesday, a federal grand jury indicted Trump on four felony charges related to his efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 election, leading up to the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol. The charges include conspiracy to defraud the United States, witness tampering, conspiracy against the rights of citizens, and obstruction of and attempt to obstruct an official proceeding.
“This is nothing but an egregious act of election interference and a final act of desperation from crooked Joe (Biden) as he crashes in the polls,” Trump said in a statement Wednesday.
The former president also faces federal charges over allegedly retaining classified documents at Mar-a-Lago, his Florida resort, and state charges in New York related to alleged hush money payments to an adult film star.
Trump and his supporters contrast those cases with the alleged favoritism toward Hunter Biden, who has been accused of tax crimes and possession of a firearm by a known drug user.
Republicans contend that the younger Biden has been getting preferential treatment because of his father and he should be charged for some of his other business dealings. They particularly questioned a plea deal reached with prosecutors last month.
The deal fell apart last month, when U.S. District Judge Maryellen Noreika refused to accept the agreement. A day before that hearing, Noreika accused one member of Hunter Biden’s legal team with misrepresenting herself in a phone call to the court.
Ricketts’ letter focuses on those accusations in seeking an investigation of Christopher Clark, a partner and co-chair of the Washington, D.C., corporate department of Latham & Watkins, and Jessica Bengels, the managing attorney of litigation services in the firm’s New York office.
“While the exact details of this matter are uncertain, it appears an ethical line was crossed,” Ricketts wrote, adding that “the circumstances surrounding the incident demand an investigation.”
Noreika said Bengels had called the court clerk’s office and falsely claimed to work for an attorney representing a GOP congressman in the hopes of persuading the clerk to remove documents from the public docket that apparently contained Hunter Biden’s personal tax information.
Latham & Watkins said the incident resulted from a misunderstanding. The firm said Bengels had identified herself properly and had called from a law firm phone that typically shows the firm name on the caller ID.
Ricketts was appointed by Gov. Jim Pillen to fill the seat vacated by former Sen. Ben Sasse, who resigned to become president of the University of Florida. He must win election in 2024 to stay in office through the end of Sasse’s term.
So far, the only declared Senate candidate is John Glen Weaver, a Republican who lost to Mike Flood in the 1st Congressional District primary last year. But former GOP gubernatorial candidate Charles Herbster has said he is considering options, including a Senate bid, for 2024.
Ricketts was the chief financial backer for Pillen, who defeated Herbster in the 2022 GOP primary.