David C. Weiss, the federal prosecutor in Delaware who led the criminal investigation of Hunter Biden, on Monday rebutted a key element of congressional testimony from an Internal Revenue Service official who said Mr. Weiss complained that he was being prevented him from continuing with the case. the way he wanted.
In a letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee, Mr. Weiss said he had never asked Justice Department officials to grant him special counsel status to pursue the case, contradicting testimony before the House Ways and Means Committee. the House by IRS official Gary Shapley, who said Mr. Weiss had sought that status and was turned down.
Weiss suggested that Shapley might have misunderstood him during an October 2022 meeting. Mr. Weiss, the Delaware U.S. attorney who was appointed to the position under President Donald J. Trump, said in the letter that he had reached out to a higher department on whether to apply for special counsel status, not as a special counsel
Appointing a federal prosecutor as special counsel is different from making him special counsel. The special counsel provision is, in essence, a workaround that allows a third party to intervene in cases that span multiple jurisdictions or have special conditions. The special counsel regulations, by contrast, contain internal Justice Department reporting requirements and congressional oversight provisions.
“To clear up an apparent misperception and avoid further confusion, I want to make one point clear: In this case, I have not requested the appointment of special counsel,” Mr. Weiss told Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, the principal Republican in the Senate. Judiciary Committee.
Instead, Mr. Weiss said he “discussed with department officials about possible appointment” as a special prosecutor, “which would have allowed me to pursue charges in a district outside of my own without input from the local federal prosecutor.”
Mr Weiss added in the letter to Mr Graham that he had “never been denied the authority to bring charges in any jurisdiction”.
Mr. Weiss has sought to uphold the integrity of the five-year investigation following a plea deal announced last month under which Mr. Biden will plead guilty to two lesser tax charges and agree to terms that would allow him to avoid prosecution on another weapons charge. .
Republicans have attacked it as a “love deal” for the president’s son and have used Shapley’s testimony to promote the idea that political interference played a role in the outcome. President Kevin McCarthy has left open the possibility of filing impeachment charges against Attorney General Merrick B. Garland.
In Monday’s letter, a follow-up to a less detailed response he sent to House Republicans in late June, Weiss endorsed an earlier statement by Garland that he had been given full authority in the case. At the same time, Mr. Weiss publicly acknowledged for the first time that he had considered seeking a way to file potentially more serious tax charges against Mr. Biden outside of Delaware.
Mr. Weiss, who described the Hunter Biden investigation as “ongoing,” would not say whether he had moved forward and asked to be appointed special counsel for the career official who served as his contact at Justice Department headquarters.
It also did not explicitly address a key claim made by Shapley: that Biden-appointed US lawyers in California and Washington had stopped Weiss from prosecuting Hunter Biden for tax crimes stemming from a period in which the president’s son made millions working with companies and investors. controlled by foreigners.
The investigation was launched by Trump’s Justice Department in 2018 and ultimately passed into the hands of Weiss, a Republican whose reputation for fairness had earned him the support of Delaware’s two Democratic senators during his confirmation a few months earlier.
After President Biden was elected, the department’s interim leadership kept Mr. Weiss in place and in charge of the investigation. Mr. Garland, after being confirmed, continued that arrangement and was anxious to avoid any suggestion of political meddling.
Shapley, testifying before the House Ways and Means Committee in May under what Republicans said were whistleblower protections, said he and other investigators had witnessed Weiss say last year that he would not be the ” key official” regarding whether to impeach Mr. Biden. Shapley said Weiss had been turned down when he applied for special counsel status after local prosecutors told him he couldn’t press charges. House Republicans released the testimony last month.
Mr. Shapley recounted arguing in meetings with Mr. Weiss and other prosecutors to forcefully bring charges against Hunter Biden stemming from his failure to pay taxes in 2014 and 2015, two years not covered by Mr. Biden’s agreement to plead guilty to the misdemeanor tax charges. . During those years, Biden earned income from working for a Ukraine-based energy company and Chinese clients that Shapley suggested were funneled through entities with a presence in Washington and the Los Angeles area.
In mid-2022, Weiss approached the top federal prosecutor in Washington, Matthew Graves, to ask his office to press charges and was turned down, according to Shapley’s testimony. A similar request to prosecutors in the Central District of California, which includes Los Angeles, was also denied, Shapley testified.
A second former IRS official, who has not been identified, told House Republicans the same story. That episode was independently confirmed to The New York Times by a person with knowledge of the situation.
Shapley, who oversaw the agency’s role in the Biden tax investigation, also told House committee aides that his criticism of the Justice Department led to his being denied a promotion. In his testimony, he blamed Mr. Weiss for criticizing him to his superiors.
Mr. Weiss denied that charge in a June 30 letter to Rep. Jim Jordan, Republican of Ohio and chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, saying he “did not retaliate” against Mr. Shapley.