David C. Weiss, the federal attorney in Delaware who has led the Hunter Biden criminal investigation, on Monday disputed key elements of testimony to Congress by Internal Revenue Service officials who said Mr. as he wished.
In a letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee, Mr Weiss said he never asked Justice Department officials to give him special counsel status to pursue the case, contrary to testimony to the House Means and Advice Committee by IRS official Gary Shapley, who Mr Weiss said had looking for that status and got rejected.
Mr Weiss said Mr Shapley may have misunderstood him during the October 2022 meeting. Mr Weiss, the US attorney for Delaware, appointed to the role under President Donald J. Trump, said in the letter that he had approached higher departments about possibly asking status as special attorney, not as special counsel.
Representing a federal prosecutor as special attorney is different from making someone a special counsel. Special attorney provisions are, in essence, a solution that allows outsiders to intervene in cases that span multiple jurisdictions or have special conditions. The special counsel regulations, in contrast, contain Department of Justice internal reporting requirements and congressional oversight provisions.
“To clarify misperceptions and to avoid future confusion, I want to make one point clear: In this case, I have not requested the appointment of a special counsel,” said Mr. Weiss to Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, the top Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Instead, Mr Weiss said he “had discussions with department officials regarding a possible appointment” as special attorney, “which would allow me to pursue charges in a district outside of my own without a partnership with a local US attorney.”
Mr Weiss added in his letter to Mr Graham that he had “never been denied the authority to bring charges in any jurisdiction.”
Mr Weiss has sought to defend the integrity of the investigation five years after a plea agreement was announced last month in which Mr Biden would plead guilty to two misdemeanor tax counts and accept provisions that would allow him to avoid prosecution on separate weapons charges.
Republicans have attacked it as a “sweet deal” for the president's son and have used Mr Shapley's testimony to promote the idea that political interference played a part in the outcome. Spokesman Kevin McCarthy opened up 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 – Mr. Weiss supports the previous statement by Mr. Garland that he had been given full authority in the case. At the same time, Mr. Weiss admitted publicly for the first time that he had considered looking into ways to file potentially more serious tax suits against Mr. Biden outside of Delaware.
Mr. Weiss, who described the Hunter Biden investigation as “ongoing”, did not say whether he had followed through and asked to be appointed special counsel for a career official who serves as his contact at Department of Justice headquarters.
Nor did he explicitly address a key assertion Mr Shapley made: that Biden's appointed US attorneys in California and Washington had discouraged Mr Weiss from suing Hunter Biden on felony tax charges dating back to a period when the president's sons made millions working. foreign-controlled businesses and investors.
The probe was started by Trump's Justice Department in 2018 and eventually turned to Mr. Weiss, a Republican whose nonpartisan reputation earned him the support of two Democratic Delaware senators during his confirmation months earlier.
After President Biden was elected, the department's interim leadership retained Mr. Weiss and was in charge of the investigation. Mr Garland, once confirmed, proceeded with the arrangement and was keen to avoid any suggestion of political interference.
Mr Shapley, testifying before the House Ways and Means Committee in May under what Republicans said was whistleblower protection, said he and other investigators had witnessed Mr Weiss say last year that he would not be the “decision official” about whether to sued Mr. Biden. Mr Shapley said Mr Weiss had been turned down when he sought special counsel status after being told by local prosecutors he could not press charges. House Republicans released testimony last month.
Mr. Shapley recounted the debate in meetings with Mr. Weiss and other prosecutors to aggressively pursue 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 alleged tax violations. . During those years, Mr. Biden earned his income working for Ukraine-based energy companies and Chinese clients which Mr. Shapley said was channeled through entities with a presence in Washington and the Los Angeles area.
In mid-2022, Mr. Weiss contacted the federal attorney general in Washington, Matthew Graves, to request that his office file charges and they were dismissed, according to Mr. Shapley's testimony. A similar request to prosecutors in the Central District of California, which includes Los Angeles, was also denied, Mr. Shapley testified.
A second former IRS official, who has not been identified, told House Republicans the same story. The episode was independently confirmed to The New York Times by someone familiar with the situation.
Mr Shapley, who oversaw the agency's role in Mr Biden's tax investigation, also told House committee aides that his criticism of the Justice Department led to his being denied the promotion. In her testimony, she blamed Mr Weiss for criticizing her to her superiors.
Mr. Weiss denied the allegations in a June 30 letter to Representative Jim Jordan, Ohio Republican and chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, saying he had “no retaliation” against Mr Shapley.