David C. Weiss, the Delaware federal prosecutor who led the criminal investigation into Hunter Biden, on Monday refuted a key element of congressional testimony from an Internal Revenue Service official who said Mr. Weiss complained he was been blocked from pursuing the case the way he wanted.
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, contradicting House Ways and Means committee testimony from the Senate Judiciary Committee. IRS official, Gary Shapley, who said Mr. Weiss had sought that status and was turned down.
Mr. Weiss suggested that Mr. Shapley may have misunderstood him during an October 2022 meeting. Mr. Weiss, the US attorney for Delaware who was appointed to the role under President Donald J. Trump, said in the letter that he contacted a department higher up about the possibility of applying for special prosecutor status, not as a special counsel prosecutor.
A special counsel is a less significant designation within the Justice Department than a special counsel. It would have allowed him to file charges against Mr. Biden, the president’s son, in jurisdictions other than Delaware, but it would not have given him the greater leeway and independence that comes with a special counsel designation.
« To clarify an apparent misperception and avoid future confusion, I want to clarify one point: In this case, I have not requested a special counsel designation, » Weiss told Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, the top Republican on the Senate Committee Justice.
Instead, Mr. Weiss said he « had discussions with departmental officials regarding a potential appointment » as a special prosecutor, « which would allow me to file charges in a district outside my own without cooperation from the local U.S. attorney. » « .
Mr Weiss added in the letter to Mr Graham that « he had never been denied the authority to lodge charges in any jurisdiction ».
Mr. Weiss has sought to defend the integrity of the five-year investigation after a plea deal announced last month under which Mr. Biden will plead guilty to two misdemeanor tax charges and agree to terms that would allow him to avoid a separate charge for firearms.
Republicans slammed it as a « love affair » for the president’s son and used Shapley’s testimony to promote the idea that political interference played a role in the outcome. Spokesman Kevin McCarthy left open the possibility of pursuing 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 confirmed an earlier statement by Mr. Garland that he was given full authority in the case. At the same time, Mr. Weiss publicly acknowledged for the first time that he had considered looking for a way to bring potentially more serious tax charges against Mr. Biden outside of Delaware.
Weiss, who described the Hunter Biden investigation as « ongoing, » did not say whether he had followed up and asked to be appointed special prosecutor of the career official who served as his contact at Justice Department headquarters.
Nor did it explicitly address a key claim made by Mr. Shapley: that Biden’s appointed US lawyers in California and Washington had prevented Mr. Weiss from prosecuting Hunter Biden on criminal tax charges stemming from a stint when the president’s son made millions working with foreign-controlled firms and investors.
The investigation was initiated by Trump’s Justice Department in 2018 and eventually turned over to Mr. Weiss, a Republican whose reputation for nonpartisanism had earned him the support of two Democratic Delaware senators during his confirmation just 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.
Mr. Shapley, testifying before the House Ways and Means Committee in May under what Republicans have called whistleblower protections, said he and other investigators had seen Mr. Weiss say last year that he would not be the « official decisive » as to whether to prosecute Mr. Biden. Mr Shapley said Mr Weiss had been turned down when he applied for special counsel status after local prosecutors told him he could not press charges. House Republicans released testimony last month.
Mr. Shapley said he has been in discussions with Mr. Weiss and other prosecutors about aggressively pursuing charges against Hunter Biden stemming from his non-payment of taxes in 2014 and 2015, two years not covered by Mr. Biden to plead guilty to misdemeanor tax charges. During those years, Mr. Biden was earning income from working for a Ukraine-based energy company and Chinese clients that Mr. Shapley suggested were funneled through entities that had a presence in Washington and the Los Angeles area.
In mid-2022, Mr. Weiss contacted Washington’s top federal prosecutor Matthew Graves to ask his office to pursue the charges and was denied, according to Mr. Shapley’s testimony. A similar request to prosecutors in California’s Central District, which includes Los Angeles, was also denied, Shapley testified.
A second former IRS official, who has not been identified, told the same story to House Republicans. That incident was independently confirmed to The New York Times by a person familiar with the situation.
Mr. Shapley, who oversaw the agency’s role in the investigation into Mr. Biden’s taxes, also told House committee assistants that his criticisms of the Justice Department led him to be denied a promotion. In his testimony, he blamed Mr. Weiss for criticizing him to his superiors.
Mr. Weiss denied that allegation in a June 30 letter to Rep. Jim Jordan, an Ohio Republican and House Judiciary Committee chairman, saying he « did not strike back » against Mr. Shapley.