Attorney General Merrick Garland told members of Congress that he hasn’t interfered with the Justice Department investigation into President Joe Biden’s son, Hunter, and never discussed the probe or received direction about it from anyone at the White House.
(Bloomberg) — Attorney General Merrick Garland told members of Congress that he hasn’t interfered with the Justice Department investigation into President Joe Biden’s son, Hunter, and never discussed the probe or received direction about it from anyone at the White House.
Garland faced blistering questioning Wednesday by Republicans on the House Judiciary Committee over the handling of the Hunter Biden case. The lawmakers suggested investigators were hamstrung from bringing charges and questioned why the statute of limitations was allowed to expire for some tax offenses without charges being brought.
The US attorney in Delaware, David Weiss, has been in charge of making all decisions about the investigation, Garland said. Weiss was appointed by former President Donald Trump in 2018 and kept on by Garland, who appointed Weiss as special counsel last month after he requested the authority. Hunter Biden was indicted this month over three firearm violations.
“Mr. Weiss has full authority to conduct his investigation however he wishes,” Garland told lawmakers. “The determination of where to bring cases and what kind of cases to bring were left to Mr. Weiss.”
It was the first time Garland has publicly testified since Weiss was appointed special counsel. House Republicans have since begun an impeachment inquiry of Joe Biden over unsubstantiated allegations that he took corrupt actions to financially benefit from his son’s foreign financial dealings.
Read More: How Hunter Biden’s Scandal Fueled Impeachment Inquiry
The hearing also comes after another special counsel, Jack Smith, indicted Trump for trying to overturn the 2020 election and for mishandling classified information and obstructing justice.
“There’s one investigation protecting President Biden; there’s another one attacking Donald Trump,” said House Judiciary Chairman Jim Jordan, an Ohio Republican.
GOP lawmakers cited claims by two investigators with the Internal Revenue Service who said the Hunter Biden investigation was slow-walked by the Justice Department and that they once heard Weiss say he didn’t have full authority to bring tax charges against Biden in other locations, and specifically in Washington, DC.
Garland downplayed claims by the IRS investigators, saying their description of the process was their opinion and not fact.
The attorney general repeated statements he has made before that Weiss would be allowed to bring charges wherever he wanted.
Garland didn’t provide an answer as to why the statute of limitations was allowed to expire on some tax offenses against Hunter Biden, but said Weiss would provide an explanation in a final report he is obligated to produce.
When asked why Weiss requested to be a special counsel, Garland said, “He reached a stage of the investigation where he thought it would be appropriate.” Garland declined to provide additional details about that process.
Supreme Court Ethics
The questioning also waded into the ethics controversy surrounding the US Supreme Court. Democratic Representative Hank Johnson of Georgia asked Garland about requests from lawmakers that the Justice Department investigate whether Justice Clarence Thomas violated the Ethics in Government Act by not reporting private plane trips, luxury vacations, and other financial ties to billionaire Harlan Crow.
Garland didn’t offer a concrete answer, saying he would need to ask the department’s legislative affairs office about the status of that.
Johnson also asked Garland, a former federal appeals judge whose Supreme Court nomination was blocked by Republicans, if he ever accepted the type of financial benefits that Thomas received from Crow. Garland said he’d never been offered or taken private plane trips, but told Johnson he didn’t want to engage with what were “not hypothetical questions.” He said he’d always held himself “to the highest standards of ethics responsibility imposed” by the judiciary’s code of conduct.
Defunding the FBI
Garland pushed back against Republicans who have raised the possibility of defunding the Federal Bureau of Investigation over their claims the agency has become politicized and is unfairly targeting conservatives.
“I cannot imagine the consequences of defunding the FBI but they would be catastrophic,” Garland said.
Disruptions would include enabling China to carry out foreign influence operations in the US, emboldening Russia’s aggressive behaviors, impeding efforts to counter North Korean cyber attacks and hurting efforts to stop violent crime and domestic violent extremism, Garland said.
Contempt of Congress
Republican Representative Thomas Massie of Kentucky accused Garland of being in contempt of Congress for refusing to discuss internal department deliberations or specifics of investigations.
Massie observed that former Trump aide Peter Navarro was prosecuted by the Justice Department for criminal contempt of Congress after he refused to testify in response to a subpoena from the Jan. 6 congressional committee investigating the plot to overturn the 2020 election. Navarro was convicted by a federal jury earlier this month on two counts of contempt of Congress and is appealing his case.
Democratic Representative Eric Swalwell of California shot back noting that Garland showed up to testify at Wednesday’s hearing, unlike Navarro. Swalwell also noted that Jordan, the Judiciary Committee chairman, also refused to comply with a subpoena from the Jan. 6 committee and remains in contempt.
–With assistance from Zoe Tillman.
(Updates with more details from hearing.)
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