Hunter Biden prosecutor faced no political pressure in probe, he tells lawmakers

By Makini Brice and Andrew Goudsward

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -U.S. Special Counsel David Weiss, who is leading the probe into President Joe Biden’s son Hunter Biden, told the Republican-led House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday that he faced no political interference in a nearly seven-hour interview, contradicting earlier whistleblower testimony.

Weiss has charged Hunter Biden, 53, with crimes related to owning a firearm while using illegal drugs. The president’s son has said he struggled with addictions to alcohol and crack cocaine.

House Republicans allege the Justice Department improperly interfered with the investigation of Hunter Biden, whose brushes with the law are a central focus of their impeachment inquiry into the president. The White House has denied wrongdoing. Democrats say the impeachment inquiry is politically motivated.

“Throughout this investigation, the career prosecutors on my team and I have made decisions based on the facts and the law,” Weiss said during testimony behind closed doors, according to a statement. “Political considerations played no part in our decision-making.”

Weiss, the first special counsel to testify in Congress before his final report is completed, pushed back against comments by two Internal Revenue Service whistleblowers, who say he told officials at a meeting that he did not have final authority on deciding to bring charges as part of his probe.

Weiss told lawmakers he has had and continues to have full authority over his investigation.

In keeping with Justice Department policy, Weiss would not address specifics about his probe.

“Mr. Weiss reflected on his authorities, but then when we asked about the influences on those authorities – were there emails or meetings where people tried to move him in one direction or another? – he was entirely recalcitrant,” Republican lawmaker Matt Gaetz told reporters.

Democrats participating in the interview sharply criticized it, saying Republicans’ questions were misleading and labeling the meeting a waste of time.

At least 10 current and former officials from the FBI, IRS and Justice Department have testified behind closed doors as part of lawmakers’ inquiry. Attorney General Merrick Garland also testified before the House Judiciary Committee in a public hearing in September.

The impeachment inquiry has been cheered on by Republican former President Donald Trump, who is the frontrunner for the Republican presidential nomination to take on Biden again in the 2024 election. Trump was also the first U.S. president to be impeached twice. The Senate acquitted him both times.

Trump is facing four criminal indictments for charges related to his business activities, mishandling of classified documents and attempt to overturn the 2020 election.

It is not clear if the full House of Representatives, controlled by a narrow 221-212 Republican majority, would support impeaching Biden.

Democratic lawmaker Glenn Ivey said the beginning of the testimony had mostly centered on letters between Weiss and lawmakers, and noted that the interview was unprecedented.

“The irony is they’re always pushing to prosecute Hunter Biden, but this is the kind of stuff that could derail or cause problems for it,” Ivey told reporters.

Originally nominated during Trump’s administration, Weiss was allowed to remain in place under Biden.

(Reporting by Makini Brice and Andrew Goudsward; additional reporting by David Morgan and Moira Warburton; Editing by Scott Malone, Jonathan Oatis and Daniel Wallis)