Home News Garland Pushes Back at GOP Claims of Bias in Hunter Biden Investigation

Garland Pushes Back at GOP Claims of Bias in Hunter Biden Investigation

Garland Pushes Back at GOP Claims of Bias in Hunter Biden Investigation

Attorney General Merrick B. Garland defended the Justice Department’s five-year investigation of Hunter Biden on Friday, forcefully rebutting claims promoted by House Republicans that he blocked federal prosecutors in Delaware from expanding the inquiry to encompass a greater range of crimes.

On Tuesday, the House Ways and Means Committee released testimony from two I.R.S. officials who said that David C. Weiss, the U.S. attorney for Delaware who has overseen the inquiry, told them that Justice Department officials prevented him from bringing cases against Mr. Biden, President Biden’s son, in Washington, D.C., and California.

The I.R.S. officials also claimed in their testimony that Mr. Weiss told them that he was rebuffed in his request to be appointed a special counsel, which would have allowed him to file a detailed report of his findings that could potentially be made public once the probe is ended.

The attorney general denied the assertions made by the I.R.S. officials during a news conference at the Justice Department’s headquarters, saying he had given Mr. Weiss “complete authority” to “continue his investigation and to make a decision to prosecute any way in which he wanted to and in any district in which he wanted to.”

He scoffed at the idea that Mr. Weiss, a veteran prosecutor would have wanted to be designated as a special counsel, given the authority he already possessed as a U.S. attorney.

“The only person who has the authority to make someone a special counsel, or refuse to make them a special counsel, is the attorney general,” Mr. Garland said, adding: “Mr. Weiss never made that request.”

Mr. Weiss was named U.S. attorney in Delaware by President Donald J. Trump and eventually took control of the investigations into Hunter Biden during the Trump administration. He was kept on by Mr. Garland to allow him to complete the investigation. Mr. Garland and Mr. Weiss have both made public statements that Mr. Weiss had full authority over the case.

Mr. Garland has long sought to distance himself from the investigation into his boss’s son and to restore the Justice Department’s reputation as operating outside of politics. Republicans have been seeking to portray the department as partisan, making the case that Mr. Garland has weaponized the agency by unfairly prosecuting Mr. Trump while letting Hunter Biden largely off the hook.

Mr. Weiss disclosed an agreement on Tuesday under which Mr. Biden would plead guilty to two misdemeanor tax charges and avoid prosecution on an unrelated gun charge by agreeing to a pretrial diversion program. Assuming the deal is approved by a federal judge at a hearing scheduled for next month, it would likely end the investigation without Mr. Biden serving any prison time.

Mr. Weiss had no comment. But in announcing the agreement in the Hunter Biden case on Tuesday, he said, to the surprise of all parties, that the investigation was “ongoing.”

It is not clear what he meant, but the declaration will likely have the effect of preventing Mr. Weiss from speaking publicly about the investigation until it is officially closed. Mr. Garland said he would not stop Mr. Weiss from testifying before Congress once the case was closed.

House Republicans sought to portray the testimony by the I.R.S. officials as evidence that Hunter Biden had gotten a sweetheart deal from the Justice Department and that the department had been subject to political influence.

“If the federal government is not treating all taxpayers equally, or if it is changing the rules to engineer a preferred outcome, Congress has a duty to ask why and to hold agencies accountable and consider appropriate legislative action,” Representative Jason Smith, Republican of Missouri and the chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, said in a statement on Thursday.

Mr. Garland defended the department’s actions on Friday.

“Some have chosen to attack the integrity of the Justice Department by claiming that we do not treat cases alike,” he told reporters. “This constitutes an attack on an institution that is essential to American democracy.”

But Mr. Garland’s critics, including Senator Ted Cruz, Republican of Texas, accused him of hypocrisy and promoting a two-tiered system of justice.

“This air of righteous indignation from Merrick Garland is rich,” Mr. Cruz wrote on Twitter. “In the face of such serious allegations regarding the Hunter Biden investigation, his response here is stunning.”

In the testimony released by the Ways and Means Committee on Thursday, the lead I.R.S. agent investigating whether Hunter Biden committed tax crimes told Congress his team uncovered evidence that Mr. Biden had invoked his father, who was then out of office, while pressing a potential Chinese business partner in 2017 to move ahead with a proposed energy deal, House Republicans said.

According to a summary of a WhatsApp message provided to the committee, Mr. Biden told the business partner, Henry Zhao, that he was sitting with his father and that “we would like to understand why the commitment made has not been fulfilled.”

“Tell the director that I would like to resolve this now before it gets out of hand, and now means tonight,” Mr. Biden wrote, referring to other participants in the proposed deal, according to the testimony. “And, Z, if I get a call or text from anyone involved in this other than you, Zhang, or the chairman, I will make certain that between the man sitting next to me and every person he knows and my ability to forever hold a grudge that you will regret not following my direction.”

It is not clear whether Mr. Biden’s father, then six months out of office after serving as vice president for two terms, was actually present for the call or involved in any substantive way in the business activities of his son, who at the time was addicted to crack cocaine and having financial problems.

“The president was not in business with his son,” Ian Sams, a White House spokesman, said in an email on Friday. Hunter Biden made millions of dollars from the business partnership alluded to in the WhatsApp message but the deal later collapsed.

Christopher Clark, Hunter Biden’s lawyer in dealing with the Justice Department, said in a statement on Friday: “The D.O.J. investigation covered a period which was a time of turmoil and addiction for my client. Any verifiable words or actions of my client in the midst of a horrible addiction are solely his own and have no connection to anyone in his family.”

Without citing any specific evidence, Mr. Clark said the assertions cited by the Ways and Means Committee came from a “very biased” witness.

“It is dangerously misleading to make any conclusions or inferences based on this document,” Mr. Clark said.


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