Attorney General Merrick Garland testified before the House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday and responded to numerous questions surrounding the ongoing Hunter Biden case.
House lawmakers pressed Garland on specific points of contention from IRS whistleblowers Gary Shapley and Joseph Ziegler’s testimony including special counsel David Weiss’ charging authority and the apparent refusal by Biden-appointed U.S. Attorneys Matthew Graves of D.C. and E. Martin Estrada from the Central District of California to cooperate on potentially charging Biden.
Below are the biggest takeaways from Garland’s testimony. (RELATED: Here Are All The Questions Congress Must Ask Merrick Garland About The Hunter Biden Case)
Biden-appointed prosecutors could refuse to cooperate with Weiss
Republican Ohio Rep. Jim Jordan pressed Garland on his previous testimony to Republican Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley that Weiss had complete authority. Jordan emphasized Graves’ decision not to “partner” with Weiss on bringing charges against Hunter Biden.
“I’m going to say again that no one had the authority to turn him down, they could refuse to partner with him,” Garland testified in response to Jordan.
Shapley testified to the House Ways and Means Committee in May and described how Graves and Estrada declined to cooperate with Weiss on bringing charges against Hunter Biden. The New York Times independently confirmed Weiss was blocked from bringing charges in California.
An FBI agent on the Hunter Biden investigation and an IRS official who worked with the whistleblowers testified Graves and Estrada did not partner with Weiss when he was leading the case as Delaware U.S. Attorney.
“All he would have to do is ask me for 515 authority, and I would sign it right away,” Garland told Republican South Carolina Rep. Russell Fry. “He had the authority because I promised he would have the authority,” Garland added.
He was referring to section 515 of the U.S. Code allowing the Attorney General to give a prosecutor special attorney status in order to bring charges outside of their jurisdiction.
It is unlikely the DOJ investigates the IRS whistleblowers
Republican Louisiana Rep. Mike Johnson questioned Garland on whether his office requested an investigation into the whistleblower testimony.
“There are well-known processes for how whistleblowers make their claims. I am a strong proponent of whistleblowers and a strong defender. We have an inspector general, we have the office of professional responsibility. that is the way in which complaints from whistleblowers should be, and are, appropriately handled,” Garland said.
AG Garland: “I am a strong proponent of whistleblowers and a strong defender.” pic.twitter.com/mJDFtKpBdA
— The Post Millennial (@TPostMillennial) September 20, 2023
Hunter Biden’s attorney Abbe Lowell wrote a letter to Weiss in August accusing the whistleblowers of illegally leaking taxpayer information. His legal team made similar accusations to DOJ officials in April when Shapley first came forward anonymously in a letter to Congress.
Hunter Biden is suing the IRS because of what his legal team believes to be illegal disclosures in the IRS whistleblower testimony and the whistleblowers’ cable news interviews. The whistleblowers have pushed back against Biden’s allegations and accused him of trying to silence them.
It is unclear why Weiss’ letters to Congress contradict themselves
Weiss wrote multiple letters to Congress in June and July responding to the IRS whistleblower allegations that his charging authority was limited. Weiss wrote a letter to Jordan in June where he said his charging authority was geographically limited to his home district and it was DOJ procedure to collaborate with U.S. Attorneys in their jurisdictions.
He followed up with a letter in July to Republican South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham saying that he had full charging authority and did not request additional authority. Shapley testified that Weiss stated in an Oct. 7, 2022, meeting that he was denied special counsel authority after Graves’ decision not to cooperate. His attorneys have released an email Shapley sent and handwritten notes documenting the meeting.
“I have seen all three letters, read them quite carefully. They are all consistent with each other and I urge everyone watching this on television or anyone who’s interested to look at those three letters. They are not inconsistent with each other and there’s no change in the story,” Garland told Fry.
He repeatedly cited Weiss’ letters and expressed his belief that they were consistent with his prior testimony that Weiss had full authority to charge Hunter Biden. (RELATED: ‘Not Familiar’: Garland Admits He Did Not Know About David Weiss’ Work With Beau Biden)
Jordan followed up with Garland after Fry’s round of questioning and asked if the attorney general could name a specific instance where he reassured Weiss that he could request section 515 status. Garland cited his previous testimony to the Senate in response to Jordan.
He declined to discuss his private conversations with Weiss when Johnson pressed him on whether the two had spoken about the Hunter Biden case.
Garland appeared to dispute testimony from two FBI agents
Johnson questioned Garland on testimony from FBI agent Thomas Sobocinski who said Weiss had a “cumbersome” bureaucratic process for filing charges.
“There was administrative charge — or administrative process, not within DOJ, but also within tax. I don’t know the intricacies of that, but it definitely seemed very cumbersome,” the FBI agent said. A second FBI agent on the Hunter Biden investigation also said Weiss had to go through “other processes” because Graves and Estrada refused to cooperate.
Garland said Sobocinski’s testimony was “not true” and a statement of opinion rather than fact.
“I’m not aware but that’s not true. There’s nothing cumbersome about the process,” Garland emphasized. “Their description of the process as cumbersome is opinion, it is not a fact question.”
Garland won’t talk about the details of the Hunter Biden case
The attorney general deferred to Weiss throughout his testimony when lawmakers asked specific questions on the details of the Hunter Biden case.
For example, Garland declined to answer a question from Republican Wisconsin Rep. Scott Fitzgerald on whether Assistant U.S. Attorney Lesley Wolf was still working on the case. Both IRS whistleblowers have accused Wolf of stonewalling search warrants and tipping off Hunter Biden’s defense counsel.
Her name is not on any court documents filed in Delaware despite her extensive work on the case highlighted by her negotiations with Biden’s legal team on his failed plea agreement.
In addition, Garland did not respond to questions from Jordan and Republican North Carolina Rep. Dan Bishop over investigators’ choice to let the statute of limitations expire on potential charges related to Hunter Biden’s work in 2014 and 2015 for Ukrainian energy firm Burisma.
“I don’t know anything about the statute of limitations here. The investigation was in the hands of Mr. Weiss to make the determinations,” Garland told Bishop. He responded to Jordan’s questions by deferring to Weiss’ judgement.
Burisma paid Hunter Biden more than $80,000 per month to sit on its board despite his lack of experience with the energy sector and Ukrainian affairs, according to bank records release by the House Oversight Committee.
Republican Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz questioned Garland on $3 million worth payments sent from Chinese energy firm State Energy HK to Hunter Biden’s former business associate Rob Walker. Garland did not answer Gaetz’s question and deferred to Weiss.
Bank records released by the House Oversight Committee and testimony from Ziegler confirm the Biden family received more than $1 million worth of payments from State Energy HK through Walker’s shell company.
Garland did not consider appointing a special counsel from outside the Justice Department
Garland appointed Weiss as special counsel in August to continue the Hunter Biden investigation, even though DOJ regulations instruct for special counsels to be appointed from outside the government.
“Did you consider anyone else when David Weiss requested special counsel designation?” Jordan asked Weiss.
“Mr. Weiss asked to be made special counsel … I did not consider an alternative,” Garland replied. He went on to defend Weiss’ integrity and prosecutorial experience.
.@Jim_Jordan: “Did you consider anyone else when Weiss requested special counsel designation?”
GARLAND: “Did not consider an alternative.”
JORDAN: “The guy who presided over [plea deal, statute of limitations] was the ONLY guy under consideration…Is that right?”
— Daily Caller (@DailyCaller) September 20, 2023
The whistleblower allegations of special treatment took place under Weiss’ leadership on the Hunter Biden case as Delaware U.S. Attorney. Weiss was appointed Delaware U.S. Attorney by former President Donald Trump with bipartisan support from Delaware Democratic Sens. Tom Carper and Chris Coons.
Before the IRS whistleblowers came forward, Weiss was not going to make Hunter Biden plead guilty to two tax misdemeanors, according to The New York Times.
Biden pleaded not guilty to the tax offenses after his plea deal fell apart in July as a result of scrutiny from Delaware U.S. District Court Judge Maryellen Noreika, who questioned an immunity provision inside of a proposed pretrial diversion agreement for a felony gun charge. DOJ special attorney Leo Wise admitted in court that the immunity clause had no precedent when Noreika pointed out its irregularities.
The House Ways and Means, Judiciary and Oversight Committees are investigating the IRS whistleblower allegations alongside House Oversight’s probe into Hunter Biden’s foreign business dealings. Speaker Kevin McCarthy said on Sept. 12 that the three committees would be leading the impeachment inquiry into President Joe Biden.
Hunter Biden was indicted on Sept. 14 on three counts related to his October 2018 purchase of a Colt Cobra revolver while he was allegedly addicted to crack cocaine. His attorney said in a court filing Tuesday that Biden would plead not guilty to the gun charges.