Advertisement

Hunter Biden special counsel testifying behind closed doors before House Judiciary Committee

Attorney David Weiss speaks during a press conference on May 3, 2018, at his district office in Wilmington, Delaware. - Suchat Pederson/The News Journal/AP/File

David Weiss, the special counsel overseeing the Hunter Biden federal criminal investigation, told the House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday that politics have played “no part” in his investigation into the president’s son, and that he was never stopped from bringing charges by the Justice Department or other federal offices.

In his opening statement, which happened behind closed doors, Weiss countered the intense scrutiny his probe into Hunter Biden has faced since whistleblowers with the Internal Revenue Service raised questions about Weiss’ ability to bring charges. House Republicans have lambasted what they say was political interference in in the criminal probe against Hunter Biden as part of their ongoing campaign alleging unfair treatment by the Justice Department.

“I am, and have been, the decision-maker on this case,” Weiss said according to a copy of his prepared remarks.

He continued, “At no time was I blocked, or otherwise prevented from pursuing charges or taking the steps necessary in the investigation by other United States Attorneys, the Tax Division or anyone else at the Department of Justice.”

The closed-door interview is expected to cover the scope of Weiss’ authority, which has faced intense scrutiny since whistleblowers with the Internal Revenue Service raised questions about Weiss’ ability to bring charges.

It is rare for a special counsel, or any top prosecutor, to testify to Congress in the middle of an investigation – and the Justice Department has already signaled that some questions will be out of bounds. But given the nature of the politicization allegations, and the way House Republicans have used them to fuel their impeachment inquiry into the president, the Department of Justice made Weiss available to testify.

IRS whistleblowers Gary Shapley and his deputy, Joseph Ziegler, alleged in their own House testimony in June that the Justice Department put up a number of roadblocks throughout Weiss’ investigation, including that Weiss was not the deciding person on whether charges against Hunter Biden were filed and that Weiss had requested special counsel authority but was denied. Weiss has disputed these allegations in letters to lawmakers, as did Attorney General Merrick Garland at a recent public hearing.

Ahead of Tuesday’s private interview, a spokesperson for Weiss, Wyn Hornbuckle, said in a statement to CNN that Weiss will be testifying voluntarily about the “scope of his authority” and reiterated that he will prepare a public report at the close of his investigation.

“Mr. Weiss is prepared to take this unprecedented step of testifying before the conclusion of his investigation to make clear that he’s had and continues to have full authority over his investigation and to bring charges in any jurisdiction. Consistent with department policy and the law, he will be unable to address the specifics of his investigation,” Hornbuckle said.

Central to the whistleblower allegations is a key meeting on October 7, 2022, between FBI and IRS agents, Weiss and other Justice Department prosecutors. Shapley, who attended the meeting and worked on the case, provided his notes on the meeting and email exchanges to Congress to back up his allegations. This is the meeting where, according to Shapley, Weiss said he didn’t have final charging authority in the Hunter Biden probe.

Since the allegations first came to light, Congress has interviewed at least seven individuals from the DOJ and IRS who were also involved in the investigation, many of whom have also cast doubt on a number of the key allegations.

Weiss has since written to Congress that he was “granted ultimate authority” on the case and that he never requested special counsel status in the timeframe Shapley alleged, but rather he explored becoming a “special attorney” under a different statute.

GOP Rep. Matt Gaetz, who serves on the House Judiciary Committee, described Weiss as being “pretty evasive” and refusing to answer specific questions about his investigation or who he consulted with, instead claiming it was all “just part of his deliberative process.”

“Mr. Weiss was here incarnate, but not particularly in spirit,” Gaetz said.

Gaetz did concede that Weiss “reflected on his authority being vast and broad,” which is in direct contradiction to what IRS whistleblowers have alleged but would not divulge how key decisions about the case were made.

“We’re concerned that those decisions were made corruptly in order to protect the Biden family. And if we’re unable to get any substance regarding those discussions or deliberations then it’s a real roadblock for us,” he added.

Democratic Rep. Mary Gay Scanlon, who also serves on the House Judiciary panel and attended portions of the interview called it “completely a farce.”

“There is absolutely nothing going on up there,” she said. “It is a total waste of time.”

Democratic Rep. Dan Goldman emerged from the interview telling reporters, “Weiss made it clear that he is here only to discuss his authority over this matter,” and added, “He has not and will not discuss any aspects of the investigation.”

Goldman framed the questions from his Republican counterparts as “incredibly repetitive” and “misleading.”

The top Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee, Rep. Jerry Nadler of New York, called Weiss “a very strong and very credible witness,” and said the decision to interview Weiss privately “shows that they don’t have any confidence in their own in their own case, and they didn’t want to expose themselves to public ridicule.”

Weiss, who was appointed as the US attorney in Delaware by former President Donald Trump, began the probe in 2018 and was granted special counsel status in August after plea talks between the Justice Department and the president’s son to resolve tax and gun charges fell apart. The GOP had criticized the plea deal, accusing Weiss of giving Hunter Biden preferential treatment.

In September, Hunter Biden was indicted for lying on federal firearm forms and illegally possessing a firearm while using illicit drugs, and he pleaded not guilty in October.

By naming Weiss as a special counsel, Garland gave him further independence from the Justice Department as he prepares for an unprecedented trial against the son of the sitting president, and as Republicans claim the department is politicized.

Federal prosecutors have spent five years investigating Hunter Biden for potential felony tax evasion, illegal foreign lobbying, money laundering and other possible crimes. House Republicans have been investigating Hunter Biden’s foreign business dealings and whether the president himself committed any impeachable offenses – a key hurdle that they have yet to overcome.

The tax investigation is still underway, and Weiss has said in court filings that charges may be coming. The IRS whistleblowers said they recommended felony tax charges stemming from Hunter Biden’s lucrative business dealings overseas. Hunter Biden denies wrongdoing, and even though he was late with his federal taxes, he eventually paid off his $2 million debt in full.

There is some precedent for Weiss’ high-stakes meeting with lawmakers.

Former special counsel Robert Mueller, who investigated connections between Trump’s 2016 campaign and Russia, met privately with lawmakers at the start of his probe in 2017, though it wasn’t a transcribed interview. But Jack Danforth, who in 1999 led a special counsel probe into possible government wrongdoing at the deadly Waco, Texas, standoff, issued an interim report and publicly testified to Congress amid his investigation.

This story and headline have been updated with additional developments.

CNN’s Hannah Rabinowitz, Lauren Koenig and Marshall Cohen contributed to this report.

For more CNN news and newsletters create an account at CNN.com