DOJ special counsel tells Congress politics played no role in Hunter Biden investigation

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WASHINGTON – Justice Department special counsel David Weiss told a House committee on Tuesday nobody is thwarting his investigation of Hunter Biden and politics plays no role in it.

He was emphatic assuring committee members that only he is “the decision-maker.”

Weiss has been investigating the president's son, Hunter Biden, for five years – first as U.S. attorney in Delaware and recently as special counsel. After a plea deal for tax and gun charges fell apart in July, Hunter Biden was indicted in September on three federal gun charges and has pleaded not guilty.

But congressional Republicans blasted the plea agreement as “a sweetheart deal” and questioned Weiss’ independence. Other witnesses to the House Judiciary, Oversight and Accountability, and Ways and Means committees have suggested there were limits on the investigation and on Weiss’ ability to pursue charges.

Weiss told the House Judiciary Committee in prepared testimony for a closed-door interview he couldn’t talk about the case as the investigation continues. But he said he wanted to clear up misunderstandings about his authority to bring charges.

“I am, and have been, the decision-maker on this case,” Weiss said. “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.”

U.S. Attorney David Weiss, arrives for an interview before members of the House Judiciary Committee on Nov. 7, 2023, in Washington. The special counsel overseeing the Hunter Biden investigation is testifying behind closed doors as a GOP probe into the Justice Department's handling of the case continues to unfold.
U.S. Attorney David Weiss, arrives for an interview before members of the House Judiciary Committee on Nov. 7, 2023, in Washington. The special counsel overseeing the Hunter Biden investigation is testifying behind closed doors as a GOP probe into the Justice Department's handling of the case continues to unfold.

GOP blasted Hunter Biden plea deal as 'absolute disgrace'

Congressional Republicans blasted the plea deal as too lenient because it allowed Hunter Biden to avoid prison time. Two Internal Revenue Service investigators testified their inquiry was hindered and mishandled.

Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, and Judiciary Committee chairman, said in a social media post Tuesday that the Justice Department had been inconsistent while IRS whistleblowers had been consistent.

Previously, Rep. James Comer, R-Ky., chairman of the House Oversight and Accountability Committee, called it “a sweetheart deal.” Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, called it “an absolute disgrace.”

But legal experts said the charges against Biden are rarely prosecuted.

Attorney General Merrick Garland told the Judiciary Committee in September that Weiss was appointed by President Biden's rival, Donald Trump, and ran his investigation independently.

Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, arrives to hear for U.S. Attorney David Weiss in an interview before members of the House Judiciary Committee on Nov. 7, 2023, in Washington. The special counsel overseeing the Hunter Biden investigation is testifying behind closed doors as a GOP probe into the Justice Department's handling of the case continues to unfold.
Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, arrives to hear for U.S. Attorney David Weiss in an interview before members of the House Judiciary Committee on Nov. 7, 2023, in Washington. The special counsel overseeing the Hunter Biden investigation is testifying behind closed doors as a GOP probe into the Justice Department's handling of the case continues to unfold.

What was in Hunter Biden plea deal?

The plea deal arranged for Biden to plead guilty to two misdemeanor counts of failing to pay taxes and a gun possession violation.

Prosecutors said Hunter Biden took in $2.4 million in income in 2017 and $2.1 in 2018 through Ukrainian energy firm Burisma, a Chinese-development firm, as well as domestic business interests and legal services.

Leo Wise, an assistant U.S. attorney, said an accountant prepared Biden's taxes both of those years, but his corporate and personal taxes were not paid.

Biden told the court a "third party" paid the back taxes along with interest and fees pursuant to a personal loan he has not begun to repay.

Prosecutors recommended probation for the tax charges, despite each carrying a maximum sentence of 12 months in prison. The agreement over the gun charge anticipated a pretrial diversion program that would wipe the charge off Biden’s record if he complied.

But prosecutors and defense lawyers disagreed about whether the deal protected Biden from future prosecution.

Because of the uncertainty, U.S. District Judge Maryellen Noreika rejected the deal.

Hunter Biden, son of US President Joe Biden, leaves the J. Caleb Boggs Federal Building in Wilmington, Delaware, on October 3, 2023.
Hunter Biden, son of US President Joe Biden, leaves the J. Caleb Boggs Federal Building in Wilmington, Delaware, on October 3, 2023.

Hunter Biden charged with lying to buy firearm while on drugs

Hunter Biden pleaded not guilty in October to fresh federal gun charges in Delaware.

The indictment charges him with knowingly deceiving a firearms dealer when buying a Colt Cobra 38SPL revolver on Oct. 12, 2018. He is charged with falsely filling out a federal firearms form denying he was addicted to any narcotics. And he is charged with knowingly possessing the revolver despite the restrictions against people with drug abuse issues owning firearms.

The tax charges could also potentially be revived.

Biden’s lawyer, Abbe Lowell, said the charges resulted from political pressure from Trump that forced the Justice Department to deviate from its policies.

“The only substantive and relevant changes since July, when the US Attorney decided against pursuing these exact charges against Mr. Biden, has been various court rulings undermining the constitutionality of the law at issue here and a coordinated, partisan attack on our system of justice by right-wing Republicans,” Lowell said in a statement.

What other charges are possible against Hunter Biden?

Another potential source of charges, which wasn’t part of the plea deal, involves the Foreign Agents Registration Act. People representing foreign governments or organizations controlled by foreign governments seeking to influence U.S. policy are required to report their work to the Justice Department.

Hunter Biden never registered his foreign business deals. Strictly commercial transactions are exempt from reporting.

But some lawmakers contend Hunter Biden was peddling influence and should have reported his business deals. Prosecutors have said they are investigating.

U.S. Attorney David Weiss, arrives for an interview before members of the House Judiciary Committee on Nov. 7, 2023, in Washington. The special counsel overseeing the Hunter Biden investigation is testifying behind closed doors as a GOP probe into the Justice Department's handling of the case continues to unfold.
U.S. Attorney David Weiss, arrives for an interview before members of the House Judiciary Committee on Nov. 7, 2023, in Washington. The special counsel overseeing the Hunter Biden investigation is testifying behind closed doors as a GOP probe into the Justice Department's handling of the case continues to unfold.

Special counsel Weiss denies 'political considerations' in charges

Weiss said he didn’t make decisions in a vacuum because he was bound the law, principles of federal prosecution and the Justice Department guidelines.

But Weiss denied politics influenced his decisions. He said he would produce a report when the investigation is completed to describe why charges were or were not pursued.

“Throughout this investigation, the career prosecutors on my team and I have made decisions based on the facts and the law,” Weiss said. “Political considerations played no part in our decision-making.”

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Hunter Biden prosecutor David Weiss says politics play no role in case