Federal prosecutor to Congress: I didn’t hinder Hunter Biden probe

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The top federal prosecutor in Los Angeles confirmed to congressional investigators that he declined to bring tax charges against Hunter Biden last year, but insisted his decision did not hamper the probe into the president’s son.

Martin Estrada, the U.S. attorney for central California who made those remarks in closed-door testimony, told the investigators that the Delaware prosecutors running the Hunter Biden probe have long been able to file charges in California. In fact, Estrada said, at least two Delaware prosecutors were given special authority to operate in California long before their boss, David Weiss, was appointed a special counsel earlier this year.

The question of why Weiss’ office has not charged Hunter Biden with tax crimes has been a topic of considerable Republican scrutiny. An IRS whistleblower has testified that Weiss, the Trump-appointed U.S. attorney for Delaware, faced roadblocks in charging the president’s son when Biden-appointed U.S. attorneys for central California and Washington, D.C., declined to formally partner with him.

The U.S. attorney for D.C. has pushed back against that claim. And on Tuesday, in a closed-door interview with the House Judiciary Committee, Estrada pushed back as well. POLITICO obtained a copy of the interview transcript, which is not public.

Estrada acknowledged in the interview that, in the fall of 2022, he declined to “co-counsel” with Weiss on filing potential tax charges in California. Estrada cited the “practical impact of limited resources” for making that decision. But he said he didn’t stiff-arm Weiss; instead, according to Estrada, he offered to help in other ways.

“I discussed our analysis of facts and law to explain to him why we would not be co-counseling on the case, but then I told him that we were happy to provide office space, administrative support for his attorneys,” Estrada told investigators, recounting a five-minute phone call with Weiss on Oct. 19, 2022. “He thanked me for that and the call ended.”

Estrada also revealed that, prior to his appointment as U.S. attorney in September 2022, his office authorized at least two prosecutors from Weiss’ Delaware office to work as “special U.S. attorneys” in the central California district. Estrada said he believed that authorization meant that Weiss could charge Hunter Biden in California without his permission.

The Hunter Biden probe spans multiple jurisdictions because the president’s son was living in California and Washington, D.C., during years when he allegedly failed to pay federal income taxes.

Weiss and Hunter Biden’s lawyers came close to reaching a plea deal this summer that would have resolved the tax issues. But after the deal collapsed, Attorney General Merrick Garland made Weiss a special counsel, formalizing his ability to bring criminal charges anywhere in the country.

Weiss charged Biden with gun crimes last month in Delaware, and he has indicated in court documents that he may soon file tax charges in California. But so far, no tax charges have been brought.

Lawyers for the president’s son have said he belatedly paid taxes he owed, along with penalties and interest, in October 2021.

Without naming Hunter Biden, Estrada discussed how his office decides when to charge people with tax crimes.

“My understanding is where an individual has not paid taxes in the first instance but later paid those taxes with penalties and interest before a prosecution is initiated or an investigation is initiated, we have never brought criminal charges,” he said in the House Judiciary interview.