Weiss says he had authority to pursue criminal charges against Hunter Biden

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Special counsel David Weiss, the U.S. attorney for Delaware appointed to lead the investigation into President Joe Biden's son, told lawmakers in closed-door testimony Tuesday that he had full authority to pursue criminal charges against Hunter Biden, according to a copy of his opening statement obtained by CBS News.

Weiss said he voluntarily agreed to appear before the Republican-led House Judiciary Committee before the submission of his special counsel report — an unusual move — to "address misunderstandings about the scope of my authority" in the Hunter Biden criminal probe but would not divulge information that could impede the ongoing investigation.

"I am, and have been, the decision-maker on this case," Weiss told members of the House Judiciary Committee. "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."

Weiss' testimony comes as Republican-led congressional investigations into Hunter Biden's finances and business ventures probe whether senior officials, including Weiss, took any steps to obstruct or disrupt criminal investigations into Hunter Biden.

IRS whistleblowers Gary Shapley and Joseph Ziegler, case agents previously assigned to the Hunter Biden investigation, told lawmakers they recommended federal charges be brought against the president's son for tax violations but testified that Weiss said he had been denied special counsel status and was "not the deciding person" to bring charges in the case. They alleged intentional slow-walking and "an undeniable pattern of preferential treatment" in the federal investigation.

"There were really earth-shaking statements made by David Weiss," Shapley said in an exclusive interview with CBS News earlier this year. "And the first one was that he is not the deciding person on whether or not charges are filed," the whistleblower added. "It was just shocking to me."

Weiss has repeatedly refuted Shapley's claims and said he did not request special counsel status until August when the request was "promptly granted" by Attorney General Merrick Garland. Weiss had informed him that his investigation had reached a stage where he believed his work should continue as a special counsel, a designation that confers greater autonomy in conducting a probe. The circumstances around Weiss' request for the new status years into the investigation are not clear.

However, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jim Jordan said Weiss testified Tuesday that he requested special attorney authority under 28 U.S. Code § 515 in the spring of 2022. "That goes to the heart of the matter," said Jordan. "He never had the authority throughout the time, and yet he pretends that somehow he did have that…once again, Shapley and Ziegler's testimony continues to stand up." Section 515 authorizes federal prosecutors specially appointed by the attorney general to bring charges in districts other than their own.

In a July letter to Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, Weiss said he discussed a possible appointment under Section 515 with federal officials that "would have allowed me to file charges in a district outside my own without the partnership of the local U.S. Attorney." He said he was "assured" he'd be granted the authority if needed, "months before the October 7, 2022, meeting referenced throughout the whistleblowers' allegations."

The U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia, Matthew Graves, and the U.S. attorney for the central district of California, E. Martin Estrada, told lawmakers in closed-door testimony that they declined to partner with Wiess to pursue criminal charges against Hunter Biden, but did offer to provide administrative and logistical support for his investigation in their respective districts.

Two FBI officials assigned to the Hunter Biden investigation also told members of Congress earlier this year that they did not recall Weiss telling investigators he did not have authority to push the case forward himself.

House Democrats have largely dismissed the closed-door testimony as a "farce" and a "complete nothingburger."

"He (Weiss) stated multiple times that he made all the charging decisions on his own, that no one gave him any instructions or suggestions as to charging decisions," said House Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Jerrold Nadler. "And the Republicans just keep going over and over the same material and getting the same answers."

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