Special Counsel David Weiss told lawmakers behind closed doors on Tuesday that he is the “decision maker” in the years-long Hunter Biden investigation, rebuffing allegations of political meddling.
Weiss had agreed to privately meet with lawmakers on the House Judiciary Committee in the wake of IRS whistleblower allegations of interference into the years-long federal probe into President Joe Biden’s son. Republicans have pointed to those accusations as reason to believe the president or other officials have used the office to shield Hunter Biden from federal charges, and it’s become one prong of a sweeping House GOP impeachment inquiry.
Weiss sought to dismiss those allegations Tuesday, according to a copy of his remarks obtained by POLITICO, and told lawmakers that while he operated within federal law and Justice Department guidelines that “these processes did not interfere with my decision-making authority.”
“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 said.
Weiss, the U.S. attorney for Delaware who was already overseeing the Hunter Biden investigation, which dates back to the Trump era, was named special counsel over the summer. He reiterated during the closed-door meeting that he didn’t ask for that authority until August, when he was granted it.
Judiciary Chair Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) told reporters that Weiss disclosed that he requested “special attorney” status in Spring 2022. The designation would let the attorney bring cases in other jurisdictions but without being named special counsel.
“When he was specifically asked: ‘Did you ever request special attorney authority?’ … Mr. Weiss’s response was: ‘Yes, in the spring of 2022,'” Jordan recalled to reporters. “He requested it, he was not given that request.”
But the Ohio Republican stopped short of saying that Weiss explicitly told lawmakers that he was denied special attorney status. And a person familiar with Weiss’ remarks said he told the committee that “I was not denied 515 authority at any time,” referring to the special attorney statute.
Weiss had previously disclosed in a letter to Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) that he had a discussion with DOJ officials about a potential special attorney appointment and that he was “assured that I would be granted this authority if it proved necessary.”
It’s unusual for a special counsel to meet with lawmakers behind closed doors, given the federal investigation remains ongoing. Law enforcement officials generally won’t answer questions about probes that haven’t concluded, a fact that was clearly frustrating the members who were meeting with Weiss Tuesday. Republicans complained that the special counsel was evading questions while Democrats griped that the GOP-called meeting was pointless and set a precedent that could be used against future investigators.
“The entire interview process is stupid. … We’re not going to learn anything new because he can’t talk about the specific case,” said Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.), advising reporters who were waiting outside the interview room to go eat lunch.
Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.), the top Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, echoed that sentiment, calling the meeting: “a waste of time.”
Weiss warned lawmakers at the outset of the closed-door interview that he would “address misunderstandings about the scope of my authority to decide where, when, and whether to bring charges in this matter,” but would not answer questions that could “jeopardize” the ongoing investigation or prosecution.
“I am in the midst of conducting an ongoing investigation and prosecution and will be limited as to what I can say at this point. I will prepare a report at the conclusion of the work by the Special Counsel’s Office and will be able to share more information at that time,” he added.
Republicans bristled at the suggestion they’d have to wait until an undetermined point in the future to get answers to questions at the heart of their investigation.
“Weiss was here incarnate but not particularly in spirit. Any time we had any question about any communication regarding the Justice Department … he would demure,” said Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.), adding that he believed Weiss had been “evasive.”
The Judiciary Committee, along with the Ways & Means Committee, has been looking for more information on an Oct. 7, 2022 meeting about the Hunter Biden investigation. An IRS whistleblower has said, both privately and in a public Oversight Committee hearing, that Weiss indicated at that meeting that he didn’t have ultimate authority in the investigation — hinting that other political powers had a say in what sort of charges Hunter Biden would face.
Both Weiss and Attorney General Merrick Garland have refuted those claims, saying Weiss did have the authority to bring charges. Weiss did not shed any new light on that Oct. 7 meeting during his interview, according to lawmakers.
“All that stuff is internal deliberations. He’s not going to say anything specific about it,” said Rep. Glenn Ivey (D-Md.), describing Weiss and Republicans in the room as going “around and around.”