Justice Department will make prosecutor in Hunter Biden case available to testify before Congress
WASHINGTON (AP) — The lead prosecutor in the case against President Joe Biden’s son Hunter says he is willing to testify publicly this fall, setting up a clash with House Republicans who have demanded he come in soon for a closed-door interview.
In a two-page letter to Rep. Jim Jordan on Monday, the Justice Department offered to make U.S. Attorney David Weiss of Delaware available before the House Judiciary Committee for a public hearing after the August break as Republicans continue to escalate their ongoing investigation into his handling of the probe into Hunter Biden.
“The Department believes it is strongly in the public interest for the American people and for Congress to hear directly from U.S. Attorney Weiss on these assertions and questions about his authority at a public hearing,” Assistant Attorney General Carlos Uriarte wrote to Jordan.
House Republicans, led by Jordan — chair of the Judiciary Committee — had requested last month for Weiss and nearly a dozen other officials to come in for transcribed interviews with the committee as part of its investigation into claims the Justice Department improperly interfered in the case into Hunter Biden’s financial dealings. Weiss’ probe ended last month with a plea deal that will likely spare Biden from time behind bars.
The congressional inquiry was opened after testimony from two IRS agents who worked on the Hunter Biden case detailed what they called a pattern of “slow-walking investigative steps” and delaying enforcement actions in the months before the 2020 presidential election won by his father. The Justice Department — under then-President Donald Trump — had issued a memo in February 2020 warning prosecutors to take care in charging cases with potential political overtones around the time of an election, to avoid any possible influence on the outcome.
But the whistleblowers, who testified publicly last week, insist their testimony reflects a pattern of interference and preferential treatment in the Hunter Biden case and not just disagreement with their superiors about what investigative steps to take.
Over the past several weeks, the Justice Department has gone back and forth with the committee, rejecting the IRS agents’ claims, including one of the more explosive ones that stated Weiss did not have full authority in the lengthy investigation.
Weiss himself wrote to Jordan saying that he was assured by the department that if he sought to bring charges in a venue other than Delaware, he would be granted special status to do so. Generally, U.S. attorneys are limited to their own jurisdictions when bringing criminal charges.
Uriarte also wrote Republicans earlier this month that due to longstanding department policy, Weiss or any other officials involved in the case would be prohibited from testifying before Congress while the investigation was ongoing. But the committee continued to push for a closed-door interview with Weiss.
The openness to make Weiss available now comes as Hunter Biden is expected to appear before a judge Wednesday to officially plead guilty to the federal tax offenses, opening the prosecutor up to providing some public testimony in the case.
And the Justice Department, looking to correct the record of what they see as a misrepresentation of the investigation, is hoping that by offering for Weiss to come before Congress in a public venue, he could directly respond to claims of wrongdoing by Republicans.
“U.S. Attorney Weiss is the appropriate person to speak to these issues, as he is both the senior Department official responsible for the investigation as well as the person with direct knowledge of the facts necessary to respond to the assertions in which you have expressed interest,” Uriarte wrote.
House Democrats see the offer of a public hearing as a way for the Biden Justice Department to regain control of the narrative around what has become a high-profile prosecution of the president’s son. And those on the committee, including the ranking member, Rep. Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., have recently accused Jordan and other Republicans of withholding certain aspects of closed-door interviews in the past six months that may potentially hurt their cause.
It is unclear if Jordan will accept the offer for a public hearing.