The federal prosecutor who reached a plea deal with Hunter Biden said Monday that he was told he could bring charges anywhere in the country, contradicting claims by an IRS whistleblower that he was blocked from doing so by Democratic-appointed U.S. attorneys.
Delaware U.S. Attorney David Weiss wrote in a letter to the ranking Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee that he never asked to be named a special counsel, as Republican lawmakers and the whistleblower have claimed, but said he did seek status as a “special attorney,” which would have given him authority to file charges in any jurisdiction without permission of the U.S. attorney in that district. And he said he was told he would get it.
“I was assured that I would be granted this authority if it proved necessary,” he said in his letter to Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., adding that this assurance “came months before the Oct. 7, 2022 meeting” during which, according to the IRS whistleblower, Weiss said he had been blocked by Democratic appointees in Central California and Washington, D.C. from bringing charges in those places.
Weiss said he has “never been denied the authority to bring charges in any jurisdiction” and was writing the letter “to clarify an apparent misperception and to avoid future confusion.”
Weiss’ new statement adds context to an assertion by whistleblower Gary Shapley, a former IRS criminal investigator, who told Republicans that Weiss spoke to the U.S. attorney’s offices in the District of Columbia and California about bringing charges, and that those offices were not supportive. Weiss and the Justice Department have not denied those discussions took place — but Weiss is now essentially saying that, if he believed those charges were warranted, he could have brought them. Ultimately, a plea agreement was reached on charges only in Delaware.
Weiss was nominated to become U.S. attorney in Delaware by President Donald Trump and took office in 2018. The investigation of Hunter Biden began later that year. The Biden administration has kept Weiss in place to avoid having a U.S. attorney appointed by the president oversee his son’s criminal case.
In June, Weiss announced a plea agreement under which Hunter Biden will admit to two federal misdemeanor counts of failing to pay his taxes and a separate felony gun possession charge. Biden has agreed to plead guilty to the misdemeanors, which will most likely not result in any jail time. A third charge, involving lying on a gun permit application, is likely to be dismissed if he meets certain conditions.
On June 30, Weiss sent a letter to House Judiciary Committee chairman Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, denying that he had retaliated against Shapley for Shapley’s claim that Weiss had been barred from filing charges outside his home district.
Shapley told the House Ways and Means Committee in May that Weiss had sought authority to charge Hunter Biden in two federal districts with charges broader than the tax-related misdemeanors with which he was ultimately charged. He also asserted Attorney General Merrick Garland was not telling Congress the truth when he said in earlier testimony that Weiss had the authority to file charges outside Delaware.
The Justice Department denied Shapley’s claims.
“As both the Attorney General and U.S. Attorney David Weiss have said, U.S. Attorney Weiss has full authority over this matter, including responsibility for deciding where, when, and whether to file charges as he deems appropriate. He needs no further approval to do so,” said Wyn Hornbuckle, the deputy director of the Justice Department Office of Public Affairs.
Weiss’ Monday letter does not address Shapley’s assertion that Weiss indicated at the October meeting that he was not the sole deciding official. The Justice Department’s tax division in Washington, D.C., has input into tax charges. That division currently is led by a career Justice Department lawyer.
In a statement, a lawyer for Shapley’s lawyer said, “U.S. Attorney David Weiss’s story continues to change. As a practical matter, it makes no difference whether Weiss requested special counsel or special attorney authority. Under no circumstances should ‘the process’ have included the political appointees of the subject’s father, because Congress and the public had been assured it would not — but it did.”