NATIONAL NEWS

Attorney general denies whistleblower claims of interference in Hunter Biden investigation

Jun 23, 2023, 12:35 PM

Hunter Biden talks with guests during a State Dinner for India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi at th...

Hunter Biden talks with guests during a State Dinner for India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the White House in Washington, Thursday, June 22, 2023. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
Credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS

(AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

WASHINGTON (AP) — Attorney General Merrick Garland pushed back Friday against claims from IRS whistleblowers that the Justice Department interfered with the investigation into Hunter Biden, saying more broadly that attacks on the department’s independence are corrosive.

The Republican-led House Ways and Means Committee on Thursday released a transcript of testimony from Gary Shapley, an IRS official who, among other things, claimed that Garland had denied a request from U.S. Attorney David Weiss of Delaware to be appointed special counsel. That designation would have would have given Weiss the same status as the prosecutor leading the investigation into former President Donald Trump.

Weiss never made such a request, Garland said Friday, and always had full authority to file charges wherever and however he saw fit against President Joe Biden’s son. And Garland added that if Weiss — first appointed U.S. Attorney by Donald Trump — agrees to testify before Congress, the Justice Department will not stand in the way.

“He was given complete authority to make all decisions on his own,” Garland said. “I don’t know how it would be possible for anybody to block him for bringing a prosecution given that he has that authority.”

More broadly, Garland forcefully rebutted criticism from Republicans that a plea agreement for the president’s son on tax and gun charges made public this week reflects political influence in the American justice system. Republicans have denounced the deal as evidence of a “two-tiered system of justice.”

“Some have chosen to attack the integrity of the Justice Department … by claiming we do not treat like cases alike. This constitutes an attack on an institution that is essential to American democracy and essential to the safety of the American people,” Garland said. “Nothing could be further from the truth.”

In a separate statement Friday, Biden’s lawyer denounced the idea that the investigation cut any corners, and said it would be “dangerously misleading” to make conclusions based on the Shapley transcript.

The transcript included a message Hunter sent to a business associate alluding to “sitting with his father,” seemingly suggesting that his father was aware of his business dealings. Shapley acknowledged the investigation didn’t turn up evidence to prove that, instead finding that it was likely untrue.

Joe Biden has said he’s never spoken to his son about his foreign business. Asked Friday if the president stands by those comments, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre replied: “What I will say is nothing has changed. Nothing has changed, and I will leave it there.”

Weiss’ office referred request for comment about the whistleblower testimony to a June 7 letter he wrote to House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jim Jordan saying he had “ultimate authority” over the investigation.

The testimony from IRS agent Shapley and a second unnamed agent who worked on the case detailed what they called a pattern of “slow-walking investigative steps” and delaying enforcement actions in the Hunter Biden case, though it was unclear whether the conflict they described amounted to internal disagreement or a pattern of preferential treatment.

Shapley said Weiss told him and others during an October 2022 meeting that he had been denied special counsel status. Transcripts released Thursday include an email with Shapley’s notes from the meeting, and a response from a supervisor saying his notes “covered it all.”

Biden’s attorney, for his part, said claims the investigation wasn’t thorough are “preposterous and deeply irresponsible.”

The Hunter Biden plea deal came days after the special counsel on the Trump case filed a historic 37-count indictment alleging mishandling of classified documents, which the former president has denied. Trump has likened the Hunter Biden agreement to a “mere traffic ticket.”

___

Associated Press writers Farnoush Amiri and Aamer Madhani contributed to this report.

National News

FILE - Rudy Giuliani speaks during a news conference outside federal court in Washington, Dec. 15, ...

Associated Press

Rudy Giuliani’s bankruptcy case was thrown out. Here’s some key things to know

NEW YORK (AP) — A federal judge threw out the bankruptcy case of former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani on Friday. He cited repeated “uncooperative conduct,” including a failure to comply with court orders and disclose sources of income. While Giuliani’s creditors can now pursue other legal remedies, such as seizing his apartments and other […]

1 hour ago

FILE- This undated photo provided by the University of Kansas shows researcher Feng “Franklin” ...

Associated Press

Court voids last conviction of Kansas researcher in case that started as Chinese espionage probe

A federal appeals court has reversed the conviction of a researcher who was accused of hiding work he did in China while employed at the University of Kansas. Feng “Franklin” Tao was convicted in April 2022 of three counts of wire fraud and one count of making a materially false statement. U.S. District Judge Julie […]

1 hour ago

This photo provided by the International Fund for Animal Welfare shows several stranded dolphins on...

Associated Press

Dolphin mass stranding on Cape Cod found to be the largest in US history

Rescuers who helped free more than a hundred dolphins from the Cape Cod shoreline say they’ve confirmed that the mass stranding that began June 28 was the largest involving dolphins in U.S. history. There were two prior events on record in Hawaii and the Florida Keys where dolphin species were observed circling in shallow water, […]

1 hour ago

Associated Press

A popular tour guide’s death leads to more scrutiny of border issues

Kristie Thibodeaux’s gunfire death made headlines first because it happened in the French Quarter — New Orleans’ oldest neighborhood and a place where residents of historic homes and owners of tourist-dependent restaurants and clubs have long worried about recurring violent crime. Then came the news that one of three suspects in the armed robbery and […]

2 hours ago

FILE -FILE - A Delta Air Lines jetliner is shown at Denver International Airport in Denver, June 26...

Associated Press

Delta Air Lines adopts new rules for flight attendant uniforms after Palestinian pin flap

ATLANTA (AP) — Delta Air Lines is changing its employee uniform policy following a turbulent ride through a social media storm started by a passenger’s outrage over two flight attendants photographed wearing Palestinian pins. The uproar over the July 10 post, which described the Palestinian pins as “Hamas badges,” led Delta to ban its employees […]

3 hours ago

Associated Press

Man accused of holding girlfriend captive in Minnesota college dorm room reaches plea deal

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — A man who was accused of holding his girlfriend captive in her dorm room at a Minnesota college for three days while raping, beating and waterboarding her has reached a plea deal that calls for a sentence of up to 7 1/2 years. Keanu Avery Labatte, 20, of Granite Falls, […]

4 hours ago

Attorney general denies whistleblower claims of interference in Hunter Biden investigation