Prosecutor in the Hunter Biden case denies retaliating against IRS agent who talked to House GOP
Jul 2, 2023, 6:49 AM
(AP Photo/Andrew Harnik, File)
WASHINGTON (AP) — The federal prosecutor leading the investigation of President Joe Biden’s son Hunter is pushing back against claims that he was blocked from pursuing criminal charges in Los Angeles and Washington and denies retaliating against an IRS official who disclosed details about the case.
In a two-page letter to House Republicans on Friday, U.S. Attorney David Weiss in Delaware defended the time behind bars.
Weiss, who was named to that post by President Donald Trump and was kept on by the Biden administration, said in his letter that the department “did not retaliate” against Gary Shapley, an IRS agent who said the prosecutor helped block Shapley’s job promotion after the tax agency employee had reached out to congressional investigators about the Biden case.
Shapley is one of two IRS employees interviewed by Republicans pursuing investigations into nearly every facet of the younger Biden’s business dealings.
One of the investigating committees, the House Ways and Means Committee, voted to publicly disclose congressional testimony from the IRS employees shortly after the plea deal was announced June 20.
The testimony from Shapley and an unidentified agent 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 Democrat Joe Biden.
It is unclear whether the conflict they describe amounts to internal disagreement about how to pursue the investigation or a pattern of interference and preferential treatment. Justice Department policy has long warned prosecutors to take care in charging cases with potential political overtones around the time of an election, to avoid influencing the outcome.
Shapley also claimed that Weiss asked the Justice Department in March 2020 to be provided special counsel status in order to bring the tax cases in jurisdictions outside Delaware, including Washington, and California, but was denied.
In response to that claim, the department said 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.”
In his letter, Weiss said he was assured by 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.
Biden, 53, reached an agreement with federal prosecutors to plead guilty to misdemeanor tax offenses. The plea deal would also avert prosecution on a felony charge of illegally possessing a firearm as a drug user, as long as Biden adheres to conditions agreed to in court. He will appear in a Delaware court later this month.
Last week, leaders of the Republican-controlled House Judiciary, Oversight and Accountability, and Ways and Means committees asked in a letter to Attorney General Merrick Garland for nine officials from the Justice Department and two from the FBI to address the IRS employees’ claims.
Weiss said in his letter to Ohio Rep. Jim Jordan, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, that he would be willing to discuss such topics with congressional officials, but reiterated the case is an active criminal investigation and there’s little else he can divulge at this time.
Republicans have focused much attention on an unverified tip to the FBI that alleged a bribery scheme involving Joe Biden when he was vice president. The unsubstantiated claim, which first emerged in 2019, was that Biden pressured Ukraine to fire its top prosecutor in order to stop an investigation into Burisma, an oil-and-gas company where Hunter Biden was on the board.
Meanwhile, Hunter Biden’s lawyer, Abbe Lowell, called the investigations by Republicans across multiple congressional committees an “obsession.”
“Since taking the majority in 2023, various leaders of the House and its committees have discarded the established protocols of Congress, rules of conduct, and even the law in what can only be called an obsession with attacking the Biden family,” he wrote.