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Garland stresses independence of prosecutor leading Hunter Biden probe

House Republicans pressed the attorney general about his involvement in the Justice Department’s handling of a case against the president’s son

Attorney General Merrick B. Garland testifies Wednesday during a House Judiciary Committee oversight hearing of the Department.
Attorney General Merrick B. Garland testifies Wednesday during a House Judiciary Committee oversight hearing of the Department. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Attorney General Merrick B. Garland stressed his detachment from the federal investigation into President Joe Biden’s son during an oversight hearing Wednesday, as House Republicans slammed the Justice Department’s handling of the case.

Under sharp questioning from Republicans on the House Judiciary Committee, the attorney general repeated himself that he has kept his promise to not interfere with the investigation of Hunter Biden.

The probe is being overseen by the U.S. attorney for the District of Delaware, David Weiss, a Trump appointee who Garland now has made a special counsel over the case.

“Prosecutors make appropriate determinations on their own. In this case, I left it to Mr. Weiss whether to bring charges or not,” Garland said during questioning from Rep. Dan Bishop, R-N.C.

“That would include whether to let statute of limitations expire or not, whether there was sufficient evidence to bring a case that was subject to the statute of limitations or not, whether there were better cases to bring or not,” Garland said.

At various points in the oversight hearing, Garland sought to outline the distance between himself and the high-profile case.

“I’m going to say again that all these matters are within the purview of Mr. Weiss,” Garland said under questioning from Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., who referenced an allegation against Hunter Biden. “I have not interfered with them, and I do not, and I do not intend to interfere with them.”

The investigation of Hunter Biden has been a focal point for House Republicans who say the younger has received lenient treatment from the Justice Department and got a “sweetheart” plea deal in the case.

The plea deal in the case fell apart earlier this year, and Weiss’ office has since filed three firearm-related charges against Hunter Biden.

House Judiciary Chairman Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, raised doubts that Weiss had full authority to bring criminal cases in any jurisdiction outside Delaware, and alleged that DOJ prosecutors let the statute of limitation run out on tax years that dealt with income Hunter Biden received from Burisma, the Ukrainian energy company.

Jordan said the investigation was slow-walked long enough “to let the statute of limitations run so they wouldn’t have to get into Burisma.”

Garland indicated he did not know the answer to the statute of limitations question but noted that Weiss could provide the answers later down the line.

“You will at the appropriate time have the opportunity to ask Mr. Weiss that question, and he will no doubt address it in the public report that will be transmitted to the Congress,” Garland told lawmakers.

Moments later, Garland added: “I will say again that the explanation for why the statute of limitation was lapsed, if it was, has to come from Mr. Weiss.”

On the jurisdiction issue, Garland said no official had the authority to turn Weiss down, but they could refuse to partner with him.

“Refuse to partner is turning down,” Jordan responded.

“Well, it’s not the same under a well-known Justice Department practice,” Garland said.

Republicans pointed to the Justice Department’s treatment of Hunter Biden in opening the impeachment inquiry last week, saying there’s an appearance that Biden’s family was offered special treatment by the president’s own administration.

In the plea deal that later fell apart, Hunter Biden had agreed to plead guilty to two charges of misdemeanor tax evasion and enter a pretrial diversion agreement on a firearm possession charge.

Democrats on Wednesday castigated the focus of lawmakers on the other side of the aisle. Rep. Jerrold Nadler, the top Democrat on the panel, said hard-right Republicans have ignored legitimate oversight responsibilities and “used their power to stage one political stunt after another.”

“They’ve wasted countless taxpayer dollars on baseless investigations into President Biden and his family, desperate to find evidence for an absurd impeachment and desperate to distract from the mounting legal peril facing Donald Trump,” Nadler said.

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