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Delaware U.S. attorney says Justice Dept. officials gave him broad authority in Hunter Biden probe, contradicting whistleblower testimony

Washington — The U.S. attorney in charge of the federal investigation into Hunter Biden said Justice Department officials assured him that he would be authorized to bring charges in jurisdictions outside of Delaware, according to a letter to Congress obtained by CBS News. 

In his correspondence to Senate Judiciary Ranking Member Lindsey Graham, Trump-appointed Delaware U.S. Attorney David Weiss said that he wrote "to clarify an apparent misperception and to avoid future confusion" connected to recent allegations by whistleblower IRS agents who worked on the Hunter Biden matter. 

Last month, Weiss charged the president's son with two misdemeanor tax charges — to which Hunter Biden will plead guilty — and a felony gun charge that will be entered into a diversion program. 

Speaking with congressional investigators and CBS News in recent weeks, Gary Shapley, a top IRS agent on the case, said the investigators' findings supported more severe charges and that Weiss was blocked from bringing charges in jurisdictions outside of Delaware, including in Washington, D.C. 

Shapley also said Weiss told the investigatory team during an October 7, 2022 meeting that he had requested and was denied special counsel status to handle the matter. "Weiss stated that he is not the deciding person on whether charges are filed," Shapley wrote to his supervisor in contemporaneous e-mail correspondence of the meeting he said he provided to congressional investigators.

"I wish to make one point clear: in this case, I have not requested Special Counsel designation," Weiss said in his letter on Monday. "I had discussions with Departmental officials regarding potential appointment under 28 U.S.C. § 515, which would have allowed me to file charges in a district outside my own without the partnership of the local U.S. Attorney. I was assured that I would be granted this authority if it proved necessary. And this assurance came months before the October 7, 2022, meeting referenced throughout the whistleblowers' allegations." 

The section of U.S. law Weiss referenced in his letter allows for prosecutors to be designated by the attorney general to pursue investigations and charges outside of their federal jurisdiction. "Each attorney specially retained under authority of the Department of Justice shall be commissioned as special assistant to the Attorney General or special attorney, and shall take the oath required by law," the statute advises. 

In the letter, Weiss said he had "never been denied the authority to bring charges in any jurisdiction," echoing statements Attorney General Merrick Garland made last month. 

 "[Weiss] had and has complete authority … to bring a case anywhere he wants, in his discretion," Garland said.

Responding to Weiss' letter on Monday, Shapley's attorneys said in a statement, "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."

Shapley, who is still a supervisory special agent with the IRS, said investigators were prevented from pursuing leads that involved President Joe Biden, and testified that during an hourslong 2020 meeting, prosecutors sought to limit questions related to then-President-elect Joe Biden to potential witnesses.

A spokesperson for Weiss' office previously declined to comment on the allegations. 

Mr. Biden and the White House have consistently denied the president had any involvement in his son's business deals. Asked about Shapley's testimony on June 23, the White House referred CBS News to a previously-released statement. 

"President Biden has made clear that this matter would be handled independently by the Justice Department, under the leadership of a U.S. attorney appointed by former President Trump, free from any political interference by the White House," the statement said. "He has upheld that commitment."

House Republicans have since sought to interview Weiss and members of the investigatory team about the matter. 

Garland said last month he would support Weiss' public testimony about the investigation at an appropriate time. 

In his letter on Monday — his second in recent weeks to congressional Republicans —  Weiss said, "I welcome the opportunity to respond to these claims in more detail at the appropriate future time, as authorized by the law and Department policy."

Hunter Biden's agreement with prosecutors must be approved by a judge, and a plea hearing is currently set for July 26. 

Catherine Herridge contributed to this report.

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