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House Republicans request interviews with Justice Department officials in Hunter Biden probe

IRS whistleblower revealed
IRS whistleblower testimony reveals sweeping misconduct in the Hunter Biden investigation 02:06

Washington — House Republicans are asking the Justice Department to make available for interviews 11 federal officials — including U.S. Attorney David Weiss — in connection with the decision earlier this month to charge Hunter Biden with tax and gun violations, according to a letter Thursday from the chairs of the House Judiciary, Oversight and Ways and Means Committees that was obtained by CBS News. 

The joint letter to Attorney General Merrick Garland requests that Weiss — appointed U.S. attorney for Delaware by former President Donald Trump and retained during the Biden administration to complete the Hunter Biden investigation — and other Justice Department and FBI officials including Assistant U.S. Attorney Lesley Wolf start planning to appear for closed-door, transcribed interviews with Congress by July 13, adding, "the Committees will otherwise resort to compulsory process to obtain the required testimony."

The request to conduct interviews comes after two IRS agents came forward alleging the investigation into President Joe Biden's son was given special treatment. 

"In order to fully assess these allegations, testimony is required from several Department and Federal Bureau of Investigation employees. We expect your full cooperation as we arrange these transcribed interviews," the House Republicans' letter to Garland stated. "We have identified several Department employees who we believe to possess information concerning allegations of politicization and misconduct with respect to the Department's investigation of Hunter Biden."

Weiss' office reached a deal with Hunter Biden's attorneys and announced on June 20 that he would plead guilty to two misdemeanor tax crimes and enter into a pretrial diversion agreement on a separate charge that he illegally owned a gun while using drugs. 

A federal judge must approve the deal and a plea hearing is currently set for July 26 in a Delaware court. 

Speaking with reporters last week, Garland said he "would support Mr. Weiss explaining or testifying on these matters when he deems it appropriate." CBS News has reached out to the Justice Department for additional comment on Thursday's letter.

The Justice Department has in recent months denied congressional Republicans' requests for specific information related to ongoing investigations and cases — including the probes into Donald Trump and Joe Biden's handling of sensitive records — citing longstanding prosecutorial norms. 

"Protecting the confidentiality of non-public information regarding investigations and prosecutions preserves the American people's confidence in the evenhanded administration of justice by guarding against the appearance of political pressure or other improper attempts to influence Department decisions," Assistant Attorney General Carlos Uriarte wrote to House Judiciary Chairman Jim Jordan earlier this month in response to a request related to the department's Trump investigation. "Maintaining confidentiality also safeguards the legal rights, personal safety, and privacy interests of individuals implicated by, or who assist in, our investigations." 

And in a letter to Jordan sent in January addressing oversight requests and accommodations, the Justice Department said it anticipated requests from Congressional committees for testimony. 

"While we will work diligently to accommodate requests for public testimony, it may not always be possible to participate or to address all the topics the Committee wishes to raise. When information is not appropriate for a public hearing, we will make appropriate efforts to determine if such information can be shared in a different setting, such as a briefing, a closed hearing, or through the provision of other information," the letter explained.  

The congressional request to conduct interviews with investigators follows increased scrutiny from House Republicans concerning the Justice Department's handling of the Biden probe based on allegations from an IRS agent that investigators were blocked from pursuing investigative leads involving President Biden and that Weiss was not permitted to seek charges in other federal jurisdictions.

Gary Shapley, the IRS supervisory agent who helped oversee the investigation of Hunter Biden has claimed in discussions with congressional investigators and in an interview with CBS News that he was repeatedly prevented from taking steps he would have considered routine in other cases.

Shapley told CBS News' Jim Axelrod earlier this week that the five-year investigation uncovered conduct that he says could have resulted in additional and more severe charges. "Based on my experience, if this was a small business owner or any other non-connected individual, they would have been charged with felony counts," Shapley said.

The 14-year veteran of the IRS also alleged that Weiss' deputy, Wolf, frustrated investigators' efforts to explore leads related to Joe Biden. Shapley testified that in December 2020, there was an hours-long meeting with the prosecution team, and during that meeting, Shapely said Wolf sought to limit questions related to then-President-elect Joe Biden to potential witnesses.

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."

Shapely also testified that the U.S. attorney said he was denied special counsel status, a move that could have offered him broader prosecutorial power. 

But Weiss said in a letter to Jordan three weeks ago that Justice Department officials gave him "ultimate authority over this matter, including responsibility for deciding where, when, and whether to file charges." Political considerations, Weiss said in the letter, were not part of the probe. 

And Garland denied the allegations earlier this month, telling reporters Weiss was "appointed by President Trump. As the U.S. attorney in Delaware and assigned this matter during the previous administration, [he] would be permitted to continue his investigation and to make a decision to prosecute any way in which he wanted to and in any district in which he wanted to." 

The attorney general also pushed back against Shapley's claims that Weiss' request to be named a special counsel in the matter was denied. "The only person with authority to make somebody a special counsel or refuse to make somebody a special counsel is the attorney general. Mr. Weiss never made that request to me," Garland said. 

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