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Garland denies whistleblower claim that Justice Department interfered in Hunter Biden probe

Garland denies claims of DOJ interference
Garland denies allegations that DOJ interfered in Hunter Biden investigation 02:36

Washington — Attorney General Merrick Garland refuted allegations made by two IRS whistleblowers who said the Justice Department hampered a tax investigation into Hunter Biden, and rejected a claim that he was asked to grant special counsel authority to the prosecutor in charge of the case.

On Thursday, the Republican-led House Ways and Means Committee released transcripts of interviews with the two IRS agents who alleged interference by federal prosecutors involved in investigating President Biden's son.

At the Justice Department on Friday, Garland told reporters that David Weiss, the Trump-appointed U.S. attorney in Delaware, had "complete authority to make all decisions on his own" and required no permission from Justice Department headquarters to bring charges.

"Mr. 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," Garland said Friday, reiterating sworn statements he has made to Congress.

Earlier this week, Hunter Biden made a deal with Weiss' office and agreed to plead guilty to two misdemeanor tax charges related to his failure to pay taxes. He will also avoid full prosecution on a separate gun possession charge if he fulfills the terms of the agreement. The deal still needs approval from a federal judge, with a hearing currently set for July 26.

One of the IRS whistleblowers was Gary Shapley, an agent who worked on the Hunter Biden probe and recently spoke exclusively with CBS News' Jim Axelrod. In his transcribed interview with the House Ways and Means Committee, Shapley told congressional investigators that the IRS' findings supported both felony and misdemeanor charges, and that charges were blocked in jurisdictions outside of Delaware, including in Washington, D.C.

Attorney General Merrick Garland speaks at Justice Department headquarters on June 23, 2023, in Washington, D.C.
Attorney General Merrick Garland speaks at Justice Department headquarters on June 23, 2023, in Washington, D.C. Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Shapley said Weiss told him last year that prosecutors were unable to bring charges in Washington and that Weiss' attempt to be named a special counsel — which would confer broader prosecutorial privileges — was rejected. 

Garland on Friday disputed any such request was made. "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. 

"Mr. Weiss had in fact more authority than a special counsel would've had," Garland added. "He had and has complete authority … to bring a case anywhere he wants, in his discretion." 

The U.S. Attorney's Office in Delaware declined to comment on Friday. But in a recent letter to the House Judiciary Committee, Weiss wrote he was granted "ultimate authority over this matter, including responsibility for deciding where, when, and whether to file charges."

The attorney general also said Friday he would support Weiss publicly discussing his decisions in the Hunter Biden matter at a time he deemed appropriate. On Tuesday, Rep. James Comer, the Republican chairman of the House Oversight committee, told CBS News he expects Weiss to testify to either his committee or the House Judiciary Committee.

"He needs to explain whether or not his investigation is concluded," Comer said of Weiss. "He needs to be transparent with congressional investigators as to what exactly he's investigating moving forward."

In a statement Thursday, Shapley said he "fulfilled my oath of office by participating in this process, following the rules, and telling the truth to the best of my ability — despite the risks."

Republicans in Congress have focused their investigational power on Hunter Biden and his business dealings, including from the time when his father was vice president. During the presidential campaign, President Biden consistently maintained that he was not involved in any of his son's business dealings, and the White House has continued to deny any connection exists.

When the transcripts were released on Thursday, the White House referred CBS News to an earlier statement saying that the president has not been involved in the investigation into his son. "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."

Shapley also alleged that investigators recovered a WhatsApp message from Hunter Biden dated July 30, 2017, that was apparently addressed to a Chinese businessman with whom he was involved at the time about an outstanding payment. 

"I am sitting here with my father..we would like to understand why the commitment made has not been fulfilled," Hunter Biden allegedly wrote, according to the transcript. He added, "I would like to resolve this now before it gets out of hand" and "now means tonight." CBS News could not independently verify the record. 

Chris Clark, an attorney for Hunter Biden, said the release of the interview transcripts was "dangerously misleading" and "raises serious questions."

"As his attorney through this entire matter, I can say that any suggestion the investigation was not thorough, or cut corners, or cut my client any slack, is preposterous and deeply irresponsible," Clark said in a statement.

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