David C. Weiss, the federal prosecutor in Delaware who led the criminal investigation of Hunter Biden, on Monday rejected a key element of testimony to Congress by an Internal Revenue Service official who said Mr. Weiss had complained that he is blocked from dealing with the case. as he wanted.
In a letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee, Mr. Weiss said he never asked Justice Department officials to grant him special counsel status to handle the case, contradicting testimony to the House Ways and Means Committee by the IRS official, Gary Shapley, who said Mr. Weiss sought that status and was turned down.
Mr. Weiss suggested that Mr. Shapley may have misunderstood him during an October 2022 meeting. Mr. Weiss, the U.S. attorney for Delaware who was appointed to the role under President Donald J. Trump, said in the letter that he had contacted the department more high on the possibility of applying for status as a special lawyer, not as a lawyer. special advice
Special counsel is a less significant designation within the Department of Justice than special counsel. It would have allowed him to bring charges against Mr. Biden, the president’s son, in jurisdictions other than Delaware, but would not have given him the broader freedom and independence that comes with the special counsel designation.
“To clear up an apparent misperception and avoid future confusion, I want to make one point clear: In this case, I did not ask for a special counsel appointment,” Mr. Weiss told Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, the top Republican in the Senate. Judging Committee.
Instead, Mr. Weiss said he “had discussions with department officials about a possible appointment” as a special counsel, “which would have allowed me to file charges in a district outside of mine without the partnership of the local United States attorney.”
Mr. Weiss added in the letter to Mr. Graham that he had “never been denied the authority to file charges in any jurisdiction.”
Mr. Weiss sought to defend the integrity of the five-year investigation after a plea deal announced last month in which Mr. Biden would plead guilty to two misdemeanor tax charges and accept terms that would allow him to avoid prosecution on a separate gun charge. .
Republicans attacked it as a “sweetheart deal” for the president’s son and used Mr. Shapley’s testimony to promote the idea that political interference played a role in the outcome. Speaker Kevin McCarthy left open the possibility of pursuing impeachment charges against Attorney General Merrick B. Garland.
In Monday’s letter — a follow-up to a less detailed response he sent to House Republicans in late June — Mr. Weiss stood by Mr. Garland’s earlier statement that he had been given full authority in the case. At the same time, Mr. Weiss acknowledged publicly for the first time that he was considering looking for a way to bring potentially more serious tax charges against Mr. Biden outside of Delaware.
Mr. Weiss, who described the Hunter Biden investigation as “ongoing,” did not say whether he had followed up and asked to be appointed special counsel by the career official who served as his contact at Justice headquarters.
Nor did he explicitly address a key claim made by Mr. Shapley: that Biden-appointed U.S. attorneys in California and Washington blocked Mr. Weiss from prosecuting Hunter Biden on criminal tax charges stemming from a period when the president’s son made millions working with. foreign-controlled enterprises and investors.
The investigation was initiated by the Trump Justice Department in 2018 and eventually handed over to Mr. Weiss, a Republican whose reputation for nonpartisanship won him the support of Delaware’s two Democratic senators during his confirmation a few months earlier.
After President Biden was elected, the interim leadership of the department kept Mr. Weiss in place and in charge of the investigation. Mr. Garland, after being confirmed, continued that arrangement and was anxious to avoid any suggestion of political interference.
Mr. Shapley, testifying before the House Ways and Means Committee in May under what Republicans said were whistleblower protections, said he and other investigators testified that Mr. Weiss said last year that he did not will be the “deciding officer” on whether to do. prosecute Mr. Biden. Mr. Shapley said Mr. Weiss was turned down when he sought special counsel status after he was told by local prosecutors that he could not press charges. House Republicans released the testimony last month.
Mr. Shapley recounted arguing in meetings with Mr. Weiss and other prosecutors to aggressively pursue charges against Hunter Biden stemming from his failure to pay taxes in 2014 and 2015, two years not covered under Mr. Biden’s plea agreement. the delinquent tax charges. . During those years, Mr. Biden earned income from work for a Ukraine-based energy company and Chinese clients, which Mr. Shapley suggested was channeled through entities that had a presence in Washington and the Los Angeles area.
In mid-2022, Mr. Weiss approached the top federal prosecutor in Washington, Matthew Graves, to ask his office to pursue charges and was rebuffed, according to Mr. Shapley’s testimony. A similar request to prosecutors in the Central District of California, which includes Los Angeles, was also denied, Mr. Shapley testified.
A second former IRS official, who was not identified, told House Republicans the same story. That episode was independently confirmed to The New York Times by a person with knowledge of the situation.
Mr. Shapley, who oversaw the agency’s role in the investigation of Mr. Biden’s taxes, also told House committee aides that his criticism of the Justice Department led to him being denied a promotion. In his testimony, he blamed Mr. Weiss for criticizing him to his superiors.
Mr. Weiss denied that allegation in a June 30 letter to Representative Jim Jordan, Republican of Ohio and the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, saying he “did not retaliate” against Mr. Shapley.