Special counsel David Weiss in a recent interview with lawmakers pushed back against claims that his probe into Hunter Biden was tainted by politics and pledged that his final report will clear the air on some of the most scrutinized internal disputes from his tenure, according to a transcript of his testimony reviewed by CNN.
In his testimony on November 7, Weiss reiterated to lawmakers what he has said for months: Despite claims from GOP officials and IRS whistleblowers who were involved in the case, he hasn’t seen any political meddling to hamper the investigation, and he always had the power to charge Hunter Biden in any jurisdiction, as long as the facts supported it.
The closed-door interview with the House Judiciary Committee was a rare event, because Weiss has a pending gun prosecution against President Joe Biden’s son, and an ongoing tax probe that could lead to even more charges. Hunter Biden pleaded not guilty in the felony gun case.
Because of these unique circumstances, Weiss refused to answer dozens of questions on the basis that it could interfere with the ongoing matters. He repeatedly said he would address key examples of alleged politicization in his final report, which he’ll submit to Attorney General Merrick Garland for public release at the end of his probe.
Both Weiss and Garland have previously denied any allegations of political interference of preferential treatment in the Hunter Biden investigation.
Weiss directly pushed back against several allegations from IRS whistleblower Gary Shapley, which have caused a firestorm among House Republicans. Shapley, a career IRS agent, testified that he saw repeated instances of pro-Biden political meddling.
Committee investigators presented Weiss with Shapley’s notes of an October 7, 2022, meeting between prosecutors and agents working on the Hunter Biden investigation. The bulk of Shapley’s allegations originate from this key meeting, where Shapley claims Weiss told the group that he didn’t have the final say on whether to indict Hunter Biden.
Weiss said he remembers Shapley’s “body language” in the meeting that suggested he was not happy with what Weiss was saying at the time.
“I knew at various points in time, based on the nature of Mr. Shapley’s reaction, that I suspected he wasn’t happy with something I was saying,” Weiss testified. “Whatever that might’ve been – and I don’t recall what it was in reaction to, but I do recall times in which he wasn’t pleased with whatever it was that was coming out of my mouth.”
When asked about Shapley’s claim that Weiss said during the meeting that he was not the deciding person on the case, Weiss told lawmakers, “It’s not what I said, nor is it what I believed, as I’ve told you guys repeatedly today.”
Weiss refuted Shapley’s characterization that he was denied his request for special counsel authority, a key claim that Republicans have latched onto to make broader accusations about the politicization of the criminal probe into the President’s son.
“I described that I had a conversation with Main Justice about following the process. No one ever said – no one ever denied – my authority. And I didn’t request Special Counsel authority,” Weiss said.
Weiss said it is possible Shapley “misheard or misunderstood” what he said.
At issue here is a key disagreement over how Weiss went about the internal process at the DOJ. In early 2022, Weiss went to Justice Department leadership to discuss getting “special attorney” status, which would have allowed him to bring charges in other districts. This is different than the “special counsel” designation that Weiss now has.
As CNN has previously reported, Weiss said Justice Department officials told him to continue following the process. Weiss told Congress it was his understanding that he had the “special attorney” authority and would “execute on that authority” once he was ready to bring charges. Republicans characterize this interaction as main justice denying Weiss’ request and point to it as an example of the limits on Weiss’ authority.
GOP Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio, the House Judiciary chairman, probed Weiss during the interview about whether he was denied special authority, by asking, “When you ask for something and they didn’t give it to you, what is that?”
“You want me to say it’s a denial, but it’s not. Not when I know that, weeks later, I was specifically told, ‘You can proceed,’” Weiss replied, adding, “From my mind, it’s a sequencing event. It’s not a denial in any way, shape, or form. That’s the way I interpreted it.”
When asked for comment, a DOJ spokesperson referred back to Weiss’ transcript and said it speaks for itself.
Republicans and the IRS whistleblowers further claim that Weiss was stymied from charging Hunter Biden with tax crimes because the Democratic-appointed US attorneys in Washington, DC, and Los Angeles declined to partner with him on a joint prosecution.
But Weiss said that interpretation misunderstands his conversations with the two US attorneys. He maintains that he could have always brought charges in their districts.
“As I’ve said on several occasions, I wasn’t asking the Biden-appointed US Attorney in DC whether I could or could not charge in his district. I didn’t present that question for his consideration,” Weiss testified.
Responding to Shapley’s contention that Weiss wouldn’t have the power to charge Hunter Biden in California if the LA-based US attorney didn’t go along with it, Weiss said, “I would not have said that. It’s not what I believed. It’s not what I said.”
Weiss’ comments were largely consistent with the recent testimony of Matthew Graves, the US attorney in Washington, DC. Both said Graves declined to formally partner with Weiss on a joint DC-based tax prosecution against Hunter Biden – but both made clear that this decision didn’t block Weiss’ ability to do it himself, which he declined to do.
“No one has ever blocked me with respect to taking any step that I perceived was appropriate,” Weiss said, according to the transcript that was reviewed by CNN.
He also defended his Delaware-based team, specifically assistant US attorney Lesley Wolf, who has come under attack by some congressional Republicans for allegedly “obstructing” the Hunter Biden probe. House Republicans have also requested an interview with Wolf.
“From my perspective, the prosecutors who participated in this case followed the law and the facts, that was the motivation,” Weiss said, adding that Wolf is a “dedicated public servant for more than 16 years,” an “excellent lawyer” and “a person of integrity.”
Throughout the interview, Weiss stuck closely to the parameters of his testimony. He spoke about his authority in the Hunter Biden probe, and swatted away other questions that veered into topics that he believed could undermine his high-stakes investigation.
“While I am trying to provide answers, the last thing I want to do is to say or suggest anything that’s going to be used against the government in our ongoing litigation or in any investigation,” Weiss said, when asked about decision-making in the tax probe.
This included inquiries about how he handled an unverified tip from an FBI informant about supposed bribes paid to the Biden family by a Ukrainian oligarch. Leading House Republicans have repeatedly cited that unproven claim to support their impeachment push against Joe Biden. Weiss said he’d only discuss that entire issue in his final report.
He promised that his eventual report will shed light on other incidents that Shapley flagged – like how Joe Biden’s team was allegedly tipped off that the FBI wanted to interview Hunter Biden, which ended up scuttling the highly anticipated interview.
Weiss also declined to answer questions about the wealthy Hollywood attorney who helped Hunter Biden pay his $2 million tax bill with a loan. He was asked if there had been a criminal referral for possible campaign finance violations stemming from that massive loan to the president’s son, but he said that would be addressed in his report.
When asked why the statute of limitations lapsed without charges regarding potential tax crimes by Hunter Biden in 2014 and 2015, Weiss said that would likely be explained in the report. Hunter Biden denies wrongdoing and hasn’t been charged with any tax crimes, through the probe is still ongoing.
Justice Department regulations say Weiss will submit his report to Garland. Previous special counsels, including Robert Mueller and John Durham, wrote reports that were nearly released in their entirety, with limited redactions.
This story has been updated with additional developments.