US Attorney David Weiss says he has not asked for special counsel status in Hunter Biden investigation
The president's son agreed to a plea deal in June, potentially ending the probe.
David Weiss, the U.S. attorney leading the investigation into Hunter Biden, on Monday directly refuted key allegations put forward by an IRS whistleblower who has made claims of political interference in the yearslong investigation.
The Justice Department last month approved a plea deal with Biden, the son of President Joe Biden, that will likely allow the 53-year-old to avoid prison in exchange for pleading guilty to failing to pay taxes on income he received in 2017 and 2018.
In a letter sent Monday to the top Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, Weiss confirmed for the first time that he did not request a special counsel designation in the probe, contrary to one of the main assertions from the whistleblower, which Republicans on Capitol Hill have seized on to claim improper interference from Attorney General Merrick Garland.
In April, IRS whistleblower Gary Shapley told lawmakers that Weiss had been unsuccessful in persuading federal prosecutors in Washington and California to bring charges against Biden, so Weiss then requested to become a special counsel, which -- according to Shapley -- was denied.
But in the new letter, Weiss refutes this.
"To clarify an apparent misperception and to avoid future confusion, I wish to make one point clear: in this case, I have not requested Special Counsel designation," Weiss wrote to Sen. Lindsey Graham of the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Weiss wrote that he had conversations with Justice Department officials about being appointed as a "special assistant" or "special attorney" under a separate law, so that he could independently file charges in a district outside of his own, and he was assured he'd be granted that authority if needed, so he did not seek to be appointed as a special counsel.
The letter appears to bolster Garland's repeated assurances that he did not improperly seek to interfere in the Hunter Biden investigation, despite assertions from House Republicans who have taken steps toward initiating impeachment proceedings against Garland in recent weeks.
In a statement responding to Weiss' letter, attorneys for Shapley disagreed.
"As a practical matter, it makes no difference whether Weiss requested special counsel or special attorney authority," Shapley's attorneys said. "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."
In addition to pleading guilty to two tax-related misdemeanors as part of his plea deal, the younger Biden will enter into a pretrial diversion agreement that would enable him to avoid prosecution on one felony gun charge, potentially ending the DOJ's five-year probe.
Republican leaders have called the agreement, which still requires approval from a federal judge, a "sweetheart" deal that would undermine faith in the criminal justice system.