Attorney General Merrick Garland, faced with a barrage of questions from House lawmakers over his department’s handling of a criminal investigation into President Biden’s son, said he knows nothing about the case, and whatever he knows, he won’t share it with Congress.
Mr. Garland’s daylong appearance before the House Judiciary Committee, his first in a Republican-led Congress, was marked by his repeated claims of ignorance about key Justice Department matters, including whether FBI sources were at the Jan. 6, 2021, riot at the U.S. Capitol, the federal prosecutions of former President Donald Trump over classified materials and election interference, and special counsel David Weiss’ investigation of Hunter Biden for tax fraud and gun crimes.
Many of the Republicans’ questions centered on the Hunter Biden investigation, now in its sixth year. Mr. Garland said he kept himself out of the loop.
“I have intentionally not involved myself in the facts of the case, not because I’m trying to get out of responsibility but because I am trying to pursue my responsibility,” Mr. Garland told the panel.
Mr. Garland said he was in the dark about other critical Justice Department investigations, including an accounting of all the FBI informants or agents in the rioting crowd at the Capitol on Jan. 6.
Mr. Garland said he was unaware “if there were any … how many or whether there are any” FBI sources there that day. A former top FBI official testified Tuesday that numerous confidential FBI sources were at the Capitol during the riot.
SEE ALSO: Garland skirts House oversight questions about involvement in Hunter Biden probe: ‘Don’t recollect’
Mr. Garland told lawmakers that his memory also failed him with conversations with Mr. Weiss about the Hunter Biden investigation, which began in 2018 and is still unresolved.
Republicans asked Mr. Garland whether he “had personal contact” with anyone at the FBI about the Hunter Biden investigation. Mr. Garland paused for several seconds before answering. “I don’t — I don’t recollect the answer to that question,” Mr. Garland said, “but the FBI works for the Justice Department.”
Rep. Mike Johnson, Louisiana Republican, interjected, “You don’t recollect whether you’ve talked with anybody at FBI headquarters about an investigation of the president’s son?”
Mr. Garland responded: “I don’t believe that I did.”
He told lawmakers that he may have spoken with the FBI and Mr. Weiss about the Hunter Biden investigation but would not disclose it.
“I do not intend to discuss internal Justice Department deliberations, whether or not I had them,” he said.
SEE ALSO: Jordan blasts Garland on ‘two standards of justice’
Mr. Garland testified before the Judiciary Committee a week after the House launched an impeachment inquiry into President Biden over allegations that he helped his son secure lucrative foreign business deals while he was vice president.
Mr. Garland and Mr. Weiss are intertwined with the impeachment investigation. They allegedly worked to thwart IRS and FBI officials from pursuing evidence in Hunter Biden’s tax fraud case that may have also incriminated President Biden.
Mr. Garland elevated Mr. Weiss to special counsel at Mr. Weiss’ request on Aug. 11. Shortly before the appointment, a plea deal that the Justice Department struck with Hunter Biden on the tax and gun charges collapsed in court and IRS whistleblowers testified that the Justice Department was protecting the president’s son.
Mr. Garland told lawmakers that Mr. Weiss has always had the authority and independence to investigate the president’s son and to prosecute him.
U.S. attorneys in California and the nation’s capital ultimately blocked Mr. Weiss from pursuing some of the tax fraud charges. An IRS whistleblower told Congress that Mr. Weiss claimed in October 2022 that he was “not the deciding person” on whether to charge Hunter Biden.
Three FBI and IRS agents interviewed this month told lawmakers that they did not recall hearing Mr. Weiss say he was not the deciding person. Unlike the IRS whistleblower, they did not take notes at the meeting.
Mr. Weiss allowed the statute of limitations to expire on Hunter Biden’s unpaid taxes on his 2014 salary from the Ukrainian energy firm Burisma. Hunter Biden was paid up to $1 million annually to serve on the board of directors for Burisma while the company sought help from then-Vice President Biden to thwart a corruption probe, according to congressional investigators.
Mr. Weiss offered Hunter Biden a plea deal that would have avoided felony charges, jail time or further prosecution related to any of the offenses, but the deal crumbled in court when a judge questioned the broad immunity agreement.
Lawmakers wanted answers from Mr. Garland about the much harsher treatment of Mr. Trump, who is facing more than 40 federal criminal charges from special counsel Jack Smith over his possession of classified documents and his actions to contest the results of the 2020 presidential election.
“Everyone knows the fix is in,” said Judiciary Committee Chairman Jim Jordan, Ohio Republican. “And you wonder why 4 out of 5 Americans believe there are now two standards of justice in our great country.”
Mr. Garland denied Mr. Jordan’s charge and said he did not receive orders from Mr. Biden to indict Mr. Trump.
“No one has told me who should be indicted in any matter like this, and the decision about indictment was made by Mr. Smith,” he said.
The Justice Department, he said, “follows the rule of law and enforces the law equally without regard to persons and without regard to parties.”
Mr. Garland reminded the committee throughout the hearing that Mr. Weiss was nominated by Mr. Trump and was held over into the Biden administration at the request of “many” senators.
Mr. Trump, following standard practice, nominated Mr. Weiss in 2017 at the recommendation of Delaware’s two U.S. senators, both Democrats.
Mr. Garland said he could not comment on any of his conversations with Mr. Weiss or the FBI concerning the president’s son or whether he had any conversations because the investigation isn’t over.
After the plea deal collapsed, Mr. Weiss charged Hunter Biden on three criminal counts related to his possession of a handgun while addicted to drugs. He is still pursuing the tax fraud charges.
Democrats called the hearing “a sham” and “a clown show,” based on “so-called whistleblowers who have been brutally discredited.”