WASHINGTON ― The nation’s top law enforcement officer said Wednesday that Republican allegations of a two-tiered justice system favoring the president’s son are a fantasy.
During a House Judiciary Committee hearing with U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland, Republicans said Garland’s Department of Justice has gone easy on Hunter Biden while throwing the book at former President Donald Trump.
Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, a Texas Democrat, asked if the rhetoric regarding the Hunter Biden case had “any basis in reality.”
“No, it does not,” Garland replied.
It was a more direct answer than Garland gave to numerous Republican questions about the investigation, which this month resulted in a grand jury indictment against the president’s son for illegally owning a gun and could lead to more charges.
Despite Hunter Biden’s legal peril, Judiciary Committee Chair Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) declared Wednesday that “the fix is in” at the Justice Department. He alleged that top brass had interfered with an IRS probe into Hunter Biden’s taxes and that other officials had hobbled Delaware U.S. Attorney David Weiss’ pursuit of the case.
Rep. Mike Johnson (R-La.) said the American public doesn’t trust the Justice Department. “They see the DOJ, of course, aggressively prosecuting President Biden’s political rival, Mr. Trump, while at the same time, they see slow-walking and special treatment given to the president’s son,” he said at the hearing.
Garland stressed that he wasn’t meddling with Hunter Biden’s case, repeatedly noting that Weiss had been tasked with the investigation during the Trump administration and that President Biden left him in his position to finish the case.
Weiss initially reached a plea agreement with Hunter Biden, but the deal collapsed in August amid a disagreement between prosecutors and Biden’s legal team over the scope of his immunity from further prosecution. Garland then elevated Weiss to special counsel status upon his request.
Republicans cited testimony from two IRS whistleblowers who said Justice Department officials blocked some of their efforts to pursue the case, such as by disapproving certain search warrants and by alerting the Secret Service to plans to approach Hunter Biden for an interview. More recent testimony from FBI officials has cast doubt on some of their claims.
While insinuating there were efforts to shield the Biden family, Republicans faulted Garland for not being more involved in the case. Rep. Dan Bishop (R-N.C.), for instance, asked Garland if he was aware prosecutors had not filed certain tax charges against Hunter Biden before it was too late under federal law to do so, citing a complaint from the IRS whistleblowers. Garland said prosecutorial decisions were up to Weiss.
“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,” Garland said at one point.
The message was lost on Republicans. Earlier, Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) asked Garland if he knew about certain cash transfers connected to Hunter Biden’s business, which Garland said he did not.
“It’s like you’re looking the other way on purpose,” Gaetz said.