Garland Rebukes Republicans for Mischaracterizing His Role in Hunter Biden, Trump Investigations
Garland has been taking fire from Republicans since he first took the helm of the Department of Justice more than two years ago.
Attorney General Garland, during a contentious hearing on Capitol Hill on Wednesday, sharply rebuked Republicans for allegations that he was involved, in any way, in the investigations into Hunter Biden and President Trump.
Since the GOP took control of the House last year, Republicans have made it a top priority to investigate Mr. Garland for a host of issues; they have, in the past, threatened to impeach the nation’s top law enforcement official.
“I want to provide some clarity,” Mr. Garland said sternly in his opening statement. “Our job is to uphold the rule of law. That means we apply the same laws to everyone. There is not one set of laws for the powerful and another for the powerless, one for the rich and another of the poor, one for Democrats and another for Republicans. … Our job is to pursue justice without fear or favor.”
“I am not the president’s lawyer,” Mr. Garland added.
The attorney general first came under scrutiny for his role in the investigation into Hunter Biden earlier this summer, when a plea deal that would have allowed the first son to avoid jail time for “willful” income tax evasion and the illegal purchase of a firearm was announced by the United States attorney for Delaware, David Weiss.
At the same time, whistleblowers from the Internal Revenue Service came forward to allege that Mr. Weiss was hamstrung by Mr. Garland and his senior leadership team when the Delaware prosecutor sought to bring charges against the first son. The whistleblowers testified before Congress just one week before the plea bargain was rejected by a Delaware judge on the grounds that lawyers for both parties could not agree on whether Mr. Biden was immune from future prosecutions.
A leading Republican on the committee, Congressman Mike Johnson, made it a point to ask Mr. Garland about the allegations. “Has anyone from the White House provided direction at any time to you personally or to any senior officials at the DOJ as to how the Hunter Biden investigation was to be carried out?” the congressman asked. “No,” Mr. Garland responded curtly.
When asked if he had spoken with Mr. Weiss about his investigation, Mr. Garland said he would not speak to internal DOJ “deliberations,” though he reiterated his assertion that Mr. Weiss would have the ability to charge Mr. Biden in any jurisdiction, not just Delaware.
In a letter to Congress, though, Mr. Weiss said that he had been “geographically limited” in bringing charges against Mr. Biden and would need to seek approval from the U.S. attorney in a given district if he chose to pursue charges there.
Mr. Weiss was later appointed special counsel in the investigation into the first son and has charged Mr. Biden with three counts tied to his lying on a government form to illegally purchase a handgun in 2018. He has pleaded not guilty, though he had originally planned to plead guilty to the same crimes before his plea bargain was rejected by a federal judge.
Congressman Tom McClintock raised concerns about the appointment of Special Counsel Jack Smith to investigate Mr. Trump. Mr. McClintock accused the attorney general of “either corruption or incompetence” in appointing Messrs. Smith and Weiss as special counsels.
“You appointed him to prosecute Joe Biden’s chief rival for the presidency,” the congressman said of Mr. Smith. “And then we have the appointment of David Weiss. Weiss deliberately allowed the statute of limitations to run out on any charges that could have implicated Joe Biden in influence peddling. He originally offered Hunter Biden a sweetheart deal that was ultimately upended by the court,” he continued. “What was motivating you to do this?”
Mr. Garland was also asked about a host of issues later in the day related to law enforcement practices, including the disclosure of an FBI memo earlier this year that showed federal agents actively attempted to infiltrate conservative congregations in the hopes of finding what the agency called “radicals” and white supremacists.
“Do you agree that traditional Catholics are violent extremists?” Congressman Jeff Van Drew asked. Mr. Garland, who has family who survived the Holocaust, showed a rare public display of anger in response.
“The idea that someone with my family background would discriminate against any religion is so outrageous, so absurd,” he responded. The memo, which originated at the Richmond, Virginia, FBI field office, was quickly condemned by Mr. Garland and the FBI director when it was first made public.