Emails obtained by the Heritage Foundation following a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit and shared exclusively with The Federalist establish that on multiple occasions, the Department of Justice intervened on behalf of Delaware U.S. Attorney David Weiss to respond to congressional inquiries related to the Hunter Biden investigation.
This revelation raises more questions about the June 7, 2023, letter dispatched to House Judiciary Chair Jim Jordan under Weiss’s signature line, in which the Delaware U.S. attorney claimed he had “ultimate authority” over charging decisions related to Hunter Biden. It also suggests Weiss and the DOJ may have conspired to mislead Congress.
Did the DOJ’s Office of Legislative Affairs respond to Sens. Chuck Grassley and Ron Johnson’s May 9, 2022, letter seeking information concerning the Hunter Biden investigation? Weiss posed that question to one of his lead assistant U.S. attorneys, Shannon Hanson.
“Not to my knowledge,” Hanson replied, followed soon after with a second email noting that Joe Gaeta, the then-deputy assistant attorney general in the Office of Legislative Affairs, was working on a response. And although Grassley and Johnson had addressed their May 9, 2022, inquiry solely to Weiss, DOJ’s Office of Legislative Affairs would intercede on his behalf, responding in a letter dated June 9, 2022, that the DOJ would not respond to the questions posed.
The following month, Grassley and Johnson dispatched another letter requesting information related to the Hunter Biden investigation, addressing this letter to Weiss, as well as Attorney General Merrick Garland and FBI Director Christopher Wray. Again, the Office of Legislative Affairs intervened, telling Weiss’s office in an email reviewed by The Federalist that it would “take the lead on drafting a response” to Grassley and Johnson’s letter.
These never-before-seen emails establish the Department of Justice and U.S. attorney collaborated in responding to congressional inquiries and were among the first batch of documents provided to the Heritage Foundation following a court order last week in Heritage’s FOIA case against the DOJ. That court order required the DOJ to produce, by Aug. 25, 2023, all records collected from Weiss and Assistant U.S. Attorney Lesley Wolf that were responsive to the Heritage FOIA lawsuit.
Mike Howell, director of the Heritage Foundation’s Oversight Project, initiated the FOIA request and then filed suit against the DOJ after the Biden administration attempted to slow-walk the production. Howell told The Federalist the emails show that while Garland was claiming Weiss had the independence to bring whatever charges he wanted, Garland was “simultaneously running communications from Weiss to Grassley through the political controls of Main Justice.” “It is a slap in the face,” Howell said.
Significantly, the emails also call into question the veracity of a series of exchanges between Weiss and Jordan, beginning with Weiss’s June 7 response to the May 25, 2023, letter Jordan sent to Garland. In that May 25 letter, Jordan questioned Garland on the removal of the IRS whistleblowers from the Hunter Biden investigation.
Even though the House committee addressed that letter solely to Attorney General Garland, Weiss responded to the inquiry on June 7 in a letter, which opened: “Your May 25th letter to Attorney General Garland was forwarded to me, with a request that I respond on behalf of the Department.” Weiss then claimed that, as Garland had stated, the Delaware U.S. attorney had “been granted ultimate authority over this matter, including responsibility for deciding where, when, and whether to file charges and for making decisions necessary to preserve the integrity of the prosecution…”
Two more letters would soon follow, the first being to Weiss from Jordan on June 22. In that letter, Jordan reiterated the Judiciary Committee’s need for substantive responses, before asking Weiss for more details “in light of the unusual nature of your response on behalf of Attorney General Garland…” Specifically, Jordan asked for information concerning the names of individuals who drafted or assisted in drafting the June 7, 2023, letter, as well as details concerning the drafting and dispatching of the letter.
Weiss responded in a June 30 letter that he was not at liberty to provide substantive responses to the questions concerning an ongoing investigation. The Delaware U.S. attorney then sidestepped questions about the DOJ’s role in drafting the June 7 letter, stating only that he “would like to reaffirm the contents of the June 7 letter drafted by my office” — a statement representing that the Delaware office had composed the letter.
Weiss then proceeded to “expand” on what he meant when he said in his June 7 letter that he had ultimate charging authority, writing:
As the U.S. Attorney for the District of Delaware, my charging authority is geographically limited to my home district. If venue for a case lies elsewhere, common Departmental practice is to contact the United States Attorney’s Office for the district in question and determine whether it wants to partner on the case. If not, I may request Special Attorney status from the Attorney General pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 515. Here, I have been assured that, if necessary after the above process, I would be granted § 515 Authority in the District of Columbia, the Central District of California, or any other district where charges could be brought in this matter.
Of course, having ultimate authority and being assured that you would be given ultimate authority if need be, are two different things. But the scandal goes beyond Weiss not having the authority to charge Hunter Biden, to what clearly seems to be an attempt by the DOJ and Weiss to mislead Congress.
It’s important to remember that when Weiss sent the June 7 letter to Jordan, the whistleblowers’ transcripts had not yet been released. Thus neither Weiss nor the DOJ knew the specifics of the whistleblowers’ testimony, leading them to represent to Congress that Weiss had ultimate decision-making authority — something Weiss would later have to massage.
Weiss’s questionable statements didn’t end there, however. In the June 30 letter, Weiss represented to Congress that he had drafted the June 7 letter.
But why would Weiss draft the June 7 letter? That letter was not even addressed to Weiss. And the emails obtained by the Heritage Foundation establish that even when congressional oversight letters were addressed directly to the Delaware U.S. attorney, Weiss did not answer them. Instead, the DOJ’s Office of Legislative Affairs intervened and spoke on his behalf.
There is a second reason to suspect Weiss did not draft the June 7 letter: the footnote reference in the correspondence to the Linder letter.
Tristan Leavitt, a former Capitol Hill staffer and the president of Empower Oversight, which is helping represent IRS whistleblower Gary Shapley, told The Federalist that when he “worked on Capitol Hill (particularly on the Senate Judiciary Committee, which did regular oversight of the Justice Department), the Department’s Office of Legislative Affairs frequently referenced the otherwise-obscure Linder letter in response to congressional oversight.”
“It’s hard to imagine the letter was widely known outside of Justice Department headquarters,” Leavitt continued, “especially in U.S. attorneys’ offices, which almost never respond directly to congressional correspondence.”
Conversely, it is easy to imagine Main Justice drafting the June 7 letter on behalf of Weiss to provide Garland cover and to seemingly corroborate the attorney general’s Senate testimony that he had given Weiss full authority to make charging decisions in the Hunter Biden investigation.
That cover may soon be blown away, however, thanks to the Heritage Foundation.
“The only reason these documents are starting to trickle out is because we sued for transparency,” Howell told The Federalist. “We’ve faced taxpayer funded resistance at every step of the way and haven’t given up,” he added, noting that “the DOJ is under a judicial order to continue this production.”
The next round of responsive documents is due by Oct. 31, and since none of the documents produced to date include references to Jordan’s May 25, 2023, letter, it seems likely we’ll see those emails in the next batch — unless House Republicans seek access to them first through a subpoena.
This article has been updated since publication.