Attorney General Merrick Garland is scheduled to testify to the House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday, marking his first congressional appearance since an IRS whistleblower called into question his claim that U.S. Attorney David Weiss had ultimate charging authority over Hunter Biden. While Garland has much to answer for beyond the botched Hunter Biden investigation — such as the targeting of pro-life protesters — the Judiciary Committee should focus on getting answers to these questions.
The committee should start with a series of direct questions to the AG focused on aspects of the Hunter Biden investigation before confronting Garland with inconsistencies between his prior statements and Weiss and the whistleblowers’ claims. The committee and the country need to understand how the attorney general directed the handling of the Hunter Biden investigation.
Specifically, what if anything did Garland say to Weiss about how the investigation should be run? Did Garland directly communicate with Weiss? When and how often? Did the AG instead assign an assistant attorney general to interact with Weiss? Who? When? What specific authority or concerns did Weiss discuss with Garland or his assistant attorneys general?
Then the $5 million question: Did Weiss ever discuss special attorney or special counsel status and, if so, when? A follow-up $5 million question seems exceedingly appropriate in this situation: When did Garland first provide Weiss with authority to prosecute Hunter Biden in other districts?
Of course, we know the answer to that is when Garland named Weiss special counsel, but having the attorney general confirm that reality in sworn testimony provides a nice segue to drill Garland on his prior inconsistent statements:
General Garland, you told Sen. Chuck Grassley on March 1, 2023, quote ‘the U.S. Attorney in Delaware has been advised that he has full authority … to bring cases in other jurisdictions if he feels it’s necessary,’ but that’s not true, is it? Weiss didn’t have ‘full authority’ until after you named him special counsel, correct?
Beyond Weiss’s charging authority, it’s important to understand the investigative authority the Delaware U.S. attorney’s office held. Was Main Justice updated on the investigation? Did Main Justice provide oversight to the investigation? How much? Did the Delaware U.S. attorney’s office need to seek approval from Main Justice on anything? If so, on what? And from whom? Who decided that Main Justice would provide oversight for the Hunter Biden investigation? Was Garland informed of Main Justice’s involvement in the investigation? When? And if Main Justice was involved in the oversight, didn’t that interfere in the supposed independence of Weiss?
The House Judiciary Committee should also ask Garland about what, if anything, he told other Biden-appointed U.S. attorneys. Did Garland discuss the Hunter Biden investigation with Matthew Graves, the D.C. U.S. attorney, and Martin Estrada, the U.S. attorney for the Central District of California? Did he direct those offices to partner with Weiss? Did Garland know Weiss had wanted to partner with those offices? Did he know those offices had denied Weiss’s request for them to bring charges against Hunter? When and how did Garland first learn of Weiss’s interest in bringing charges in California and/or D.C.?
Likewise, Garland should be quizzed on his communications with FBI Director Christopher Wray concerning the role FBI headquarters should (or shouldn’t) have in the Hunter Biden investigation. Did Garland and Wray discuss the Hunter Biden investigation? Did Garland allow Wray to decide the propriety of involving FBI headquarters in the investigation? Did Garland know Wray had permitted FBI headquarters to participate in the investigation and/or decision-making?
The House committee should connect this line of questioning with Garland’s prior testimony to the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee in April 2022. Then, the attorney general, in response to a question by Sen. Bill Hagerty, claimed Weiss was “supervising the investigation” and was in “charge of that investigation.” But if that’s true, why did Weiss’s office have to run things by Main Justice and FBI headquarters? And for that matter, why did Main Justice and/or FBI headquarters seek the removal of the FBI whistleblowers?
Beyond uncovering the details of the investigation, the House Judiciary Committee should clarify three aspects of the continuing investigation. First, Garland should be quizzed on the breadth or limits of Weiss’s authority as “special counsel.” How can Weiss possibly serve in that role and continue as U.S. attorney? Why did Garland not appoint an outsider, as the regulations require? What resources has Weiss requested? Is Weiss staffing up an entirely separate office? And is that office investigating individuals beyond Hunter Biden?
Second, Garland should be questioned about Department of Justice policies and whether he maintained the policy former Attorney General William Barr put in place about the launching of an investigation against a presidential candidate. Under current regulations, would Special Counsel Weiss’s team need to obtain permission from Garland before running down leads that might implicate Joe Biden in criminal activity? If not, when, if ever, would they need Garland’s permission to take investigative steps against Joe Biden? Would Garland tell the country when such authority had been granted? Has Weiss’s team been given authority to investigate President Biden?
Third, the Judiciary Committee should obtain assurances from Garland that the DOJ will cooperate in the House’s impeachment inquiry and not withhold information or evidence. Garland is unlikely to agree to such a request, however, hedging with claims of protecting an ongoing investigation. Ah, but that would mean there is an ongoing investigation into the president!
But even if there were such an investigation, that does not limit the House’s equal authority to conduct an impeachment inquiry into President Biden. That inquiry, however, can only answer half the scandal, concerning the current president’s potential criminal conduct while vice president. The second half of the scandal concerns the DOJ and FBI’s cover-up.
The House’s questioning of Garland on Wednesday should start to unravel portions of the protect-Biden plot, but if the attorney general continues to stonewall the probe, as he has done in the past, Garland should expect to face his own impeachment inquiry.