Delaware U.S. Attorney David Weiss told Congress that Attorney General Merrick Garland had granted him ultimate authority over the Hunter Biden investigation and that, if need be, he would be appointed a “special attorney” under a federal statute known as Section 515. This type of Section 515 appointment would allow him to charge Hunter Biden outside Delaware, including in D.C. and California, Weiss stressed in a letter earlier this year to House Judiciary Chair Jim Jordan.
According to D.C. U.S. Attorney Matthew Graves, however, Section 515 is not how such prosecutions are typically handled. Rather, the offices work informally with each other to coordinate prosecutions between offices. In fact, according to a transcript of Graves’ interview before the House Judiciary Committee, he had never “dealt with” a special attorney appointment under Section 515. Nonetheless, when approached by the Delaware U.S. attorney about bringing charges in D.C. against Hunter Biden, Graves committed to assisting Weiss in any way necessary.
Why then did Weiss not pursue charges in D.C., and why did he speak to department officials about obtaining special attorney authority under Section 515?
Those questions should be the focus after Graves’ transcribed interview last Tuesday. The clarity with which Graves testified about his conversation with Weiss just cannot be squared with Weiss’s subsequent actions unless something substantial happened — or Weiss was misled.
According to Graves, in late February or early March of 2022, the Delaware U.S. attorney telephoned him directly. Graves explained to the House investigators that Weiss said, “he had a case where there was a component of that case that he had deemed he wanted to bring in the District of Columbia.” The D.C. U.S. attorney explained that he then asked Weiss if “he was just looking for the kind of normal administrative support that any U.S. attorney would need if they were going to come and bring a case in another jurisdiction or have their people bring a case in another jurisdiction, or whether he was asking for us to join the investigation.” Weiss noted he sought support but that they could discuss joining later.
Throughout his four hours of testifying, Graves repeatedly stressed that during his approximately 10-minute phone conversation with Weiss, he had offered to provide the Delaware U.S. attorney “any and all logistical support” needed to bring charges in D.C. Graves further explained that following their call, he tasked the “Criminal Division chief with immediately taking steps to provide the logistical support…,” which from other testimony appeared to mean reserving time for Weiss’s team before the grand jury.
The D.C. U.S. attorney also directed his top prosecutors to review the case to decide whether to partner with Weiss’s office. Here, Graves’ testimony weaved somewhat. First, he explained that there are two options available when a U.S. attorney seeks to bring a case in another district: Either the outside U.S. attorney handles the case in the other district, or the case is transferred to the second district for the U.S. attorney’s office there to handle.
Graves would later explain, however, that he had suggested a sort of hybrid where the D.C. U.S. attorney’s office would work with Weiss’s team to prosecute the case in D.C. But that was merely raised as a possibility, Graves stressed, and from the beginning, when Weiss asked for assistance to prosecute the case in D.C., Graves claims he gave his unequivocal commitment to assist Weiss.
Later, Graves explained, his office decided not to partner with the Delaware U.S. attorney’s office — but Graves refused to explain his office’s reasoning. The decision not to partner with Delaware, however, did not alter his commitment to assist Weiss in any way he needed, Graves said.
But when asked whether he directed his staff to inform the Delaware U.S. attorney’s office that while they would not be partnering on the case, they would “make all the resources available,” Graves said he didn’t believe that was necessary because he “had already made that clear at the outset.”
Here, another passage from the transcript proves significant: When asked how the Delaware U.S. attorney could prosecute a case in D.C. without the D.C. office partnering with Weiss, or without Weiss being appointed a special attorney under Section 515 to bring charges in a different venue, Graves replied:
So I’m not sure of all the ways. I mean, from my perspective — because I can tell you, as U.S. attorney, is not something that I have ever dealt with — these are just worked out more informally, which is my frame of reference of, ‘Okay, you have charges you want to bring. We’ll work it out. You’ll get charges brought here.’
From Graves’ testimony, then, Weiss didn’t need Section 515 authority to charge Hunter Biden in D.C., and Graves was prepared to assist Weiss in bringing charges there and had conveyed that to Weiss.
Why then did Weiss not take Graves up on his offer? And why did Weiss talk to the DOJ about obtaining special attorney status under Section 515? That is what Weiss wrote in a letter to Jim Jordan, stating he “had discussions with departmental officials regarding potential appointment under 28 U.S.C. 515, which would have allowed me to file charges in a district outside my own without the partnership of a local U.S. attorney.”
Graves’ testimony suggests a couple of possibilities. First, Graves did not personally convey his decision not to partner on the case to Weiss; rather, Graves’ top prosecutors spoke to Weiss’s top prosecutors. So maybe Graves’ decision not to partner with Weiss was presented inaccurately, leading Weiss to believe he could not file charges in D.C. Or maybe someone at Main Justice, either in the deputy attorney general’s office or in the tax division, led Weiss to believe he needed Graves to partner on the case.
Of course, Weiss may have merely lacked the courage to charge the president’s son with tax felonies, but if that were the case, why would Weiss have inquired about a Section 515 appointment as a special attorney? And why would Weiss have told his team that he wasn’t the final decisionmaker?
While Graves could have partnered with Weiss, from his testimony it appears such a joint prosecution would have been out of the ordinary. Likewise, it would have been rare for the D.C. U.S. attorney’s office to take the case over from Weiss so late in the day. Conversely, it would have been entirely appropriate for Weiss to work informally with Graves to charge Hunter Biden in the D.C. District. That Weiss didn’t — and, in fact, appeared to believe he couldn’t — suggests something else transpired or someone misled him.