Garland Invokes 'Internal Deliberations' To Avoid Discussing Hunter Biden Probe

Though he revealed little about the investigation, Garland aggressively defended his handling of the probe

Merrick Garland (Win McNamee/Getty Images)
September 20, 2023

Attorney General Merrick Garland during Wednesday's much-anticipated congressional hearing relied on a tried and true excuse to avoid discussing particulars of the investigation into Hunter Biden.

Garland at least six times cited protections for "internal deliberations" in ongoing investigations to dodge questions about the high-profile probe. Republicans quizzed Garland over his appointment last month of Delaware U.S. attorney David Weiss as special counsel and allegations from IRS agents that Weiss "slow-walked" the Biden probe.

"I'm not going to get into the internal deliberations," Garland said.

Though he revealed little about the investigation, Garland aggressively defended his handling of the probe. "I'm gonna say again, and again if necessary, I did not interfere," he said during one contentious exchange.

Garland and Weiss have come under scrutiny after two IRS agents on the Hunter Biden investigation, Gary Shapley and Joseph Ziegler, detailed what they said were unusual decisions made throughout the probe. They claimed Weiss initially supported felony tax charges against Hunter Biden. They also alleged that Weiss was blocked by others at the Justice Department from filing charges against the troubled first son.

Republicans criticized Weiss after he entered a plea agreement with Hunter Biden in June on misdemeanor tax charges. The plea agreement fell apart in July after Biden balked at some of the terms of the agreement.

Garland on August 11 appointed Weiss to serve as special counsel, a decision that has rankled Republicans who believe Weiss has gone too easy on Biden. Garland cited "extraordinary circumstances" for appointing Weiss to the role, but declined on Wednesday to say what those entailed.

Garland at times defended Weiss as a competent career prosecutor. In other exchanges, however, he portrayed Weiss as the lone decider in the case.

"Mr. Weiss was a supervisor of the investigation, at the time and at all times. He made the necessary [and] appropriate decisions," Garland said.

Republicans homed in on Weiss's decision to allow the statute of limitations to expire on tax charges against Hunter Biden for the years 2014 and 2015, when Biden received millions of dollars from Burisma Holdings, a Ukrainian energy company. IRS agent Gary Shapley told Congress that Biden did not pay any taxes on that income and that he used shell companies to avoid reporting his income as taxes.

Garland refused to discuss other contentious issues in the case. He declined to say whether Weiss's deputy, Lesley Wolf, remains employed by the Department of Justice. IRS agents who worked on the Hunter Biden probe have testified that Wolf blocked them from investigating President Joe Biden's involvement in his son's dealings. They also alleged that Wolf tipped off Hunter Biden's attorneys about an FBI search of the first son's storage locker.