In recent closed-door testimony to Congress, the top-ranking Justice Department prosecutor in Washington, DC, refuted claims from two Internal Revenue Service whistleblowers that he blocked federal investigators from charging Hunter Biden with tax crimes in DC, according to a transcript of his testimony obtained by CNN.
Matthew Graves, the US attorney in Washington, said in his private deposition last week that even though his office declined to formally partner up on the case, that he did offer logistical support to David Weiss, the federal prosecutor leading the Hunter Biden probe. Graves affirmed in his testimony that he never did anything to stop Weiss from pursuing charges in DC on his own.
This new testimony discredits claims made by two IRS whistleblowers that House Republicans have used to fuel an impeachment inquiry into President Joe Biden.
Graves is the latest federal official whose congressional testimony undercuts specific claims by Gary Shapley and Joseph Ziegler, two IRS agents who came forward earlier this year with allegations that they witnessed political interference in the federal criminal investigation into Hunter Biden’s taxes.
Last month, testimony from a number of FBI and IRS officials cast doubt on key allegations by Shapley and Ziegler, including that Weiss had claimed that he lacked authority to bring charges against the president’s son and that he had been denied a request for special counsel status by Justice Department officials. Weiss has denied both those allegations.
According to a transcript of Graves’ testimony, Weiss called Graves in early 2022 and said he wanted to bring charges against Hunter Biden in DC. Graves offered Weiss a “high-level commitment that we would provide whatever logistical support that he needed” and said his team would explore joining the case.
“It was just assumed that, from the moment I got on the call, he was gonna be able to do whatever he needed to do in our jurisdiction to bring the case, if that was his prerogative,” Graves said, rejecting claims that he stymied Weiss’ ability to file charges.
Career prosecutors from Graves office then conferred with Weiss’ team and looked into setting Weiss up with a DC-based federal grand jury where he could seek an indictment against the president’s son, according to his testimony.
Graves’ team later decided they didn’t want to jointly prosecute the case in DC, but that they would continue “to provide all assistance that was necessary for (Weiss) to do whatever they wanted to do in our jurisdiction,” Graves told the House Judiciary Committee.
Graves said it is “exceedingly rare” for a US attorney to join as a partner for an ongoing investigation in its final stages. Despite this, Graves told the committee it was his idea to initially bring up the idea of partnering to Weiss.
The whistleblowers and other DOJ witnesses have testified that they believed Graves’ refusal to partner with Weiss essentially blocked him from charging Hunter Biden in DC. The IRS whistleblowers – and by extension, House Republicans – have used that testimony to suggest that Weiss did not have ultimate authority over the criminal probe, and that Justice Department leadership was improperly protecting the Bidens.
Republicans put that narrative front and center at their first impeachment hearing last month.
However, from Graves’ perspective, his decision not to partner with Weiss had no bearing on whether Weiss could seek an indictment in the DC jurisdiction if he wanted. Other key FBI and IRS witnesses have also disputed some of the whistleblowers’ related claims in their own private depositions.
“Based on what I know was occurring at that time in terms of what we were facilitating, there is no doubt in my mind that they understood they could bring whatever charges they wanted in the District (of Columbia),” Graves testified.
The tax investigation into Hunter Biden is ongoing, and Weiss has said he’s considering an indictment in DC or California. Weiss separately charged Hunter Biden in Delaware with three gun felonies tied to a revolver he purchased in 2018. He pleaded not guilty.
CNN has reached out to Weiss and Graves for comment.
Shapley and Ziegler – the IRS whistleblowers who helped run the Hunter Biden criminal probe – went public months ago with allegations that Weiss was blocked from indicting Hunter Biden in DC and California, even though they and career Justice Department prosecutors recommended charging him with several felony tax crimes.
Weiss, Graves, and the US attorney in Los Angeles, Martin Estrada, all swiftly denied this allegation in public statements. Graves is the first to deny it under oath to Congress, though House Republicans are pursuing interviews with the other two senior officials.
In addition to Graves’ new revelations, previous testimony from a number of FBI and IRS officials has already cast doubt on some of the whistleblowers’ key claims that there was political interference, including by Biden appointees, in the federal criminal investigation of Hunter Biden’s taxes.
Both Graves and Estrada were appointed to their posts by Biden and confirmed by the Senate with bipartisan backing. Weiss was appointed by former President Donald Trump to be the US attorney for Delaware, and he opened the Hunter Biden probe in 2018. Attorney General Merrick Garland gave Weiss special counsel status in August.
Republicans pointed to Graves’ Democratic political affiliation and the fact that he donated money to the Biden campaign to suggest he had a conflict of interest on the Hunter Biden criminal case. In his deposition, Graves maintained, “I don’t see it that way” and argued he did not need to recuse himself.
He further disputed the IRS whistleblowers’ version of events, saying there wasn’t a question of whether Weiss could indict Hunter Biden in DC, but rather, “the only issue was whether we were going to seek to join their investigation or not,” according to the transcript.
Graves said that while he was only familiar with the whistleblowers’ through press reports, he framed their allegations as being based on “second or thirdhand” information and argued that in a large institution like DOJ there are “garbles that can occur when there are communications across different components and people aren’t talking directly to each other.
The Hunter Biden tax probe revolves around nearly $2 million in taxes that he didn’t pay on time, despite having the funds and being warned by his accountants, according to court filings. He owed the taxes after making millions of dollars overseas, including in China and Ukraine – deals that are now at the heart of the GOP impeachment inquiry.
Hunter Biden eventually paid the tax bill in full, along with penalties and interest, with help from a wealthy friend, according to court filings and CNN reporting. The fact that the debt was belatedly paid doesn’t preclude Weiss from bringing an indictment if he believes there is evidence of tax evasion or for knowingly failing to pay on time – but it could help Hunter Biden’s defense, if he is charged.
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