Special counsel David Weiss, who is overseeing the investigation into ’s son Hunter, met with the House Judiciary Committee behind closed doors Tuesday as Republicans seek to ramp up their impeachment inquiry into the president over his family’s business dealings.
The testimony from Weiss, the U.S. attorney for Delaware, is the first time a special counsel has answered questions from congressional investigators before concluding a probe. He was expected to provide details only about his authority to bring charges in the case, not the specifics of the investigation.
“Special Counsel Weiss is appearing voluntarily to testify before the House Judiciary Committee about the scope of his authority,” special counsel spokesperson Wyn Hornbuckle said in a statement Monday. “Mr. Weiss is prepared to take this unprecedented step of testifying before the conclusion of his investigation to make clear that he’s had and continues to have full authority over his investigation and to bring charges in any jurisdiction.”
In an opening statement released after the meeting started, Weiss noted that he was limited by the investigation in what he could disclose, but he said he was prepared to “address misunderstandings about the scope of my authority to decide where, when, and whether to bring charges in this matter.”
Weiss said he would be able to share more information in a report after his probe concluded.
“I do not intend to answer questions that could jeopardize the ongoing litigation, our investigations, or the rights of defendants or other individuals involved in these matters,” he said.
Weiss also said he doesn’t make decisions in the case in a “vacuum” and must obey federal laws, the principles of federal prosecution and Justice Department guidelines.
“As a result, there are processes that I must adhere to in making investigative and charging decisions,” he said. “These processes did not interfere with my decision-making authority.”
“At no time was I blocked, or otherwise prevented from pursuing charges or taking the steps necessary in the investigation by other United States Attorneys, the Tax Division or anyone else at the Department of Justice,” he added.
Weiss volunteered to appear before Congress to provide clarity on the inconsistencies between his public statements on the probe and the public testimony of two IRS investigators, who claimed Weiss was blocked from bringing charges against Hunter Biden.
The special prosecutor’s interview came months after a plea deal Hunter Biden struck with the government unraveled when the judge in the case raised concerns about the agreement. Weiss, a Trump appointee who Biden kept on to oversee the case, is leading an indictment of Hunter Biden on gun charges. He had requested and was granted special counsel status after the earlier plea deal fell through.
Democratic Reps. Daniel Goldman, of New York, and Mary Gay Scanlon, of Pennsylvania, told reporters outside the meeting room that the questions Republicans were asking Weiss were misleading and repetitive.
Weiss told them that he always had the authority to bring charges in the probe and reiterated he was granted special counsel status soon after he asked for it, Goldman said.
“Mr. Weiss just confirmed the fact that he had ultimate, independent authority to charge whatever charges he deemed to be appropriate,” he said.
Scanlon called the proceeding “a farce” and “an absolute waste of time” before leaving the building.
New York Democrat Jerry Nadler echoed her on his way out, also calling the meeting a “waste of time” and saying he has “other things to do.”
Weiss was a “very credible witness,” Nadler said. “He stated multiple times that he made all the charging decisions on his own. No one gave him any instructions or suggestions as to charging decisions. The Republicans just keep going over and over the same theme and getting the same answers.”
Florida Republican Matt Gaetz, meanwhile, told reporters, “Mr. Weiss was here incarnate, but not particularly in spirit,” adding that the questioners got “almost nothing” from him.
Whenever Republicans had a question about communications related to the DOJ or one of the IRS agents, “he would demure and say that it was just part of his deliberative process,” Gaetz said. “Well, the reason Congress has questions is because that deliberative process has resulted in some pretty bizarre outcomes that we can’t explain to our constituents. And we think that Mr. Weiss has been pretty evasive and just deeming everything deliberative.”
Gaetz said Weiss was “evasive” and “opaque” with his answers.
“I mean, to the point that if we even asked Mr. Weiss how his correspondence and communications with the Department of Justice worked, he wouldn’t even tell us whether or not they were or weren’t by email,” he said. “So even it wasn’t just that Mr. Weiss wasn’t answering questions about the substance of his discussions with other prosecutors and people at DOJ, he wouldn’t even address the medium of this discussions, which I think shows how opaque he’s truly being.”
The committee chairman, Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, told reporters a key takeaway was that Weiss said he requested “special attorney status” in the spring of 2022 and was not granted it. Jordan said Weiss said the Justice Department told him to “follow the process.”
Hunter Biden pleaded not guilty last month to three charges related to his possession of a firearm while using illegal drugs. He has said he will seek to have the federal indictment against him dismissed.
The three federal gun charges in the September indictment include two counts accusing him of falsely indicating he was not using illegal drugs on a form for a gun purchase in 2018 and a third count alleging he possessed a firearm while using a narcotic.
House Republicans are probing whether the Justice Department granted the president’s son favorable treatment because of his father, alleging he should have been charged for some of his business dealings as well.
Oversight Committee Chairman James Comer, R-Ky., has signaled that his panel is preparing to issue subpoenas focused on the Biden family’s business dealings. Hunter Biden and the president’s brother James Biden are among those expected to be subpoenaed by the panel as soon as the middle of this week, two sources connected to the investigation told NBC News.
This article was originally published on NBCNews.com