House Republicans and Attorney General Merrick Garland clashed Wednesday at a testy hearing that offered a preview of the coming Republican impeachment inquiry into President Joe Biden focused on allegations surrounding his son, Hunter Biden.
Here are key takeaways:
Republicans’ attacks on Garland preview impeachment inquiry: Judiciary Chairman Jim Jordan, one of the three committee chairs spearheading the impeachment inquiry, accused the Justice Department of not prosecuting Hunter Biden over the tax years when Hunter Biden was on the board of Ukrainian energy firm Burisma.
Jordan claimed that Hunter’s work on Burisma was related to Joe Biden and the then-vice president’s demand that Ukraine fire its prosecutor general – even though Biden was carrying out bipartisan US policy that the prosecutor was not doing enough to prosecute corruption, including at Ukrainian companies like Burisma.
Garland stands firm: He rejected allegations from Republicans and an IRS whistleblower that the Hunter Biden investigation was tainted by politics, and said that he did not interfere with the probe in any way. He also disputed allegations that US attorney-turned special counsel David Weiss was unable to charge Hunter Biden anywhere in the country that he wanted to, and not just in Delaware. “if (Weiss) wanted to bring a case in any jurisdiction, he would be able to do that,” he said.
Garland leans on Trump’s appointment of Hunter prosecutor: Over and over, Garland relied on the same refrain: Weiss had been appointed by Trump, and he left Weiss in charge after taking office. When Garland was pressed by Republicans on details of specific elements of the investigation, he pointed back to Weiss, saying those were questions he could answer. Garland also noted that Weiss is expected to testify before the panel next month, saying that lawmakers would have the chance to ask him questions directly.
But Garland doesn’t say why Weiss was appointed as special counsel: After Hunter Biden’s plea deal fell apart this summer, Weiss requested and was granted an appointment as special counsel last month. Weiss indicted Hunter Biden on gun charges last week. Garland was questioned repeatedly about why the appointment came when it did, more than four years into the investigation into Hunter Biden. Garland would not comment on specifics behind the appointment, however, other than to say Weiss made the request.
Dems push back: Garland got a bit of a breather when Democrats questioned him, with questions that were teed up to defend the Hunter Biden investigation as well as the special counsel’s investigations into Trump.
Garland objects to question about religious discrimination: One of the most heated exchanges Wednesday occurred when Garland was questioned over whether the Justice Department, under his leadership, was improperly targeting Catholics because of their religious beliefs. Garland took exception to the question.
“The idea that someone with my family background would discriminate against any religious background is so outrageous, so absurd, that it’s hard for me to even answer your question,” shouted Garland, his voice audibly shaking.
CNN’s Hannah Rabinowitz, Holes Lybrand, Zachary Cohen, Devan Cole, Casey Riddle and Abby Baggini contributed to this report.