WASHINGTON, Sept 21 — US Attorney General Merrick Garland denied Republican allegations yesterday that he had protected Democratic President Joe Biden’s son Hunter while the Justice Department prosecutes former president Donald Trump.
House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jim Jordan accused the US justice chief of helping to stall a long-running investigation of Hunter Biden, which Republicans claim, without evidence, could show the elder Biden improperly benefited financially from Hunter’s overseas business dealings.
Meanwhile, Jordan alleged, Garland was propelling the two federal prosecutions of Trump, who is Joe Biden’s top Republican rival in next year’s presidential election.
“There’s one investigation protecting President Biden; there’s another one attacking president Trump,” Jordan said.
“The Justice Department has got both sides of the equation covered,” he said.
In a heated hearing, Garland, who has appointed independent special counsels to handle both the Trump and Hunter Biden investigations, stiffly denied that politics or the White House influences his decisions.
And he denied any interference in the decision on whether to prosecute Hunter Biden, saying it was in the hands of Special Counsel David Weiss, who Trump appointed to the Justice Department.
“We apply the same laws to everyone,” Garland said.
“Our job is not to take orders from the president, from Congress, or from anyone else about who or what to criminally investigate.”
However, he added, one job of the Justice Department is protecting democratic institutions.
That includes, he said, “holding accountable all those criminally responsible for the January 6 attack on the Capitol,” a reference to the prosecution of Trump and hundreds of his supporters for the violent 2021 assault on Congress.
Targeting the president’s son
House Republicans opened an impeachment investigation of Joe Biden last week.
They allege, with no evident proof, that Biden benefited directly from millions of dollars his son earned in business dealings in China, Ukraine and elsewhere while Biden was vice president and had oversight over relations with Kyiv.
The impeachment effort though is widely seen as an attempt to counter the political damage from the two criminal prosecutions of Trump led by Special Counsel Jack Smith.
Trump is facing criminal charges in Florida for illegally concealing top secret documents, and separately in Washington over his effort to upend the results of the 2020 US election, which led to the January 6 attack.
Garland, who was appointed as attorney general by Biden, said he was not involved in any of the decisions of either Weiss or Smith.
Last month Weiss charged Hunter Biden with a seldom-prosecuted charge of illegally buying a handgun in 2018 while he was a user of illicit drugs, which is forbidden under US law.
And Weiss has signalled that he is investigating Hunter Biden on possible tax charges related to his Ukraine and China earnings.
But Jordan and other Republicans alleged that Weiss too is going easy on the president’s son.
Garland repeatedly told the committee that Weiss’s charging decisions were his alone, and did not involve him.
“I told the committee that I would not interfere. I made clear that Mr. Weiss would have the authority to bring cases that he thought were appropriate,” Garland said, reiterating that Weiss was appointed by Trump.
Garland meanwhile warned the committee that attacks and allegations against Justice Department and law enforcement officials were turning into real, violent threats against individuals from members of the public.
“Singling out individual career public servants who are just doing their jobs is dangerous—particularly at a time of increased threats to the safety of public servants and their families,” Garland said.
“We will not be intimidated. We will do our jobs free from outside interference,” he said.
The White House condemned the focus of the hearing on Hunter Biden, saying “extreme House Republicans” were using it to distract from their inability to pass a budget bill, which could force a government shutdown at the end of next week.
The Republicans “cranked up a circus of a hearing full of lies and disinformation with the sole goal of baselessly attacking President Biden and his family,” said White House spokesperson Ian Sams. — AFP