by Margot Cleveland
The Department of Justice directed Delaware U.S. Attorney David Weiss not to respond to congressional inquiries, according to an email provided exclusively to The Federalist. That same email stressed that under DOJ policy, only its Office of Legislative Affairs, or OLA, can respond to requests from the legislative branch.
Yet Weiss would later sign and dispatch a letter to the House Judiciary Committee in response to an inquiry sent directly to Attorney General Merrick Garland. And in that letter, Weiss misleadingly claimed he had “been granted ultimate authority over” the Hunter Biden investigation. The DOJ’s disregard of its own policy provides further proof that both Garland and Weiss intended to obfuscate the reality that Weiss never held the reins of the Hunter Biden investigation.
On May 9, 2022, Republican Sens. Chuck Grassley of Iowa and Ron Johnson of Wisconsin wrote to Delaware U.S. Attorney Weiss inquiring about several aspects of the Hunter Biden investigation. After the senators sent a follow-up email to the Delaware U.S. attorney’s office requesting a response by week’s end, Delaware’s First Assistant U.S. Attorney Shannon Hanson asked the DOJ about protocol and then updated Weiss, stating in an email:
Consistent with my conversation with [redacted] last night, we are supposed to forward this and any other correspondence to OLA. Per DOJ policy, only OLA can respond on behalf of the Department to a request from the legislative branch.
On June 9, 2022, the OLA, as provided for in the DOJ’s policy, responded to Grassley and Johnson’s letter. The following month, Grassley and Johnson dispatched a second letter to Weiss, as well as Attorney General Merrick Garland and FBI Director Christopher Wray. In an email reviewed by The Federalist, the Office of Legislative Affairs told Weiss’s office it would “take the lead on drafting a response” to Grassley and Johnson’s letter.
The Heritage Foundation’s Oversight Project obtained these emails and the most recent one revealing the DOJ’s policy that only the “OLA can respond on behalf of the Department to a request from the legislative branch,” after its Director Mike Howell filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit against the DOJ. The email to Weiss summarizing the DOJ policy contained in this latest batch of court-ordered disclosures proves huge given the sequence of events that occurred earlier this year.
On May 25, 2023, House Judiciary Chair Jim Jordan sent a letter to Attorney General Merrick Garland questioning him about the removal of the IRS whistleblowers from the Hunter Biden investigation. Although Jordan directed his inquiry to Garland, on June 7, 2023, Weiss dispatched a letter to the House Judiciary chair, noting in his opening: “Your May 25th letter to Attorney General Garland was forwarded to me, with a request that I respond on behalf of the Department.”
Weiss then stated, as Garland had previously indicated, that he (Weiss) had “been granted ultimate authority over this matter, including responsibility for deciding where, when, and whether to file charges and for making decisions necessary to preserve the integrity of the prosecution…”
That Weiss would respond on behalf of Garland raised eyebrows at the time. Jordan noted “the unusual nature of your response on behalf of Attorney General Garland,” and asked for information concerning the names of individuals who drafted or assisted in drafting the June 7 letter, as well as details concerning the drafting and dispatching of the letter.
But now we know it wasn’t merely “unusual” for Weiss to respond on behalf of the attorney general — it was in apparent violation of the DOJ policy that only the OLA would respond to legislative inquiries. And it was that same policy that prevented Weiss from responding to the earlier questions posed by Johnson and Grassley directly to the Delaware U.S. attorney
The content of Weiss’s June 7 letter provides a pretty clear answer for why the DOJ ignored its own policy and enlisted the Delaware U.S. attorney to respond to Jordan: Garland needed Weiss to verify what the attorney general had previously told Grassley during a March 1, 2023, hearing.