When House Republicans return from their August recess, their investigations into the Biden family will focus on a handful of key people who played roles in the Department of Justice’s investigation of Hunter Biden.
Their inquiries could also clash with new realities inside the DOJ.
Republican lawmakers haven’t heard from the Justice Department that the appointment of a special counsel in the Hunter Biden criminal case, which occurred while Congress was out of session, will shut down their ability to speak with a handful of DOJ officials they had asked to interview weeks earlier.
They also haven’t heard that the Justice Department intends to cooperate, according to multiple GOP congressional aides familiar with the situation.
Those aides said the way DOJ officials handled the criminal investigation of Hunter Biden over the past five years will be a top area of interest for congressional investigators — and relevant as House Republicans weigh an impeachment inquiry.
Before Attorney General Merrick Garland appointed David Weiss, the U.S. attorney in Delaware, as special counsel on Aug. 11, the DOJ had offered to make Weiss available to lawmakers on several dates in late September and mid-October.
Lawmakers are still pressing to get access to Weiss, although a person familiar said they are seeking a transcribed interview behind closed doors, not a public hearing.
Wolf tipped off Hunter Biden’s legal team that investigators were preparing to execute a search warrant on a storage unit he owned, the whistleblowers said, and she forbade agents from asking witnesses any questions about President Joe Biden’s involvement in his son’s foreign businesses.
Dates for Wolf’s transcribed interview had not been set before Weiss’s appointment, and the Justice Department has not said whether it will allow her to testify.
A New York Times report this week suggested Wolf was pulled from the Hunter Biden case around the time a now-withdrawn plea deal came together in June; her departure from the case coincided with the IRS whistleblower disclosures.
Lawmakers could note her lack of a role in the ongoing investigation when seeking her testimony, skirting what they expect to be a Justice Department excuse to withhold information from Congress.
Chairmen of the House Oversight, Judiciary, and Ways and Means Committees also requested interviews with nine other Justice Department and FBI officials in June, none of which have been scheduled.
While subpoenas for all of those witnesses are on the table, a person familiar with the situation said congressional aides are still attempting to negotiate most of the interviews without taking that step.
But the Judiciary and Ways and Means Committee did issue subpoenas for two of those witnesses this week, suggesting a significant interest in them: Thomas Sobocinski and Ryeshia Holley, both FBI agents in the bureau’s Baltimore field office. In total, the committees issued four subpoenas.
The Baltimore field office lent resources to the investigation of Hunter Biden that Weiss, as the U.S. attorney in Delaware, oversaw. The IRS also participated significantly due to the alleged tax crimes involved.
Both Sobocinski and Holley were present at a key meeting on Oct. 7, 2022, in which Weiss told members of the investigative team that his requests for special counsel authority had up to that point been denied and that other U.S. attorneys appointed by Joe Biden had blocked his efforts to charge Hunter Biden in other jurisdictions, according to IRS whistleblower testimony.
The other two subpoenas sent this week also involved officials involved in the investigation: Darrell Waldon and Michael Batdorf, two IRS agents.
Waldon was, according to one of the IRS whistleblowers, also in attendance at the Oct. 7, 2022, meeting.
The GOP committee chairmen said in their letter to Batdorf this week that they have reason to believe he has knowledge of what transpired during that meeting.
One congressional aide familiar with the thinking behind the four subpoenas sent this week said Republicans’ effort to get more information about the meeting is ultimately about determining whether Garland or Weiss lied to Congress when both, at various points over the past several months, assured lawmakers that Weiss never faced any constraints on how to handle the Hunter Biden investigation.
Corroboration of the IRS whistleblower’s testimony from one of the other witnesses present at or informed of the meeting could put further pressure on Garland and Weiss to address the allegations.
Lawmakers are also set to dig into what the FBI did to investigate a bribery allegation involving Joe and Hunter Biden that it had in its possession for years.
Another person familiar with the congressional investigations said GOP members are exploring ways to get information from the Justice Department about how the allegation, memorialized on what’s known as an FD-1023 document, factored into the criminal investigation of the business dealings mentioned in the document that was underway at the time the FBI received the allegation. The claim from a confidential FBI source involved Hunter Biden’s work with a Ukrainian energy company that benefited from the policy steps Joe Biden took in Ukraine at the time as vice president.
And the prospect of an impeachment inquiry remains likely, aides said.
House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) has continued to signal that an impeachment inquiry would help Republicans seek the answers they need from the Biden administration and uncooperative witnesses, as the inquiry would unlock more powerful tools for congressional investigators.
Lawmakers will face a government funding pinch when they return from recess next month, which could pull their focus from the Biden family investigations for several weeks.
But the collapse of Hunter Biden’s plea agreement and the public accusations of deferential treatment that Hunter Biden’s own lawyers have leveled at the Biden Justice Department could fuel calls for such a step to begin in the weeks ahead, particularly if the Justice Department refuses to cooperate with the latest flurry of interview requests.