House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) set the tone at the outset of Wednesday's oversight hearing featuring Attorney General Merrick Garland, saying in the first sentence of his opening statement: "The fix is in."
Mr. Jordan was referring to the four-plus years of DOJ investigations of the multi-faceted influence-peddling scandal centered on President Joe Biden, including the failure of his son Hunter to pay taxes on millions of dollars of income received, directly and indirectly, from multiple foreign interests. The latter investigation has been led since 2018 by U.S. Attorney for Delaware, David Weiss, appointed by President Donald Trump with the consent of Sen. Chris Coons and Sen. Tom Carpeer, both Delaware Democrats.
In response, Ranking Member Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), who preceded Jordan as the panel's chairman, launched his opening statement by declaring, "Mr. Chairman, just about every assertion you made in your opening statement has been refuted by witnesses before this committee." Mr. Nadler, however, offered no examples of such refutations.
Mr. Nadler's retort to Mr. Jordan typified how throughout the lengthy hearing, the committee's 19 Democratic members sought to address everything but the specific details of multiple Republican allegations about Mr. Garland's management of DOJ and the Biden scandal.
By contrast, whenever a committee Republican aimed a direct question at the Attorney General, such as how he reached his decision earlier this year to appoint Mr. Weiss as special counsel in the Biden probe, Mr. Garland either declined to comment in any detail on the ongoing investigation, professed not to know, or attempted to pursue time-killing disquisitions on subordinate or only vaguely related issues.
For example, when Rep. Dan Bishop (R-N.C.) asked Mr. Garland about the extent of Mr. Weiss's authority to bring whatever charges he felt justified in any federal court in the country, the Attorney General said, "I announced at the beginning that he would be able to bring whatever cases he wants and I have followed through on that promise."
Then Mr. Bishop asked Mr. Garland if he "undertook to inform yourself and to ensure he knew he possessed that authority or that you would see to it that he had all necessary authority."
Mr Garland replied, "I don't think there is any doubt that he knew. He has written three letters to this committee indicating he knew."
At that point, Mr. Bishop asked the Attorney General if he was aware that "a senior IRS investigator, a whistleblower, came forward and testified publicly that Mr. Weiss stated that he did not have such authority, that he was not 'the decider. Are you aware of that?"
Mr. Garland answered that he was aware but avowed that he was "not present at any point during that statement. Mr. Weiss, who was present, has indicated that he had the authority and he knew that he had it."
Mr. Bishop then noted that, after the IRS investigator's July testimony, Mr. Bishop pointed out that Mr. Garland appointed Mr. Weiss to the special counsel position. A visibly agitated Mr. Garland contended that "Mr. Weiss made it clear he did not ask to be made special counsel until last month ..."
Mr. Bishop then asked if Mr. Garland "was aware that Mr. Weiss was, in fact, deterred by decisions of the United States Attorney for the District of Columbia (DC) and the Northern District of California from proceeding as he thought best?"
Mr. Garland responded that "with respect, Congressman, Mr. Weiss has not said that he was deterred; he said he followed the normal processes of the department and that he was never denied the ability to bring a case in another jurisdiction."
Mr. Garland declined to say what, if anything, he knew or learned regarding Mr. Weiss' authority had changed that prompted his appointment to the higher position. He also declined to respond when Mr. Bishop repeatedly pressed him on whether he knew the federal Statute of Limitations on filing tax evasion cases had been allowed to expire in the Hunter Biden case.
At another point in the hearing, following questions on the Weiss authority issue by Rep. Russell Fry (R-S.C.), Mr. Jordan summarized the question by asking, "If he already had it, why did he need it," to which Mr. Garland responded, "he had it, and he continued to have it."
Later in the hearing, Rep. Scott Fitzgerald (R- Wis.) asked Mr. Garland how he determined that Mr. Weiss should be appointed special counsel.
"I'm not going to get into internal discussions. Mr. Weiss asked that he be appointed, and I granted that request and made him special counsel. But I'm not going to get into internal deliberations of the Justice Department," he responded.
Mr. Fitzgerald then, citing a Washington Post news article, asked Mr. Garland if he was aware that, prior to becoming U.S. Attorney in Delaware, Mr. Weiss worked with both Hunter Biden and his late brother, Beau Biden. Were you aware of that relationship with the Biden family?"
Mr. Garland said he was not aware of that relationship or of the Post article's claim that Mr. Weiss likely also knew President Biden from his years in the U.S. Senate.
The Attorney General was also subsequently asked by Rep. Ben Cline (R-Va.) and by Rep. Cliff Bentz (R-Ore.) to explain what he meant when he said he believed appointing Mr. Weiss as special counsel was justified by "extraordinary circumstances." Both times, Mr. Garland declined to do so.
Among the unrelated issues raised during the hearing by Democrats, Rep. Madeline Dean (D-Pa.) described the oversight hearing as "a shameful circus," and "a gross misuse of your time, of your team's time, and of our time." Ms. Dean then asked the Attorney General to describe "what the department is doing" to combat the massive influx from Mexico into the United States of the deadly fentanyl drug.
The committee's second-ranking member, Rep. Deborah Ross (D-N.C.), asked the Attorney General to discuss what she described as "the rise of hate-based attacks" that "coincides with the growth of the white nationalist movement."
Rep. Joe Neguse (D-Colo.) devoted the bulk of his question time to a discussion of Mr. Garland's career accomplishments because "it is unfortunate that my colleagues on the other side of the aisle have conflated questions about various cases the department has brought with impugning your integrity."