Ranking Member Raskin’s Statement Following Republicans’ Release of Month-Old FBI Interview Transcript
Washington, D.C. (August 14, 2023)—Today, Rep. Jamie Raskin, Ranking Member of the Committee on Oversight and Accountability, released a statement following Committee Republicans’ release of the full transcript from an interview the Committee conducted four weeks ago with a former FBI supervisory agent assigned to the Hunter Biden investigation:
“After intentionally withholding it from the American public for four weeks, Chairman Comer has finally released the transcript of the Committee’s interview with a former FBI supervisory special agent who had been assigned to the Hunter Biden FBI investigation.
“The Chairman’s release, obviously timed to distract from news of an imminent potential fourth criminal indictment of Donald Trump, features the same selective and distorted parsing of information we have come to expect in service of the Republicans’ fruitless investigation into President Biden, which has failed to turn up a single shred of evidence of wrongdoing.
“The testimony of the Committee’s star witnesses continues to boomerang against the Majority. Significantly, as today’s transcript shows, the former FBI agent stated that he was aware of no political interference in the investigation. He acknowledged that disagreements between prosecutors and investigators are commonplace in this field. He explained that the FBI and prosecutors in this matter followed long-standing and commonsense policies regarding investigative steps.
“Today’s transcript once again confirms that David Weiss, a Trump-appointed U.S. Attorney, hand-picked by then-Attorney General William Barr, has for years been investigating the President’s son without any political interference from the Administration,” said Ranking Member Raskin.
Committee Democrats highlight the following key evidence:
The Former FBI Supervisory Special Agent rejected Republicans’ claims that prosecutorial decisions by U.S. Attorney Weiss or his team were the result of political interference. Instead, he attributed disagreements between agents and prosecutors working on the Hunter Biden investigation to run-of-the-mill differences of opinion about investigative steps and charging decisions, which, in his 20-year career, he witnessed frequently between agents and prosecutors.
Q: My colleague asked you about the U.S. Attorney's Office for Delaware, with which you are familiar.
Q: Are you familiar with U.S. Attorney Weiss?
A: Yes, I know him.
Q: Have you ever known U.S. Attorney Weiss to make prosecutorial decisions based upon political influence?
Q: Have you ever known any of the AUSAs in the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Office of Delaware to let their prosecutorial decisions be guided by political interference?
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Q: So it's a common circumstance for FBI agents to have disagreements with prosecutors about investigative steps. Is that fair?
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Q: Could it be that the reason for what you were observing was, in fact, caution and deliberateness in making investigative decisions?
A: Among others, yes.
Q: Did you ever have instances where you had disagreements with the prosecutors, not just about investigative steps, but charging decisions?
Q: Were there instances where you thought there was ‑‑ a charge should be ‑‑ or a count should be charged because you felt the evidence was sufficient to warrant it and the prosecutors decided not to charge those counts?
Q: Would you say that's common for special agents to have that kind of back and forth with prosecutors?
A: Common, but not ‑‑ what's the word I'm looking for? It's common, but, you know, in my experience, I had very good working relationships with my ‑‑ the assistant United States attorneys I worked with. We may have disagreements. I certainly recognized my role versus their role, where they're the ones that have to argue in front of a judge and jury, which I don't have to. I have to ‑‑ I may have to testify, but it's their case to argue. So ultimately, you know, we may have our differences, but it's usually a good relationship. We air out our differences, but, yeah, there are differences at times.
The Former FBI Supervisory Special Agent debunked the notion that decisions about search warrants were politically motivated and instead explained that, in determining whether to seek a warrant in cases involving political candidates, attorneys, or election year sensitivities, it is not only proper, but indeed DOJ policy, for prosecutors to consider additional factors beyond whether probable cause exists:
Q: I wanted to ask you a little bit about – you've done sensitive investigations as part of the public integrity section?
A: Public corruption squad, yes.
Q: Public corruption. My colleague was asking you about some of those, and I wanted to ask you specifically about search warrants.
Q: So when you're presenting an application for a search warrant to a magistrate judge, you obviously need to establish probable cause to get the search warrant.
Q: But particularly in sensitive cases, isn't it true that there are additional factors that prosecutors are supposed to consider before they make an application for a – such a search warrant beyond whether or not there is probable cause?
A: Well, I think –
Q: Let me maybe ask you a more specific question.
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Q: So are you aware of a DOJ policy, for example, that applies to search warrants at property that belongs to an attorney that instructs prosecutors that in order to avoid impinging on valid attorney‑client relationships, prosecutors are expected to take the least intrusive approach consistent with vigorous and effective law enforcement when evidence is sought from an attorney engaged in the practice of law?
A: I don't know it word for word, but I understand that in practice.
Q: And so prosecutors are instructed by the Justice Department as a matter of policy that they should consider less intrusive means, such as a subpoena, instead of executing a search warrant. Is that fair?
A: That is fair.
Q: And so that is an additional consideration beyond whether or not there is probable cause to execute a search warrant. Is that correct?
A: Yes, assuming you had probable cause to even consider conducting a search. Yes, absolutely.
Q: So it would be proper, and by that I mean within DOJ policy, for an attorney to say to an agent, yes, there is probable cause to execute this search warrant, but we are not going to do it because there are less obtrusive means of obtaining the evidence?
A: That's reasonable, yes.
Q: So we discussed that in the context of search warrants at premises that belong to an attorney. Are you familiar with similar policies applying to property belonging to a public official or a political candidate?
A: Early in my career, I became somewhat familiar with that with a search on Capitol Hill with Congressman Jefferson's office. So, yes, I'm somewhat familiar that –
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Q: Are you aware generally of the Department of Justice policy that ‑‑ with regard to election year sensitivities that cautions agents and prosecutors not to take any actions that might give the impression of ‑‑ or that might affect an election?
Q: So there are additional sensitivities during an election year that apply especially when they involve political figures or those close to political figures. Is that right?
The former FBI Supervisory Special Agent also explained FBI headquarters’ putative decision in December 2020—during the Trump Administration—to notify U.S. Secret Service headquarters and an unspecified “transition team” prior to Hunter Biden’s interview was not evidence of political interference:
Q: And why notify Secret Service at all?
A: Well, I personally was not going to go to armed Secret Service agents and demand that I interview their protectee for two reasons. Number one, I did not believe they would let me in, which would frustrate us. And number two, they would cause us to wait and seek the permission of, most likely, their headquarters, because those agents in the field are doing their job, which is to protect their assigned protectee.
So it made common sense to me, as we would deconflict other potentially similar circumstances, that if we could make a notification in advance to speed the process so that if there was an opportunity to approach, that those agents that were, you know, at the street level protecting their protectee knew that we were coming and knew why we were coming.
You know, as somebody who has to provide protection, having an IRS supervisor and an FBI supervisor also armed coming to a scene would cause confusion. And at the worst case, you know, as we talk about law enforcement, it could be a blue on blue matter. They don't know who we are. They don't know if our credentials are faked. So, you know, those are things we're thinking about.
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Q: And did you receive any information about who in those respective agencies were notified?
A: No, beyond ‑‑ again, our initial plan was the special agent in charge of the L.A. Field Office was the original intended recipient of our intent. But beyond that, I don't know what levels at Secret Service headquarters, you know, by title. I have no idea.
Q: And when you say that the transition team was notified, how was that described?
A: I believe using those words. Somebody from the transition team was notified. And if they identified him, I cannot recall who or by role the person was.
Q: Did they explain what transition team this was or –
A: No. But as I said earlier, we knew, or at least I knew the transition team is usually made up of individuals appointed by the President‑elect to help make the transition from one administration to the other and are working at the pleasure of the President‑elect.
Q: Well, when there's a change in administration, there are a lot of various transitions that happen at various agencies, at various levels of government. There's a lot of transition planning that happens from one agency to the next ‑‑ from one administration to the next. You'd agree with me?
A: I mean, that makes sense to me, yes.
Q: And so –
A: I haven't been part of a transition team, so I don't know.
Q: So when you were – so you were just told the transition team?
Q: You didn't ‑‑ you weren't told what transition team that was, at what level that was told?
A: I don’t recall. I don’t recall being told, and if I was, I don’t recall now.
Q: Do you know whether this transition team was, in fact, advised?
A: I was told they were ‑‑ no, I don't know if they were, in fact, advised. I was told they were advised.
Q: So you were told in that phone call that headquarters of the United States Secret Service would be advised and then another entity that was just referred to as the transition team?
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Q: If you had been party to political interference in FBI investigations, you would have reported that out somewhere, wouldn't you have?
A: I hope I would’ve.
Q: But you didn't do that in this instance?
A: Well, I wasn't aware of political interference personally.
The former FBI Supervisory Special Agent also acknowledged that leaks about an ongoing criminal investigation are harmful to an investigation’s integrity and explained that under certain circumstances, it would be justifiable to remove an entire investigative team where there was reason to suspect a member of the investigative team was leaking information to the press and the specific source of the leak could not be identified. Although the Agent did not specifically discuss the October 6, 2022, Washington Post article entitled “Federal Agents See Chargeable Tax, Gun-Purchase Case Against Hunter Biden,” or the decision to remove the IRS case agents from the Hunter Biden investigation following the publication of that article, he offered the following insight:
Q: Generally speaking, do you think it could be problematic for agents' views in any ongoing investigation to be publicly reported or released to news sources?
Q: And it could create problems potentially for the integrity of an investigation?
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Q: Would it be reasonable for management to consider removing the entire investigative team in order to protect the integrity of the investigation?
A: I think that would be ‑‑ dependent upon the circumstances, I think that is one reasonable decision that could be made. You know, whether it’s ‑‑ again, if there’s other factors, if you think it’s more likely one versus another, whether or not you really think the leak is coming from your team or not. You know, I don’t trust that people misrepresent that they say they’re close to the investigation when, in fact, they’re not, or maybe they're in a different role, whether it's coming from some other role or agency.
You know, so I would ‑‑ I would ‑‑ you know, I’d want to protect the integrity of the investigation. I think that would be reasonable at times, but I would not want to make sweeping changes at the mere allegation that is not substantiated, you know, if that makes sense.
Q: But you agree that there are circumstances in which concern about a leak might justify management removing an entire investigative team to protect the integrity of an ongoing investigation?