David C. Weiss, who negotiated an ill-fated plea deal with President Biden’s son, Hunter, fiercely defended the integrity of his investigation before House Republicans on Tuesday, the first time a special counsel has fielded questions from lawmakers before concluding an inquiry.
During a tense closed-door interview that lasted more than six hours, Mr. Weiss, a veteran federal prosecutor, pushed back against Republican allegations that he brokered a sweetheart deal for Hunter Biden under pressure from the White House. He also disputed a whistle-blower’s claim that he once said he lacked full authority to pursue tax and gun charges.
Mr. Weiss, in a dark suit with an American flag pin, told the House Judiciary Committee that he was the ultimate “decision maker” in the Biden case and was “at no time blocked” from doing what he wanted, according to a copy of his written opening remarks.
“To my knowledge, I am the first special counsel to testify before the submission of the special counsel report,” Mr. Weiss said. “I have done so out of respect for the committee’s oversight responsibilities and to respond to questions raised about the scope of my authority.”
That Mr. Weiss spoke to the committee before issuing a final report on the investigation reflected his mounting frustration with House Republicans, according to people close to him, speaking on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to publicly discuss the matter. The party’s leaders have sought to make the Hunter Biden investigation a centerpiece of their sputtering impeachment inquiry into President Biden, a rallying point to unite their fractious and fragile majority.
Many of their theories, especially those regarding the president’s purported financial connections to his son, have remained unproven and some have been directly contradicted by the evidence.
Mr. Weiss repeatedly refused to discuss details of internal department deliberations on Tuesday, citing an open investigation into Mr. Biden’s lucrative foreign consulting work and refusal to pay millions in taxes on time.
That irked Republicans on the committee.
“Mr. Weiss was here incarnate, but not particularly in spirit,” said Representative Matt Gaetz, Republican of Florida, who attended the session.
“Anytime we had any question about any communication regarding the Department of Justice” or other prosecutors “he would demur and say that it was just part of his deliberative process,” Mr. Gaetz added.
Representative Glenn F. Ivey, Democrat of Maryland and former prosecutor, said Mr. Weiss was far more forthcoming than any previous special counsel. He accused Republicans of hampering the investigation by meddling with investigators and attacking Mr. Weiss, a lifelong Republican.
“You never interrupt a prosecution with congressional hearings like this,” he said.
Mr. Weiss did not add many new details he had not already disclosed in several letters sent to congressional Republicans over the past year. He confirmed testimony from other officials that he sought to join with local prosecutors in Washington and California in bringing tax charges against Mr. Biden but was rebuffed.
“He made it very clear that he was following the protocols for the Department of Justice, which is that he first asked the districts that had venue if they would partner with him on this case,” said Representative Dan Goldman, Democrat of New York, who emerged from the interview after about an hour to speak with reporters.
Mr. Weiss sharply contradicted claims by an I.R.S. investigator who told House investigators that Mr. Weiss had been blocked from fully pursuing the inquiry.
Over the summer, the I.R.S. official, Gary Shapley, told the House Ways and Means Committee that Mr. Weiss, during a meeting on Oct. 7, 2022, asked for special counsel status to give him more authority to bring cases outside of Delaware and was rebuffed.
Mr. Weiss suggested that Mr. Shapley, a career Treasury Department official, had misunderstood the complicated procedures of the Justice Department and misinterpreted what he said about his interactions with department brass.
Another I.R.S. investigator, Joseph Ziegler, supported Mr. Shapley’s account. Others who were present at the meeting have cast doubt on their testimony.
Mr. Weiss said he discussed the possibility of asking Attorney General Merrick B. Garland to be appointed “special attorney,” a more limited designation that allows prosecutors to bring cases outside their home districts.
“I am, and have been, the decision maker on this case,” he said during his testimony on Tuesday, according to a copy of his prepared remarks. “There are processes that I must adhere to in making investigative and charging decisions. These processes did not interfere with my decision-making authority. At no time was I blocked, or otherwise prevented from pursuing charges or taking the steps necessary in the investigation by other United States attorneys, the tax division or anyone else at the Department of Justice.”
Mr. Weiss has not said why he did not ask to be made special attorney — nor has he explained his justification for requesting special counsel status after the plea agreement with Mr. Biden’s team imploded.
Last spring, after five years of work, Mr. Weiss concluded that he would not bring serious criminal charges against Mr. Biden. He then negotiated an agreement with Mr. Biden’s lawyers that spared the president’s son jail time — and offered a broad grant of immunity from future prosecution — in exchange for pleading guilty to misdemeanor tax charges and participation in a two-year program for nonviolent firearms offenders.
But the agreement quickly fell apart in late July.
Shortly afterward, Mr. Weiss indicted Mr. Biden on gun charges, to which he pleaded not guilty. Prosecutors also announced they intended to continue their investigation of his business dealings, possibly in connection with violations of laws governing lobbying for foreign countries and businesses.
In August, Mr. Weiss requested to be appointed special counsel, and Mr. Garland, who had said that doing so was unnecessary, elevated him. Mr. Garland said he would publicly release Mr. Weiss’s report after the investigation concluded.
Representative Jim Jordan, the Ohio Republican who is the chairman of the committee, had negotiated with the Justice Department for weeks over the terms of Mr. Weiss’s voluntary testimony.
The department offered Mr. Jordan the possibility of a public hearing, but the committee opted for a private session, as it has done after recent interviews with the federal prosecutors who declined to bring charges against the president’s son, according to department officials.
Mr. Jordan, who ran unsuccessfully for House speaker last month, has repeatedly suggested that Mr. Weiss and Mr. Garland have misled his committee.
The congressman, speaking during a midday break in the interview, said Mr. Weiss had provided information that furthers the Republicans’ theory that the Justice Department impeded the Hunter Biden investigation.
“Once again, Shapley and Ziegler’s testimony continues to stand up,” he said.