WASHINGTON — Rep. Ken Buck (R-Colo.) went way off the party message Wednesday as his colleagues fulminated against the supposed corruption of the Justice Department under Joe Biden.
At a House Judiciary Committee hearing Wednesday, Buck praised key decisions by U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland regarding the investigation into the president’s son Hunter Biden.
“In three different opportunities where you could have acted, you would have been criticized either way, whether you acted or did not act in that situation,” Buck told Garland.
House Judiciary Chairman Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) had opened the hearing with accusations that Garland is running a two-tiered justice system that benefits Democrats and persecutes former President Donald Trump, who is facing two federal and two state indictments.
“There is one investigation protecting President Biden, there’s another one attacking President Trump,” Jordan said. “The Justice Department has both sides of the equation covered.”
The idea that the Justice Department has been protecting the president’s family is part of Republicans’ broader impeachment inquiry against the president, which has focused mainly on bogus claims that as vice president years ago, Biden twisted U.S. foreign policy to benefit his son.
In TV appearances, Capitol hallway interviews and newspaper articles, Buck has torched both the politics and the premise of the impeachment effort. On Wednesday, he defended the integrity of the investigation into the president’s son led by David Weiss, the U.S. attorney for Delaware.
Weiss has headed up the probe since his appointment by Trump in 2018. U.S. attorneys are presidential appointees who typically turn over when the White House changes hands, but the Biden administration kept Weiss in place to continue his investigation.
“Do you know what people would have said if you asked for U.S. Attorney Weiss’ resignation when you became attorney general?” Buck said Wednesday. “They would have said that you were obstructing the Hunter Biden investigation and you were firing a Republican appointee so that you could appoint a Democrat to slow-walk this investigation and lose the leadership of that investigation.”
Republicans have complained that Weiss was taking too long, but Buck said that if Garland agreed and replaced Weiss with someone speedier, his colleagues “would have again said that you were interfering with the prosecution.”
Republicans hated a plea deal Weiss struck this summer with Biden’s legal team on tax and gun charges. The deal fell apart in August over a disagreement about whether the president’s son would be immune from further prosecution, and Weiss requested special counsel status so that he could charge Hunter Biden in jurisdictions outside of Delaware. Republicans have continued complaining about Weiss even after he leveled felony gun charges against Biden this month, with tax and other charges waiting in the wings.
“If you made the decision to appoint somebody else to special counsel, people would have criticized you because you would have been taking somebody out of the investigation that knew the facts,” Buck told Garland.
The other Republican critics of the impeachment effort tend to be lawmakers from districts that Biden won in 2020, whereas Buck is a member of the far-right House Freedom Caucus.
With a tiny House majority, Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) can only lose four or fewer Republicans and still pass a resolution, meaning Buck’s opposition, by itself, is a major obstacle to impeaching Biden.