The Trump-appointed U.S. attorney who is overseeing the federal investigation of Hunter Biden, son of President-elect Joe Biden, is a longtime Justice Department veteran not known as partisan, but he does have a history of prosecuting Biden-adjacent crimes.
Nearly a decade ago, David C. Weiss, then a top official in the U.S. Attorney’s Office for Delaware, oversaw the prosecution of liquor executive Christopher Tigani, who was sentenced to two years in prison after he pleaded guilty to making illegal campaign contributions and committing tax violations. Tigani was convicted in a scheme that included an effort to use political donations to gain favor with then-Sen. Biden.
Tigani told authorities that he never actually gained the type of access to Biden’s circle that he wanted, and Biden’s team has maintained that Biden did not know about Tigani’s criminal activity.
Weiss’ history with a criminal probe that intersected Biden’s circle is relevant given his key role now overseeing a highly sensitive investigation into the son of the incoming president, while the incoming president is on the verge of naming his nominee for attorney general.
President Donald Trump appointed Weiss as the top federal prosecutor in Delaware in 2018. But that doesn’t mean Weiss is considered partisan. He has worked steadily at the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Delaware since 2007, and as a younger man served there as a line prosecutor, aka an assistant U.S. attorney. Delaware Sens. Tom Carper and Chris Coons, both Democrats, supported Weiss as Trump’s pick for U.S. attorney, with Carper labeling him “an excellent choice” and Coons calling him a “career prosecutor and dedicated public servant.”
During Barack Obama’s presidency, Weiss served in top positions at the U.S. Attorney’s Office, including as interim U.S. attorney in the early days of the administration and as first assistant U.S. attorney from December 2010 to March 2017. Weiss became acting U.S. attorney that month after the Trump administration dismissed Obama-appointed top federal prosecutors, including Charles Oberly in Delaware.
The Tigani prosecution is one of Weiss’ highest-profile political cases. His name is on a 2012 sentencing memo that states Tigani attempted to “influence the political process, rationalizing that his illegal conduct was just another example of the ‘Delaware Way,’ and that, like others, he was entitled to receive political favors for his business and his industry.”
Weiss and another prosecutor wrote that Tigani “illegally contributed $72,700 to [Biden’s presidential] campaign in 2007” and reimbursed company employees who “acted as conduit contributors.” Tigani even bragged in a 2008 email to the president of Anheuser-Busch that he was “the number one fundraiser for [Biden’s] bid and will play a role in his new campaign as well as his son’s role as a future Senator,” according to Weiss’ memo. It’s unclear whether Tigani was referring to Joe Biden’s late son Beau, who was then serving as the attorney general of Delaware, or to his son Hunter, who was then working as a Washington lobbyist but quit the same month that Tigani sent the Anheuser-Busch email.
Tigani told Politico this year that his father and stepmother socialized with Joe and Jill Biden in the early 1980s, and that’s how he got to know the Biden brothers. While their broader social circles were connected, Tigani told Politico they were never particularly close. “I’m in the alcohol business, and Beau didn’t drink,” Tigani said.
But 12 years ago, Tigani was telling the president of Anheuser-Busch something different.
“They are very good and close friends and I know that we can take advantage of that relationship as needed,” Tigani wrote in 2008, referring to Biden and one of his sons. Weiss’ team wrote that Tigani “later explained to agents that he made those political contributions in an effort to gain access, but that he never actually received such access or sought to take advantage of the relationship.”
Weiss and his fellow prosecutor later wrote in the memo that Tigani’s actions “impacted all of those political candidates to whom he contributed, even those completely unaware of his illegal conduct.”
In its July story, Politico reported that Tigani wore a wire for the FBI and recorded conversations with Biden’s former finance chief, a businessman close to Biden, and a lobbyist who was a former Biden aide. None of the recordings resulted in federal charges, and Tigani showed Politico a letter that called the information he provided “not actionable.” Biden’s team has repeatedly denied that he had knowledge of what Tigani was up to.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office, citing Justice Department policy, has said it won’t comment on the current investigation into Hunter Biden.
The investigation complicates his father’s choice of attorney general, which the president-elect previously indicated he’d announce this week. While most elected Republicans dismissed Trump’s blatant misconduct and corruption and didn’t care much about allegations against members of Trump’s family, they’ve been deeply interested in Hunter Biden.
Joe Biden’s attorney general nominee will undoubtedly face plenty of questions about how they’ll ensure there’s no improper political interference in an ongoing criminal investigation of a member of the first family. (Although, again, that’s something the vast majority of elected Republicans have had no interest in since early 2017.) The nominee might even be asked to commit to appointing a special prosecutor ― or, at least, allowing U.S. Attorney Weiss to stay in place ― for the course of the Hunter Biden investigation.
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