GOP releases testimony of whistleblowers claiming interference in Hunter Biden case

FILE - Hunter Biden, the son of President Joe Biden, speaks to guests during the White House Easter Egg Roll on the South Lawn of the White House, April 18, 2022, in Washington. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik, File)
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WASHINGTON (AP) — House Republicans released testimony Thursday from two IRS whistleblowers who allege that the Justice Department interfered with their yearslong investigation into President Joe Biden’s son, Hunter — a charge the department swiftly denied.

The House Ways and Means Committee, led by Republican Rep. Jason Smith, voted to publicly disclose congressional testimony from two IRS agents who worked on the federal investigation into the younger Biden's taxes and foreign business dealings.

“Whistleblowers describe how the Biden Justice Department intervened and overstepped in a campaign to protect the son of Joe Biden by delaying, divulging and denying an ongoing investigation into Hunter Biden’s alleged tax crimes,” Smith, R-Mo., told reporters.

The testimony from the two tax agency employees — Greg Shapley and an unidentified IRS agent — detailed what they called a pattern of “slow-walking investigative steps” and delaying enforcement actions months before elections. But it's unclear whether the conflict they describe amounts to internal disagreement about how to pursue the wide-ranging probe or a pattern of interference and preferential treatment. Department policy has long warned prosecutors to take care in charging cases with potential political overtones around the time of an election, to avoid any possible influence on the outcome.

The Justice Department denied the whistleblower claims, saying the U.S. attorney in charge of the Hunter Biden probe, David Weiss — who was appointed by former President Donald Trump — had full authority over the case.

The release of the testimony comes just two days after Hunter Biden, 53, announced he will plead guilty to misdemeanor tax offenses as part of an agreement with the Justice Department. The agreement made public Tuesday will also avert prosecution on a felony charge of illegally possessing a firearm as a drug user, as long as he adheres to conditions agreed to in court.

Congressional Republicans called the plea deal a “sweetheart deal” for the president's son and another example of a “two-tiered justice system" that goes easy on Democrats. They also pledged to continue their own investigations into the Biden family and what they call their efforts to trade off the presidency.

The first IRS whistleblower, Shapley, came forward in April when his attorney reached out to GOP Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa to say that his client had information about a “failure to mitigate clear conflicts of interest in the ultimate disposition” of what was then an ongoing criminal investigation related to Hunter Biden. In hourslong testimony, Shapley described several roadblocks that he and the several other IRS agents on the case faced when trying to interview individuals relevant to the case or issue search warrants.

Perhaps Shapley's most striking claim was that Weiss asked the Justice Department in March 2020 to be provided special counsel status in order to bring the tax cases in jurisdictions outside Delaware, including Washington, D.C., and California, but was denied.

In response to that claim, the Justice Department reiterated that Weiss has "full authority over this matter, including responsibility for deciding where, when, and whether to file charges as he deems appropriate. He needs no further approval to do so."

The second IRS whistleblower, who asked the committee to keep his identity secret, described his persistent frustrations with the way the Hunter Biden case was handled, dating back to the Trump administration under Attorney General William Barr. He said he started the investigation into Hunter Biden in 2015 and delved deeply into his life and finances.

The individual said he was taken off the investigation in October 2022 and informed of the decision by officials at the IRS, but believes his removal was actually ordered by officials in the Justice Department. He provided no evidence that was the case, instead citing what he had witnessed internally as he pushed for various investigative steps. His supervisor, Shapley, was removed at the same time.

Democrats objected to the committee's handling of the testimony, noting that the two individuals are just a fraction of the many investigators and officials who were involved in the Hunter Biden case. They suggested more testimony is needed.

“We do not object to the documents being reviewed publicly,” said Rep. Richard Neal, the top Democrat on the committee. “We object to the process. Clearly, the case is not ready. So many witnesses have never even been contacted.”

All the Democrats on the panel objected to the disclosure, calling the GOP efforts payback for their release in December of Trump's tax records.

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Associated Press writer Lindsay Whitehurst contributed to this report.