WASHINGTON — A pair of IRS whistleblowers testified Wednesday afternoon before the House Oversight Committee about alleged meddling in the Department of Justice investigation of Hunter Biden.
The hearing before the GOP-led panel featured testimony from Gary Shapley, an agent in the IRS’s criminal investigation division, and Joseph Ziegler, who works in the agency’s international tax and financial crimes section. Committee Chairman James Comer, R-Ky., said the two witnesses had “critical information” to share about the panel’s investigation into what he alleged is “the Biden family’s influence peddling schemes.”
In his opening statement, Shapley said that his red line was observing U.S. Attorney David Weiss of Delaware, who oversaw the Hunter Biden case, tell a room full of senior FBI and IRS investigators in October 2022 that he was “not the deciding person on whether charges are filed.” Shapley said he raised concerns during the meeting and that two weeks later, the IRS was entirely cut out of the case by the Justice Department.
Weiss has disputed Shapley’s allegations, writing in a letter to Rep. Jim Jordan, chairman of the Judiciary Committee, in late June that he was granted “ultimate authority” in terms of “where, when and whether to file charges” in the case.
Shapley, in his prepared remarks, was highly critical of Weiss and Attorney General Merrick Garland for not appearing before Congress to address the case and accused them of “using their offices and your tax dollars to put out carefully-crafted, narrow non-denials that have confused rather than clarified for the public — all without being subject to cross-examination on the facts.”
Ziegler said in his opening statement that he was the lead IRS case agent on the Hunter Biden investigation and that the IRS had recommended both felony and misdemeanor charges against the president’s son. “I have a reason to believe that there was gross mismanagement present throughout this investigation, that there was a gross waste of funds relating to the tax dollars spent on investigating this case, and that there was an abuse of authority with DOJ-Tax and the Delaware United States Attorney’s Office,” he said in prepared remarks.
Democratic members on the committee responded during the hearing by noting that much of what Ziegler described happened during the Trump administration, while arguing that other accusations were short on details.
“Today we have gotten a new conspiracy theory, one that requires us to believe that David Weiss, a Trump-appointed U.S. attorney trusted by Trump-appointed Attorney General [Bill] Barr, has somehow been complicit in abetting and concealing a deep state conspiracy to protect Hunter Biden on behalf of the Biden administration when they were selected by Donald Trump,” Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., said.
Weiss was nominated as U.S. attorney in Delaware by then-President Donald Trump and took office in 2018. The Hunter Biden probe began later that year. The Biden administration kept Weiss in his role to avoid having a U.S. attorney appointed by the president oversee his son’s criminal case.
Jordan, R-Ohio, who’s also a member of the Oversight committee, said Wednesday that the witnesses’ testimony has been “consistent” and that they should be believed instead of the Justice Department because they each have more than a decade of experience in criminal investigations and are experts on international tax evasion cases. “I think I believe these guys,” Jordan said. “I think they’re the ones telling the truth.”
Ranking member Jaime Raskin, D-Md., said in his opening remarks that Hunter Biden “made foolish and criminal choices, including failing to pay his taxes and owning a firearm in violation of federal law.” But, he said, Hunter Biden is now being held criminally accountable.
“One thing you will not hear today is any evidence of wrongdoing” by President Joe Biden or his administration, Raskin added, saying that the effort by Republicans to create a scandal about the president “is a complete and total bust.”
Hunter Biden’s attorney, Abbe Lowell, did not respond to NBC News’ request for comment on the hearing. Ian Sams, a White House spokesperson, said in a statement that House Republicans were “staging partisan stunts to try to damage” President Biden politically.
“Instead of wasting time on politically motivated attacks on a Trump-appointed U.S. attorney, the rule of law, and the independence of our justice system, House Republicans should join President Biden to focus on the issues most important to the American people, like continuing to lower inflation, create jobs, and strengthen health care,” Sams said. “There are real issues Americans want us to be spending our time on, and President Biden believes we can work together to make real progress, if House Republicans would make an effort instead of constantly staging partisan stunts to try to damage him politically. President Biden has upheld his commitment that this matter would be handled independently by the Justice Department, under the leadership of a Trump-appointed U.S. attorney.”
NBC News previously reported that Hunter Biden had reached an agreement to plead guilty to two federal misdemeanor counts of failing to pay his taxes. The president’s son also faces a separate felony gun possession charge that is likely to be dismissed if he meets certain conditions.
Shapley has said that Weiss was blocked from bringing more serious charges against the president’s son than the ones included in the plea deal. Weiss has repeatedly denied that accusation.
During the hearing, Democrats were expected to try to discredit the witnesses by pointing out that Weiss has stated that he had the ultimate charging authority and also by noting that both of the whistleblowers acknowledge there are often disagreements between investigators and prosecutors.
Earlier this year, Shapley claimed to members of the House Ways and Means Committee that Weiss had sought authority to slap Hunter Biden in Washington, D.C., and California with broader charges. But Weiss recently made clear in a letter to Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., ranking member on the Senate Judiciary Committee, that he could have brought charges against Hunter Biden in any U.S. jurisdiction.
In announcing the hearing, Comer alleged in a statement that the whistleblowers had “provided information about how the Justice Department refused to follow evidence that implicated Joe Biden, tipped off Hunter Biden’s attorneys, allowed the clock to run out with respect to certain charges, and put Hunter Biden on the path to a sweetheart plea deal.”
“Americans are rightfully angry about this two-tiered system of justice that seemingly allows the Biden family to operate above the law,” he said. “We need to hear from whistleblowers and other witnesses about this weaponization of federal law enforcement power. This hearing is an opportunity for the American people to hear directly from these credible and brave whistleblowers.”