Democrats and Republicans on the House Committee on Oversight and Accountability agreed that both witnesses featured in Wednesday’s IRS Biden Tax Investigation Whistleblowers hearing are highly professional, honest, hard-working and dedicated career public servants.
But they agreed on virtually nothing else discussed during the lengthy and occasionally tense hearing, including especially on the central issue of whether or not federal officials at the Department of Justice (DOJ) and Internal Revenue Service (IRS) prevented the two men — both deeply experienced and respected criminal tax investigators — from properly investigating massive evidence that President Joe Biden and members of his family led by son Hunter have for at least the past decade received millions of dollars from foreign sources in return for access to key U.S. policymakers without properly reporting the income or paying taxes on it.
Supervisor IRS Special Agent Gary Shapley has previously testified publicly on the Biden investigation before the House Ways and Means Committee and provided detailed transcribed interviews to Republican and Democrat investigators on that panel and those for the House Judiciary Committee.
Joseph Ziegler, the IRS Criminal Investigator previously known as “Whistleblower X,” was a member of the special investigative unit that began digging into the evidence concerning Hunter Biden in 2018. Wednesday’s hearing was Ziegler’s first public appearance on the issue after previously testifying anonymously before the ways and means members. Like Shapley, Ziegler has also provided detailed transcribed interviews.
Rep. James Comer (R-Ky.), Chairman of the oversight and accountability committee described the hearing as part of a joint effort with the Ways and Means and Judiciary committees to get to the bottom of the “Biden family influence- peddling scheme.”
“Since assuming the House Republican majority in January, the House Oversight and Accountability Committee has achieved historically fast progress on our investigation into the Biden family influence peddling scheme,” Mr. Comer said in opening the hearing.
“In just six months, we have obtained thousands of pages of financial records. This includes bank records for Biden family associates and Suspicious Activities Reports (SAR) generated by the Bidens and their associates high-dollar foreign business transactions,” he said.
“What these records reveal is astonishing. The Bidens created over 20 shell companies, most of which were created when Joe Biden was Vice-President. Bank records examined so far show the Biden family, their business associates and their companies received over $10 million from foreign nationals and related companies,” Mr. Comer continued.
The Kentucky Republican said the Bidens “used their associates companies to receive millions of dollars from foreign companies in China, Ukraine and Romania … the Bidens then received incremental payments over time to various different bank accounts. These complicated financial transactions were used deliberately to conceal the source of the funds and the total amounts … What were the Bidens selling? Nothing but influence and access to the Biden network.”
Mr. Shapley told the committee that based on his 14 years of investigating international tax evasion schemes that the handling of the Hunter Biden tax investigation was very different from any other case” he had previously experienced with the IRS.
“At every stage, decisions were made that benefitted the subject of this investigation. For example, prosecutors concealed content of Hunter Biden’s laptop from investigators. The DOJ slow-walked steps, to include interviewing, serving document requests and executing search warrants that were approved in 2020 but were delayed until after the November 2020 and then never pursued,” Mr. Shapley explained.
Mr. Ziegler testified that “the decision to bring felony counts against Hunter Biden was agreed to by both prosecutors and investigators. In the fall of 2021, I met with prosecutors assigned to the case and we all agreed and decided which charges we are going to recommend in the prosecution report, which included felony counts” prompted by Hunter Biden filing tax returns between 2014 and 2018 that failed to report income earned and claimed business deductions for what were actually payments for prostitute and other illegal or fraudulent expenses.
Mr. Ziegler said all of the prosecutors subsequently agreed in 2022 to recommend felony and misdemeanor charges and wanted to file the charges in two federal court districts, Los Angeles and the District of Columbia. But the recently announced plea deal Hunter Biden agreed to with DOJ includes only two misdemeanor charges and no jail time.
“To this day, I do not have a reason why that occurred. This might not have been problematic if the investigation had been handled in the ordinary course,” Mr. Ziegler told the hearing. “A number of times, we were not able to follow the facts.”
David Weiss, the U.S. Attorney for Delaware, recommended the plea deal, and has told Congress that he did so in consultation with higher officials at DOJ. Weiss has also provided Congress with contradictory accounts of whether he had independent authority to conduct the prosecution and file charges as he deemed necessary, without having to get approval from anyone else at DOJ.
Rep. Jamie Raskin, the Maryland Democrat who is the ranking member of the committee, dismissed the charges by the two witnesses and instead suggested nothing more than “normal prosecutorial discretion” accounted for the decision not to file felony charges.
The length of the investigation and the number of federal officials involved in it “demonstrates to my mind at least that [Hunter Biden] received no special treatment,” Mr. Raskin said.
“It seems to me that a lot of your testimony has been about the problem of prosecutorial discretion and the traditional tug of war between investigators who characteristically want to charge as many offenses as they have come across and prosecutors who are more attuned to the rigors of the courtroom and the complexity of forensic evidence,” Mr. Raskin then told the witnesses during his questioning of them.
Mr. Raskin’s comment recalled former FBI Director James Comey’s July 5, 2016 announcement that he recommended DOJ bring no charges against former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton after she was found to have conducted official business on a private email server destroyed more than 33,000 separate emails that were under subpoena.
“Although there is evidence of potential violations regarding the handling of classified information, our judgment is that no reasonable prosecutor would bring such a case,” Comey explained in a televised statement announcing the decision.
Other Democrats on the committee echoed Mr. Raskin, and included praise for the two witnesses service to the country. Rep. Gerry Connally (D-Va.), for example, emphathetically noted that both witnesses have been subjected to public ridicule and threats as a result of their whistleblowing. “You are simply doing your duty as you see the light,” Mr. Connally said.