(The Daily Signal) — The White House won’t respond and Attorney General Merrick Garland is playing defense after the release of sworn testimony from two IRS whistleblowers alleging special treatment in the agency’s investigation of the president’s son, Hunter Biden.
The House Ways and Means Committee voted Thursday to make public the transcripts of the IRS agents’ testimonies — two days after the Justice Department announced a plea agreement with Hunter Biden that would result in no prison time for failing to file income taxes and lying on a background check for a gun purchase.
Here’s nine things to know about what the IRS whistleblowers said.
1. ‘WH/DOJ weren’t alerted?’
Gary Shapley, a 14-year veteran of the IRS, gave his testimony May 26 to investigators for the House Ways and Means Committee.
Less than a week later, on June 1, a second and anonymous IRS agent also testified under oath.
After the Justice Department announced its plea deal with Hunter Biden on Tuesday, the Ways and Means Committee, in a party-line vote Thursday, decided to release the transcripts.
In a tweet Friday, The Heritage Foundation’s Oversight Project raised the involvement of the White House and Department of Justice by asking: “Are we to believe that the WH/DOJ weren’t alerted to the explosive whistleblower testimony before [the transcripts were] released?” (The Heritage Foundation is the parent organization of The Daily Signal.)
Are we to believe that the the WH/DOJ weren't alerted to the explosive whistleblower testimony before released?
5/26 and 6/1 – private whistleblower interviews
6/20 – Hunter given a sweetheart plea deal
6/22- All Ds vote against releasing transcripts; Transcripts released https://t.co/dWOUmXwXO9 pic.twitter.com/WiVG8TbqE7
— Oversight Project (@OversightPR) June 23, 2023
If someone shared or leaked the IRS whistleblowers’ testimonies before the House committee authorized their release, it could be a violation of federal law (under 26 U.S. Code § 6103) regarding the confidentiality and disclosure of tax returns and information on such returns.
The law states that “no officer or employee of the United States … shall disclose any return or return information obtained by him in any manner in connection with his service as such an officer or an employee or otherwise or under the provisions of this section.”
According to whistleblowers, IRS officials recommended that Hunter Biden be criminally charged with attempting to evade taxes, committing fraud, making false statements, willfully failing to file returns, and failing to provide information on over $8.3 million in income.
“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,” Ways and Means Chairman Jason Smith, R-Mo., said in a public statement.
The Daily Signal sought comment from spokespersons at the Justice Department and the White House Counsel’s Office on their awareness of the testimony before announcement of the plea deal. Neither responded.
The Daily Signal also sought comment from the office of Rep. Richard Neal, D-Mass., the ranking Democrat on the Ways and Means Committee, to ask whether any Democrats on the committee shared information with the White House or Justice Department.
Neal’s office did not respond to multiple phone and email inquiries.
2. ‘Sitting here with my father’
The Justice Department delayed authentication of messages between Hunter Biden and a Chinese business partner, the IRS’ Shapley testified to House investigators.
“For example, in August 2020, we got the results back from an iCloud search warrant. Unlike the laptop [abandoned by Hunter Biden at a Delaware repair shop], these came to the investigative team from a third-party record keeper and included a set of messages,” Shapley said.
That same month, well before the 2020 election, the 2 whistleblowers & their investigative team had a call with the IRS chain of command to call out the slow pace of the investigation: pic.twitter.com/KryFDqvSjE
— Rep. Jason Smith (@RepJasonSmith) June 22, 2023
The IRS supervisory agent went on to give an example:
“We obtained a July 30th, 2017, WhatsApp message from Hunter Biden to Henry Zhao, where Hunter Biden wrote: ‘I am sitting here with my father and we would like to understand why the commitment made has not been fulfilled. Tell the director that I would like to resolve this now before it gets out of hand, and now means tonight. And, Z, if I get a call or text from anyone involved in this other than you, Zhang, or the chairman, I will make certain that between the man sitting next to me and every person he knows and my ability to forever hold a grudge that you will regret not following my direction. I am sitting here waiting for the call with my father.'”
Shapley also testified that at a September 2020 meeting, Assistant U.S. Attorney for Delaware Lesley Wolf said there was “more than enough probable cause for the physical search warrant there, but the question was whether the juice was worth the squeeze.”
The prosecutor also said that “optics were a driving factor in the decision on whether to execute a search warrant,” the IRS agent testified.
Despite probable cause, U.S. attorney Lesley Wolf told the IRS that there is no way they would be able to search Joe Biden’s guest house.
Two tiers of justice.
— Sen. Marsha Blackburn (@MarshaBlackburn) June 22, 2023
3. White House won’t comment
During a White House press briefing Friday, a reporter asked National Security Council spokesman Adm. John Kirby about the whistleblower allegations concerning the text message from Hunter Biden to his Chinese business associate.
“I’m not going to comment further on this,” Kirby said. “I am not going to address this issue from this podium.”
He soon departed quickly, wishing reporters a good weekend.
Later in the same briefing, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre refused to respond to reporters’ questions about the IRS whistleblowers’ testimonies. She instead referred reporters to the White House Counsel’s Office — which she said already has addressed the matter.
“I believe my colleague at the White House Counsel’s Office has answered this question, has dealt with this, has made it very clear,” Jean-Pierre told reporters. “I just don’t have anything to share outside of what my colleagues have shared. So I would refer you to him and the DOJ. I’m not going to comment from here.”
On Tuesday, when the Justice Department announced its plea deal with Hunter Biden, Ian Sams, a senior adviser to the counsel’s office, issued a written statement for the senior Biden.
In it, Sams said: “The President and First Lady love their son and support him as he continues to rebuild his life. We will have no further comment.”
Sams didn’t respond to an inquiry Friday from The Daily Signal after the White House press briefing. The Daily Signal asked whether either the White House or the Justice Department was made aware of what the two IRS agents said pending announcement of the plea deal with the president’s son.
However, it doesn’t appear that the White House Counsel’s Office has spoken to reporters about the IRS whistleblowers’ allegations.
Asked whether she stood by her earlier statement that Biden knew nothing about his son’s various business dealings, Jean-Pierre said, “Nothing has changed.”
Another reporter asked, referring to Hunter Biden’s text to the Chinese business associate saying his father was right there: “Have you spoken to the president about this? Have you asked him whether he was there with his son on July 30, 2017?”
Jean-Pierre answered: “This is not a conversation that I’ve had with the president. Again, I would refer you to the White House counsel.”
Biden’s press secretary also was asked whether the president would talk to the attorney general, Garland, about the matter.
“I cannot say if the president had a conversation with the attorney general about this,” she said.
4. ‘Weiss requesting Special Counsel authority’
U.S. Attorney for Delaware David Weiss, a holdover from the Trump administration who is in charge of the Hunter Biden case, wanted to bring charges in the District of Columbia in March 2022, but was denied permission, according to testimony.
Weiss also sought special counsel status from the Justice Department in the spring of 2022, in order to conduct an independent inquiry. However, superiors also denied that request.
According to an IRS whistleblower:
David Weiss requested special counsel status.
Joe Biden’s Justice Department said no. pic.twitter.com/10N7pK9tjM
— Rep. Jim Jordan (@Jim_Jordan) June 23, 2023
In the fall of 2022, Weiss requested to bring charges against the younger Biden in the Central District of California. The Justice Department denied that request in January.
“From March 2022 through Oct. 7, 2022, I was under the impression that, based on AG Garland’s testimony before Congress and statements by U.S. Attorney Weiss and prosecutors, that they were still deciding whether to charge 2014 and 2015 tax violations,” Shapley testified to House investigators.
“However, I would later be told by United States Attorney Weiss that the D.C. U.S. Attorney would not allow U.S. Attorney Weiss to charge those years in his district. This resulted in United States Attorney Weiss requesting special counsel authority from Main DOJ to charge in the District of Columbia,” the IRS supervisory agent testified.
“I don’t know if he asked before or after the attorney general’s April 26, 2022, statement, but Weiss said his request for that authority was denied and that he was told to follow DOJ’s process,” Shapley said.
5. Garland: Weiss had complete discretion
During a press conference Friday, Garland responded to the whistleblowers’ allegations. As Biden’s attorney general, he previously had testified under oath before the Senate that the Weiss’ Delaware-based investigation would be completely independent.
“As I said at the outset, Mr. Weiss — who was appointed by President Trump as the U.S. attorney in Delaware and assigned this matter during the previous administration — would be permitted to continue his investigation and to make a decision to prosecute any way in which he wanted to and in any [federal] district in which he wanted to,” Garland said.
“Mr. Weiss has since sent a letter to the House Judiciary Committee confirming that he had that authority,” Garland continued. “I don’t know how it would be possible to block him from bringing a prosecution, given that he has this authority.”
The attorney general also said at the press conference: “The only person with authority to make somebody a special counsel, or refuse to make somebody a special counsel, is the attorney general. Mr. Weiss never made that request to me.”
6. ‘Always the election being brought up’
According to the transcript of the testimony from the anonymous IRS whistleblower, the Justice Department frequently used Biden’s presidential campaign as a reason to move cautiously on the investigation of his son that began in 2018.
“There came a point in time [that] there were some bank reports out there that were going to get released,” the anonymous whistleblower testified to House investigators, “and they were going to include potentially the names of the investigators from the IRS and the FBI who received those bank reports.”
“So with that being released in the public, we’re like, ‘It’s going to out our investigation, so we need to come out and go overt with the tax case,'” the whistleblower continued. “And I remember there were always times where we were always on an impending election cycle. It was always the election being brought up. In early 2020, it was the midterms. I think that Iowa was the very first one where we weren’t sure what we were allowed to do or we weren’t — it was always ‘Wait and see.’”
7. ‘Go out to all these prostitutes’
Shapley testified that IRS investigators reached out to prostitutes whom Hunter Biden had listed as business expenses to confirm their occupation.
“We were to the point where we needed to go out to all these prostitutes, because these were expensed [by the younger Biden],” Shapley said, according to a redacted transcript. “So we had, it was probably four or five different weeks where, [REDACTED] would give the — or I can’t say that — attachment for the document request and have it, you know, ready to go the next week.”
Shapley referred to “off-the-book employees.” These included Arkansas resident Lunden Roberts, a former stripper who is the mother of one of Hunter Biden’s daughters.
“There were multiple examples of prostitutes that were ordered [by the president’s son] basically, and we have all the communications between that where he would pay for these prostitutes, would book them a flight where even the flight ticket showed their name. And then he expensed those,” Shapley said.
8. ‘Tipped off’
House investigators discovered that Hunter Biden’s lawyers were alerted in advance about aspects of the investigations.
“Hunter Biden was assigned Secret Service protection on or around our Dec. 3 meeting,” Shapley testified, according to the transcript. “So we developed a plan for the FBI Los Angeles special agent in charge to reach out at 8 a.m. on Dec. 8 to the Secret Service Los Angeles special agent in charge and tell them that we would be coming to the residence to seek an interview with Hunter Biden and that it was part of an official investigation.”
“However, the night before, Dec. 7, 2020, I was informed that FBI headquarters had notified Secret Service headquarters and the transition team about the planned actions the following day,” the IRS agent told investigators. “This essentially tipped off a group of people very close to President Biden and Hunter Biden and gave this group an opportunity to obstruct the approach on the witnesses.”
The next morning, when he saw his FBI counterpart, Shapley testified, “he was clearly dejected about how our plan had been interfered with.”
In another example, investigators had reason to look into a Northern Virginia storage unit where the younger Biden kept files, but his lawyers were informed ahead of time, the IRS whistleblower said.
“On Dec. 10, 2020, the prosecutorial team met again to discuss the next steps. One piece of information that came out of the day of action was that Hunter Biden vacated the Washington, D.C., office of Owasco. His documents all went into a storage unit in northern Virginia,” Shapley told committee investigators.
Owasco PC is a consulting firm in Washington controlled by Hunter Biden.
“The IRS prepared an affidavit in support of a search warrant for the unit, but [Assistant U.S. Attorney] Wolf once again objected. My special agent in charge and I scheduled a call with United States Attorney Weiss on Dec. 14 just to talk about that specific issue.
United States Attorney Weiss agreed that if the storage unit wasn’t accessed for 30 days we could execute a search warrant on it. No sooner had we gotten off the call then we heard AUSA Wolf had simply reached out to Hunter Biden’s defense counsel and told him about the storage unit, once again ruining our chance to get to evidence before [its] being destroyed, manipulated, or concealed.”
9. Verified laptop
Shapley confirmed that the FBI had verified the authenticity of the infamous Hunter Biden laptop a year before FBI officials warned social media companies against promoting “Russian disinformation” about the younger Biden.
“The investigation into Hunter Biden, code name Sportsman, was first opened in November 2018 as an offshoot of an investigation the IRS was conducting into a foreign-based amateur online pornography platform,” Shapley said in testimony, adding:
“Special Agent developed the investigative lead and was assigned to be the original case agent. In October 2019, the FBI became aware that a repair shop had a laptop allegedly belonging to Hunter Biden and that the laptop might contain evidence of a crime.
The FBI verified its authenticity in November of 2019 by matching the device number against Hunter Biden’s Apple iCloud ID. When the FBI took possession of the device in December 2019, they notified the IRS that it likely contained evidence of tax crimes.”
Ken McIntyre contributed to this report.