I’d say I’m shocked, shocked! to see an administration that pledged to hose its predecessor’s corruption out the White House embroiled in its own scandal, but let’s be real. It’s 2023 and politicians everywhere are working hard to disappoint those few people still clinging to the illusion that governing is noble work. For the federal government under President Joe Biden, this means, according to two IRS whistleblowers, political interference in the investigation of Hunter Biden in a case that has implications regarding suspicions of sleaze that have long dogged his father.

No Normal Investigation

“I am here to tell you that the Delaware [United States Attorney’s Office] and Department of Justice (DOJ) handling of the Hunter Biden tax investigation was very different from any other case in my 14 years at the IRS,” Supervisory Special Agent Gary Shapley told the House Oversight Committee on July 19. “There should not be a two-track justice system based on who you are and who you’re connected to. Yet, in this case there was.”

“I believe that I have a duty to bring to the public – and their elected representatives – and provide full transparency of the facts as I know them regarding the criminal investigation of Robert Hunter Biden,” agreed IRS Special Agent Joseph Ziegler, who reported to Shapley during the course of the investigation and was known only as “Whistleblower X” prior to the day’s testimony. “I have witnessed the corrosion of ethical standards and the abuse of power that threaten our nation.”

“At every stage decisions were made that benefited the subject of the investigation,” Shapley added. With regard to information found on the Hunter Biden laptop, “Assistant U.S. Attorney Lesley Wolf told us prosecutors had decided to conceal some evidence from the investigators.”

In their appearance, following similar earlier testimony, Ziegler and Shapley described a search warrant for President Biden’s Delaware house quashed over “optics” despite expectations of finding valuable evidence. They alleged prosecutors “slow walked” the investigation and raised barriers to pursuing leads. That meant not only blocking efforts to get a search warrant for a storage unit containing potential evidence, but also tipping off Hunter Biden’s team that the unit was on the IRS’s radar. Political appointees, they say, rejected recommended felony tax charges in favor of misdemeanors carrying relatively light penalties and a felony gun charge expected to be resolved without prison time.

A U.S. Attorney With “Full Authority”—or Not

They also claim that David Weiss, the U.S. Attorney in Delaware who headed the investigation and brought the charges, had his hands tied.

“While the impression was that the U.S. Attorney in Delaware has essentially the powers of special counsel in this case, free rein to do as needed, as is clearly shown, this was not the case,” Ziegler testified. “The U.S. Attorney in Delaware in our investigation was constantly hamstrung, limited, and marginalized by DOJ officials as well as other U.S. Attorneys.”

Asked last year by Sen. Bill Hagerty (R–Tenn.) why the American people should feel confident in the integrity of a federal investigation of the president’s own son, Attorney General Merrick Garland answered: “Because we put the investigation in the hands of a Trump appointee from the previous administration.”

But Shapley and Ziegler say Weiss admitted to investigators he was “not the deciding person on whether charges are filed.” And while Garland publicly claims Weiss has “full authority,” in a letter Weiss told House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jim Jordan “my charging authority is geographically limited to my home district” which constrained the scope of crimes he could pursue. He added that he needed sign-off from offices elsewhere or Garland to reach beyond his jurisdiction.

In what has become a common pattern for government whistleblowers, Shapley and Ziegler both say they face retaliation from IRS superiors for coming forward with their concerns.

The House Oversight Committee hearing degenerated into the usual partisan circus of sniping between Republicans and Democrats. The most bipartisan part of the event was in the form of the witnesses, since Gary Shapley is a Republican and Joseph Ziegler described himself in his testimony as “a gay Democrat married to a man.” Both witnesses came off as true believers in the tax system who were offended by political interference.

Awkward Interference Allegations

All of this is something of an embarrassment for an administration that entered office on promises to reverse course from the controversial Trump administration. Former President Donald Trump openly embraced sleaze—he once boasted he could buy a U.S. senator for $200,000. Joe Biden promised he would be different if only he could win the big political prize.

“All this talk from the president about corruption comes from the most corrupt president we’ve had in modern history. He is the definition of corruption,” Biden told reporters in 2019. That remained a major theme through the 2020 campaign, which culminated in Biden’s victory. He even implemented a “U.S. Strategy on Countering Corruption” after taking office. But suspicion lingered that Biden was remarkably dirty himself.

“It looks like ‘Middle Class’ Joe has perfected the art of taking big contributions, then representing his corporate donors at the cost of middle- and working-class Americans,” Zephyr Teachout, a Fordham law professor and progressive Democrat warned in January 2020. “Converting campaign contributions into legislative favors and policy positions isn’t being ‘moderate’. It is the kind of transactional politics Americans have come to loathe.”

The year before, NBC News reported on the Biden family’s dealings with Gabriel Popoviciu, a crooked Romanian tycoon (it’s a small world—Rudy Giuliani also had dealings with him).

“We don’t know what [Hunter Biden] was paid or what he was paid for but it does raise questions of whether this Romanian individual facing criminal charges was actually paying for a connection to the American vice president,” Kathleen Clark, a Washington University law professor, told reporters.

Last week, Sen. Charles Grassley (R–Iowa) released an FBI document in which a confidential informant claimed that Hunter and Joe Biden squeezed Mykola Zlochevsky, the chief executive of Burisma, a Ukrainian energy firm, for $5 million each in bribes (Hunter served on the company’s board while his father was vice president). The charge is uncorroborated, but it’s worth noting that Burisma features in the whistleblowers’ testimony.

“Hunter Biden did not report any of the money he earned from Burisma for the 2014 tax year, which would have been a tax loss to the U.S. Treasury of $124,845,” Ziegler told the committee.

The White House may have motivations beyond paternal love for interfering in a criminal investigation.


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