The Republican chairs of three key House committees are joining forces to investigate the Justice Department’s handling of allegations against Hunter Biden after he made sweeping allegations of misconduct at the agency.
Leaders of the Judiciary, Oversight and Accountability and Ways and Means committees have launched a joint federal investigation into the president’s youngest son, Joe Biden, days after it was announced last month that he would plead guilty to tax crimes as part of agreement with the Ministry of Justice.
Reps. Jim Jordan of Ohio, James Comer of Kentucky and Jason Smith of Missouri have since issued a series of requests for voluntary testimony from senior officials at the Justice Department, the FBI and the Internal Revenue Service as they investigate what they say is improper interference. Republicans also requested a special counsel review of alleged retaliation against whistleblowers who came forward with the allegations.
The congressional investigation was launched after the House Ways and Means Committee, led by Smith, voted last month to publicly release hundreds of pages of testimony from IRS officials who worked on the Hunter Biden case.
The transcripts by Gregg Shapley and an unidentified agent detailed what they called a pattern of “slow investigative steps” and delays in enforcement action in the months leading up to the 2020 election, won by Joe Biden.
The Justice Department has denied the whistleblower’s claims and has repeatedly said U.S. Attorney David Weiss in Delaware, the federal prosecutor leading the investigation, has “full authority” over the case.
Here’s what you need to know about the upcoming investigation.
Investigating claims of IRS whistleblowers
In April, the first IRS whistleblower, Shapley, came forward when his attorney contacted Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa to say his client had information about a “failure to mitigate clear conflicts of interest in the final order ” of what is then an ongoing criminal investigation involving Hunter Biden.
Smith, chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, which has jurisdiction over the IRS, brought Shapley in late May for an hour-long interview, where he described several obstacles he and several other IRS agents on the case encountered when they tried to interview persons relevant to the investigation or issue search warrants.
The whistleblowers insist their testimony reflects a pattern of inference and preferential treatment in the Hunter Biden case, not simply a disagreement with their superiors over what investigative steps to take. Justice Department policy has long cautioned prosecutors to be careful about bringing charges in potentially politically charged cases during an election to avoid potentially influencing the outcome.
The most disputed claim by the whistleblowers is that Weiss — first appointed by former President Donald Trump and continued by the Biden administration — asked the Justice Department in March 2022 to be granted special counsel status to to bring the tax cases against Hunter Biden to jurisdictions outside of Delaware, including Washington, D.C. and California, but was denied.
A second IRS whistleblower, who asked the commission to keep his identity confidential, described his continued frustration with the handling of the Hunter Biden case dating back to the Trump administration under Attorney General William Barr. He said he began investigating Hunter Biden in 2015 and delved deep into his personal life and finances.
Investigating allegations of retaliation
Both men have testified that they faced retaliation from the IRS after raising concerns about their handling of the Hunter Biden case. Shapley, who was a career supervisory agent, told the committee that Weiss helped block his promotion after the IRS official contacted congressional investigators about the Biden case.
The second unidentified whistleblower said he was removed from the Hunter Biden investigation around the same time as Shapley, who was his supervisor. Although he was informed of the decision by IRS officials, the second whistleblower believes his removal was actually ordered by officials at the Department of Justice. Neither man provided lawmakers with evidence that this was the case, instead citing what they had witnessed internally as they pushed for various investigative steps.
The three Republican chairmen, along with Senators Grassley and Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, sent a letter to the Justice Department demanding an immediate review of the retaliation claims.
“The importance of protecting whistleblowers from unlawful retaliation and informing whistleblowers of their rights under the law cannot be understated. After all, this is a law,” the deputies wrote.
Resistance of the Department of Justice
The Justice Department dismissed the whistleblowers’ allegations, saying Weiss had “full authority in this matter, including the responsibility to decide where, when and whether to bring charges as he sees fit. It does not need additional approval to do so.
Attorney General Merrick Garland also dismissed the idea that Weiss, a veteran prosecutor, had asked to be designated as a special counsel.
“The only person who has the authority to make someone a special counsel or to refuse to make them a special counsel is the attorney general,” Garland told reporters last month. He added: “Mr. Weiss never made that request.
In a June 30 letter, Weiss further denied the allegations, telling House Republicans that the Justice Department “did not retaliate” against Shapley. He also said he was assured by the department that if he wanted to press charges against Hunter Biden in a place other than Delaware, he would be granted special status to do so. U.S. attorneys are generally limited to their own jurisdictions when bringing criminal charges.
The three Republican chairmen have given a deadline of Thursday for the department to begin scheduling nearly a dozen individuals for transcribed interviews. They said that if the deadline was not met, they would resort to subpoenaing Congress to compel cooperation.
Weiss said in his recent letter that he would be willing to discuss such topics with congressional representatives, but reiterated that he could not release information about the Hunter Biden case because it is an active criminal investigation.
Garland said publicly that he would not stop Weiss from testifying before Congress. “I would support Mr. Weiss explaining or testifying on these matters as he sees fit,” the attorney general said.