The House Oversight Committee heard Wednesday Claims by two IRS whistleblowers The Justice Department’s politicization of the Hunter Biden criminal investigation has sparked a firestorm among Republicans.
One of the two whistleblowers identified himself publicly for the first time in the investigation: Joseph Ziegler, a 13-year IRS special agent in the Criminal Investigation Division.
In his testimony, Ziegler said he saw federal prosecutors departing from normal procedures, and echoed fellow whistleblower Gary Shapley’s claims that IRS investigators recommended charging Hunter Biden with far more serious crimes than the president’s son pleaded guilty to.
“It appeared to me based on what I experienced that the U.S. attorney in Delaware was constantly obstructed, limited, and sidelined by DOJ officials and other U.S. attorneys in our investigation,” Ziegler said.
Whistleblowers told lawmakers Wednesday that Justice Department officials have stopped their investigators from examining President Joe Biden and his grandchildren after finding evidence related to Hunter Biden’s troubled finances.
“In the normal course of any investigation, when the subject’s father is somehow involved with the subject’s finances, we need to get that information, properly track the financial flows of the money, and determine what we charge,” Shapley said.
Ziegler, who is Shapley’s deputy, said in his written testimony that he wanted to interview Hunter Biden’s grown children. But a Justice Department lawyer said that would “get us into hot water,” and that didn’t happen, Ziegler wrote.
The Justice Department and the White House have previously denied claims by whistleblowers that there was no political interference in the Hunter Biden criminal investigation. The allegations are consistent with their previous closed-door testimony made public last month.
Biden has said he is not involved in his son’s business deals.
CNN has reached out to Hunter Biden’s attorneys, who have previously said the IRS is whistleblowers. “Disgruntled agents” are “an ax to grind”.
Throughout the six-hour hearing, Democrats poked holes in the claims of some whistleblowers and repeatedly noted that the Hunter Biden investigation began under then-President Donald Trump and was overseen by a Trump-appointed prosecutor. They also accused Republicans of hypocritically focusing on the Biden family’s finances while ignoring potential conflicts tied to Trump’s business empire.
House Republicans have seized on the indictments of Shapley, a 14-year IRS veteran who oversaw parts of the Hunter Biden criminal investigation, and Ziegler, whose earlier testimony was anonymous — to support their claims that the Justice Department is becoming increasingly politicized to protect Democrats and target conservatives.
There is also testimony from IRS whistleblowers It sparked a new drive House Speaker Kevin McCarthy is facing growing pressure from an increasingly pacifist right wing eager to target President Joe Biden and his cabinet for possible impeachment proceedings against Attorney General Merrick Garland. McCarthy stoked the momentum by saying he was open to an impeachment inquiry if the whistleblowers’ claims were upheld.
Shapley and his deputy told the House Ways and Means Committee in June that they had slowed the criminal investigation into Hunter Biden’s tax problems, blocked their efforts to obtain subpoenas and search warrants, and repeatedly blocked prosecutors from filing criminal charges.
Whistleblowers also demanded a US attorney David WeissThe Trump appointee, who is overseeing the Hunter Biden investigation, said at the October 2022 meeting that final charges could not be brought against the president’s son and that he was denied special counsel status when he asked for it.
Republicans echo these views Garland wasn’t real When he told Congress that Weiss had full authority over the investigation. But Garland and Weiss reject most, if not all, of the GOP lawmakers’ assertions. Weiss has reiterated in letters to Congress that he always has “final authority” over the investigation.
And internal disagreements among investigators, as the IRS agent described, are common — according to a copy of the memo obtained by CNN, which Democrats said in a memo ahead of the hearing.
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Supervising IRS Special Agent Gary Shapley and IRS Criminal Investigator Joseph Ziegler arrive at a House Oversight Committee hearing on the Justice Department’s investigation into Hunter Biden on July 19, 2023, on Capitol Hill in Washington.
In his closed-door testimony last month, Ziegler told lawmakers that he is gay, and that his sexual orientation affects his politics or his work, contrary to the opinion of some on the right.
“People have said that because I’m gay and I work as a case agent on this investigation, I must be a far-left liberal and fit some agenda. It was stuff that was on social media about me,” Ziegler told the panel, according to a transcript of his deposition. “I can say that I am none of those things. I am a civil servant and I have always strived not to let politics enter my mind while working on cases.
During the trial, he singled out a 644-page report on Hunter Biden — which was redacted. Former Trump White House aide, was published online and circulated widely in right-wing circles. The report highlighted Ziegler’s sexual orientation, included photos of her with her husband, and used her sexuality to accuse her of being “one-sided” in the Hunter Biden criminal investigation.
In his personal testimony, Ziegler said he grew up in a conservative family and “held conservative beliefs,” but now identifies as a Democrat with “moderate” views.
“We’re not disgruntled. We’re not here to get people. We’re here for accountability and to learn from this,” Ziegler said after the hearing.
In his opening statement, Rep. Jamie Raskin of Maryland, the top Democrat on the oversight committee, said his Republican colleagues failed to connect the allegations of wrongdoing to the president.
“Like every attempt by my colleagues to create a scandal about President Biden, this is a complete and utter bust,” Raskin said.
Some of the Democratic members of the black and Hispanic caucus used their time to highlight long-standing inequities in the U.S. justice system that affect minorities. They derided their Republican colleagues for saying they have a “two-tiered justice system” that targets conservatives.
House Democrats also noted that there have been several investigative findings during the Trump administration where the two whistleblowers disagreed, citing specific examples from late 2020.
The White House repeatedly hinted ahead of Wednesday’s hearing that Weiss was appointed by Trump, encouraging Republicans to “focus on the issues that matter most to the American people.”
“There are real issues on which Americans want to spend our time, and President Biden believes that if House Republicans continue to work together to make real progress, instead of Republicans continuing their efforts to damage him politically,” White House spokesman Ian Sams said in response to the Republican-led congressional hearings.
House Republican caucus chairmen Weiss and Hunter Biden have requested interviews from several people involved in the criminal investigation. The Justice Department told House Judiciary Chair Jim Jordan, Republican of Ohio, last week that it would make Weiss available “at an appropriate time” once the criminal investigation into Hunter Biden is officially closed.
Asked if Wednesday’s hearing with IRS whistleblowers was a step toward impeaching Garland, House Oversight Committee Chairman James Comer told CNN, “There’s a lot of interest in getting the facts out, and we’re moving as quickly as we can.” However, he said he was “responsible for uncovering the facts” and that questions about the impeachment would come later.
Comer, a Kentucky Republican, said, “We have two brave and credible IRS whistleblowers who have risked their lives to come forward and provide important testimony.”
Garland, a top target of the House GOP, is scheduled to testify before the House Judiciary Committee for a routine oversight hearing in September.
Hunter Biden plans to plead guilty to two counts of tax fraud at a court hearing in Delaware next week.
This story and headline have been updated to reflect additional developments.