Republican claims of Biden family ‘corruption’ are being undermined by their own whistleblowers

Two federal law enforcement agents were scheduled to give evidence before the GOP-led House Oversight Committee on Wednesday

Andrew Feinberg
Wednesday 19 July 2023 20:02 BST
Joe Biden clashes with reporter after question about Hunter

House Republicans’ efforts to paint President Joe Biden and his family as corrupt influence peddlers are being undermined by the very people they’ve touted as whistleblowers against the Bidens over the first six months of their investigation.

The latest episode in this half-year-long drama was set to air on Wednesday, when a pair of federal law enforcement agents were scheduled to give evidence before the GOP-led House Oversight Committee.

One witness, IRS agent Gary Shapley, has already accused Justice Department and IRS leaders of kneecapping his multi-year probe into Hunter Biden, a lawyer and lobbyist who is set to plead guilty to misdemeanour tax charges in the coming weeks.

Mr Shapley and another still-anonymous law enforcement officer, who the committee is calling “Witness X,” were set to testify before the panel on Wednesday. But the alleged law enforcement whistleblowers who are claiming that political interference on the Bidens’ behalf short-circuited their efforts to bring more serious charges against the president’s son, have already undercut the testimony they were expected to deliver before the House Oversight Committee on Wednesday.

A review of the testimony the witnesses have delivered in transcribed interviews with the House Ways and Means Committee reveals that Department of Justice actions which Mr Shapley attributed to the Biden-era department’s desire to protect the president and his son by slow-walking the probe were either made during the Trump administration or were actually run-of-the-mill decisions by attorneys who were applying department rules or making professional judgments based on applicable case law and the evidence available.

Mr Shapley, a 14-year veteran of the IRS Criminal Investigation division who has alleged that he and his team were removed from the Biden probe to punish him for raising concerns about the pace of the investigation, has already admitted that it is typical for investigating agents to disagree with the decisions of IRS Criminal Tax attorneys, who often recommend that charges not be brought when presented with the evidence that has been gathered against a given subject.

In his private interview with Ways and Means in May, he said “90-plus percent of everything that I do in my international tax group” was met with a “nonconcur” recommendation from IRS attorneys, though he added that he and his colleagues often disregard those recommendations either way.

But despite Mr Shapley’s claims that the decisions by IRS and DOJ officials seemed calculated to protect the Bidens, it turns out that much of what he claims was political interference on behalf of the president or his son took place long before Mr Biden’s January 2021 inauguration, during the administration of then-president Donald Trump.

For example, although he has suggested IRS CI officials’ decision in October 2020 — one month before the 2020 presidential election — not to seek a warrant to search a guest house on Mr Biden’s property was meant to protect him, the other GOP whistleblower set to give evidence on Wednesday has said the decision was not only up to the IRS, but also the DOJ tax division, US Attorneys from the Eastern District of Virginia and others.

Mr Shapley’s complaint also ignores a 4 September 2020 directive from Richard Donoghue, then the Acting Deputy Attorney General, instructing the department to “cease and desist of all overt investigative activities due to the coming election,” in keeping with longstanding Justice Department policy prohibiting any overt steps in ongoing investigations within 90 days of a general election if those steps might have an impact on the election.

And even though he repeatedly claimed that political interference was evident in prosecutors’ decision not to seek the warrant even though, in his view, there was sufficient probable cause to obtain it, a February 2020 memorandum from then-attorney general William Barr instructed prosecutors to ensure that department actions did not “unnecessarily advantage or disadvantage a political party or candidate”.

He also did not appear to take into account the IRS Criminal Tax manual, which requires prosecutors to consider “whether the particular evidence at issue can be secured without a search warrant (i.e., whether a search warrant is the ‘least-intrusive means’ to obtain the evidence)” and “whether there is a reasonable need for the evidence (i.e., whether the case can be investigated and prosecuted with other evidence, with no significant delay in completing the investigation and no significant diminution in the likelihood of conviction)” in cases involving the property of attorneys, public officials or political candidates.

What’s more, even the anonymous whistleblower who the GOP panel billed as “Whistleblower X” denied that the decisions cited by Mr Shapley had political motivations when questioned behind closed doors.

In a transcribed interview, he told committee members that the department’s approach to the Hunter Biden probe never changed when Mr Trump left office and Mr Biden was sworn in.

“I have never seen that, and I would have reason to hope to believe that that wouldn’t happen. And I have no indication that it was because of a change of administration,” he said.

Instead, Mr X said the slow approach to investigations was typical of the Delaware US Attorney’s office, which since 2017 has been headed by Trump appointee David Weiss.

“[T]hat U.S. Attorney’s Office . . . they love to slow-walk things. It’s very common in that office,” he said.

In a portion of his opening statement for the Wednesday hearing that was obtained by The Independent, Oversight Committee Ranking Member Jamie Raskin said he expected both men to testify about “apparent confusion and misunderstandings which embittered them toward Mr. Weiss as he reviewed the evidence and then made the ultimate decision about how, when, and where to charge Hunter Biden”.

Mr Raskin also pointed out that according to the testimony both witness have already given, the only thing they can credibly allege is “disagreements and frustrations with their supervisors,” not “political interference”.

“There’s no evidence that President Biden has involved himself in any way in the investigation into his own son, an investigation that’s been overseen by Trump’s appointed US Attorney. No matter what my GOP colleagues say … there is no evidence that Hunter Biden has received any kind of official favouritism in this prosecution for being Joe Biden’s son,” he said.

In a statement, White House spokesman Ian Sams slammed the GOP for “wasting time on politically-motivated attacks on a Trump-appointed U.S. Attorney, the rule of law, and the independence of our justice system”.

“There are real issues Americans want us to be spending our time on, and President Biden believes we can work together to make real progress, if House Republicans would make an effort instead of constantly staging partisan stunts to try to damage him politically. President Biden has upheld his commitment that this matter would be handled independently by the Justice Department, under the leadership of a Trump-appointed U.S. Attorney,” he said.

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