Two whistleblowers told Congress that IRS investigators recommended charging Hunter Biden with attempted tax evasion and other felonies, which are far more serious crimes than what the president’s son has agreed to plead guilty to, according to transcripts of their private interviews with lawmakers.
The IRS whistleblowers said the recommendation called for Hunter Biden to be charged with tax evasion and filing a false tax return – both felonies – for 2014, 2018 and 2019. The IRS also recommended that prosecutors charge him with failing to pay taxes on time, a misdemeanor, for 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018 and 2019, according to the transcripts, which were released Thursday by House Republicans.
It appears that this 11-count charging recommendation also had the backing of some Justice Department prosecutors, but not from more senior attorneys, according to documents that the whistleblowers provided to House investigators.
In a deal with prosecutors announced earlier this week, Hunter Biden is pleading guilty to just two tax misdemeanors.
The allegations come from Gary Shapley, a 14-year IRS veteran, who oversaw parts of the Hunter Biden criminal probe, and an unnamed IRS agent who was on the case nearly from its inception. Shapley approached Congress this year with information that he claimed showed political interference in the investigation. He and the entire IRS team were later removed from the probe.
“I am alleging, with evidence, that DOJ provided preferential treatment, slow-walked the investigation, did nothing to avoid obvious conflicts of interest in this investigation,” Shapley told lawmakers.
David Weiss, the Trump-appointed US attorney in Delaware who oversaw the Hunter Biden criminal probe, eventually reached a plea deal where the president’s son will plead guilty to two misdemeanors for failing to pay taxes on time. The plea agreement will also resolve a separate felony gun charge, if Hunter Biden abides by certain court-imposed conditions for a period of time.
Hunter Biden isn’t pleading guilty to any felonies, and he wasn’t charged with any tax felonies. CNN reported that prosecutors are expected to recommend no jail time. He is scheduled to appear in federal court in Delaware on July 26.
It isn’t uncommon for there to be internal disagreements among investigators over which charges to file against the target of an investigation, much like the disagreements that the IRS whistleblowers described. CNN reported last year that some FBI and IRS investigators were at odds with other Justice Department officials over the strength of the case, and that there were discussions over which types of charges were appropriate and whether further investigation was needed.
Sources familiar with the criminal probe told CNN in April that prosecutors were still actively weighing a felony tax charge against Hunter Biden. And it is common for prosecutors to strike deals with defendants where they plead guilty to a small subset of the possible charges they could’ve faced.
Alleged roadblocks inside DOJ
The Justice Department probe into Hunter Biden was opened in November 2018, and was codenamed “Sportsman.” According to Shapley’s testimony, federal investigators knew as early as June 2021 that there were potential venue-related issues with charging Hunter Biden in Delaware. Under federal law, charges must be brought in the jurisdiction where the alleged crimes occurred.
If the potential charges couldn’t be brought in Delaware, then Weiss would need help from his fellow US attorneys. He looked to Washington, DC, where some of Hunter Biden’s tax returns were prepared, and the Central District of California, which includes the Los Angeles area where Hunter Biden lives.
But Shapley told the committee that the US attorneys in both districts wouldn’t seek an indictment.
A second whistleblower, an IRS case agent who also testified to the committee but hasn’t been publicly identified, also told lawmakers that this is what happened. He agreed that Weiss was “was told no” when he tried to get the cooperation of the US attorneys in in DC and Los Angeles, who are Biden appointees.
Hunter Biden’s eventual plea agreement was filed in Weiss’ jurisdiction, in Delaware.
Shapley contends in his interview that Attorney General Merrick Garland was not truthful when he told Congress that Weiss had full authority on the investigation.
Shapley recounted a meeting on October 7, 2022, where, according to Shapley’s notes memorializing the meeting, Weiss said, “He is not the deciding person on whether charges are filed” against Hunter Biden. This undermines what Weiss and Garland have publicly said about Weiss’ independence on the matter.
Shapley also testified to committee investigators that it was during this October 2022 meeting that he learned for the first time that Weiss had requested to be named as a special counsel, but was denied.
In testimony to Congress in March, Garland said Weiss was advised “he is not to be denied anything he needs.”
Regarding the claims of political interference with the Hunter Biden criminal probe, Weiss told House Republicans in a recent letter that Garland granted him “ultimate authority over this matter, including responsibility for deciding where, when, and whether to file charges.”
After the transcripts were released Thursday, spokespeople for the US attorney’s offices in DC and Los Angeles issued near-identical statements reiterating that Weiss “was given full authority to bring charges in any jurisdiction he deemed appropriate.” The Justice Department echoed those comments in a statement saying Weiss “needs no further approval” to bring charges wherever he wants.
The whistleblowers also allege that at multiple key junctures, investigators were thwarted in their efforts because prosecutors were concerned about interfering in the 2020 presidential election.
In 2020, IRS investigators sought to conduct search warrants and take other overt steps. But according to Shapley, several weeks before the election, in September 2020, a Justice Department prosecutor questioned the optics of searching Hunter Biden’s residence and Joe Biden’s guest home.
Later that year, other planned searches were delayed because then-President Donald Trump was refusing to concede and was continuing to contest the results.
Republicans claim unequal justice
House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Jason Smith said earlier Thursday that the transcripts reveal “credible whistleblower testimony alleging misconduct and abuse” at the Justice Department that “resulted in preferential treatment for the president’s son.”
The Missouri Republican highlighted the whistleblowers’ allegations that the Justice Department “overstepped” in their efforts to intervene in the Hunter Biden criminal probe.
“The testimony … details a lack of US attorney independence, recurring unjustified delays, unusual actions outside the normal course of any investigation, a lack of transparency across the investigation and prosecution teams, and bullying and threats from the defense counsel,” Smith said.
Democrats on the committee said the transcripts were “a premature and incomplete record” of what happened with the Hunter Biden probe and accused the GOP of a “stunning abuse of power.”
Hunter Biden’s lawyer pushed back in a statement Friday against the whistleblowers claims, saying it was “preposterous and deeply irresponsible” to suggest that federal investigators “cut my client any slack” during their “extensive” five-year probe.
“A close examination of the document released publicly yesterday by a very biased individual raises serious questions over whether it is what he claims it to be,” attorney Chris Clark said. “It is dangerously misleading to make any conclusions or inferences based on this document.”
Hunter Biden invoked dad’s name to get paid, text shows
Shapley, the IRS supervisor-turned-whistleblower, told House lawmakers that Justice Department prosecutors denied requests to look into messages allegedly from Hunter Biden where he used his father as leverage to pressure a Chinese company into paying him.
“I am sitting here with my father and we would like to understand why the commitment made has not been fulfilled,” according to a document Shapley gave to Congress, which quotes from texts that are allegedly from Hunter Biden to the CEO of a Chinese fund management company.
The message continues: “Tell the director that I would like to resolve this now before it gets out of hand. And now means tonight.” The message goes onto say, “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.”
The second, unnamed IRS whistleblower also testified to lawmakers about this alleged WhatsApp message, saying prosecutors questioned whether they could be sure Hunter Biden was telling the truth that his father was actually in the room in the messages. The unnamed whistleblower testified that they did not know whether the FBI investigated the message.
Shapley told House investigators that a Justice Department attorney insisted that the FBI not ask directly about Joe Biden when doing interviews. But the FBI did manage to ask one key witness about Joe Biden, and Shapley said the witness told investigators that some suggestions of the president’s involvement were overstated.
An email sent among business partners of Hunter Biden said an equity stake should be held “for the big guy,” an apparent reference to Joe Biden, who was vice president at the time. But one of the associates told the FBI that it was probably just “wishful thinking or maybe he was just projecting” that Joe Biden would get involved if he did not run for president in 2016.
Joe Biden has repeatedly denied having any involvement in his son’s overseas business dealings, where he made millions of dollars from China, Ukraine and other countries. House Republicans have used their oversight probes to look for evidence that Joe Biden was actually involved.
This story has been updated with additional developments.
CNN’s Kara Scannell, Annie Grayer and Zachary Cohen contributed to this report.