Two veteran IRS investigators issued harsh criticism Wednesday of the Justice Department’s handling of the tax case against Hunter Biden, accusing the agency of shielding him from criminal charges because of politics and preferential treatment.
During an hours-long hearing by the House Oversight Committee, the investigators, Gary Shapley and Joseph Ziegler, detailed how they believed their work investigating Mr. Biden, the president’s son, was obstructed and slowed by Justice Department officials during the Trump and Biden . presidencies
“There shouldn’t be two-track justice based on who you are and who you’re connected to,” said Mr. Shapley, a special agent in the IRS criminal division for 14 years. “However in this case, there was.”
Mr. Biden struck a deal with the Justice Department to plead guilty to two misdemeanor tax charges and accept terms that would have allowed him to avoid prosecution on a separate gun charge, but investigators said they recommended criminal charges against him.
“As the special agent on this case, I thought the criminal charges were well supported,” Mr. Ziegler, the lead IRS agent on the Hunter Biden investigation, told Congress.
Mr. Ziegler described a litany of Mr. Biden’s tax offenses: falsely claiming business deductions for payments made to the Chateau Marmont in Los Angeles, a hotel room for his drug dealer, a sex club membership and Columbia University tuition for his grown daughter. .
“I still think a special counsel is needed for this investigation,” he added.
Before regaining control of the House this year, Republicans vowed to use their power to investigate President Biden and his family, launching wide-ranging investigations. It was clear from their approach Wednesday that House Republicans believe the testimony of the two IRS officials is their most effective evidence yet.
Three committee chairs – Representatives James R. Comer of Kentucky who leads the Oversight panel; Jim Jordan of Ohio of the Judging Committee; and Jason Smith of Missouri of the Ways and Means panel — joined to lead the questioning of witnesses during the hearing.
But if the proceedings were at times a sober recounting of the facts and details of a high-profile but secretive investigation, it also veered into rank partisanship, hyperbole and — in a show rarely seen in a Capitol Hill hearing room — sexually explicit material.
Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene, the right-wing Republican from Georgia, showed nude photos of Hunter Biden engaging in sexual acts as she questioned whether evidence found on his laptop that he solicited prostitutes amounted to human trafficking.
“Viewer discretion is advised,” she warned before launching into her presentation.
“Shall we show this in committee?” asked Representative Jamie Raskin of Maryland, the top Democrat on the panel, after Ms. Greene held up several blown-up photos and video screenshots.
Democrats have repeatedly expressed disgust at the tenor of the hearing, and the White House has condemned it.
“Despite years of obsession and countless wasted taxpayer dollars on a wild goose chase, the @HouseGOP has not offered a single piece of credible evidence of wrongdoing by the President,” White House spokesman Ian Sams wrote on Twitter. “This waste of time reflects the extraordinarily misplaced priorities of House Rs.”
Mr. Shapley accused both Attorney General Merrick B. Garland and David C. Weiss, the United States attorney in Delaware, of falsely stating that Mr. Weiss was fully authorized to prosecute the Hunter Biden – charges both men denied.
Mr. Weiss said he was willing to testify when appropriate.
Mr. Shapley described feeling stymied with the state of the investigation, and said his frustration crossed a “red line” when he heard Mr. Weiss say in a meeting that he was not actually fully authorized to press charges anywhere he wanted. the country, contradicting Mr. Garland’s public statements.
House Democrats attributed that allegation to a simple misunderstanding, but Mr. Shapley and Mr. Ziegler said it was more serious than that.
Mr Shapley also singled out Lesley Wolf, a federal prosecutor in Delaware, for criticism. He said she blocked a search warrant at President Biden’s residence because of “optics” concerns, and said she stopped questioning the elder Biden.
Ms. Wolf “told investigators that they should not ask about President Biden during witness interviews, even when his son’s business communications clearly referenced him,” Mr. Shapley testified.
The U.S. attorney’s office in Delaware declined to comment.
Both of the IRS investigators said they faced recriminations internally after filing their whistleblower disclosures.
“By walking, I believe I’m risking my career, my reputation and my case work outside of the investigation we’re here to discuss,” said Mr. Ziegler, who described himself as a Democrat married to a man.
Several Democrats on the committee praised the witnesses and said they should be treated with respect. Mr. Raskin argued that Republicans have thrown everything against the wall in an attempt to smear President Biden.
They produced no evidence that the president had committed any crimes, and promoted one potential witness claiming to have evidence of Biden family corruption — only to find out that he was accused of brokering arms deals with China and Iran.
“We can conclude that this Inspector Clouseau-style search for something that does not exist has turned our committee into a theater of the absurd, an exercise in futility and embarrassment,” Mr. Raskin said.
Mr. Raskin also introduced into the file a letter from Lev Parnas, an associate of Rudolph W. Giuliani, who served as former President Donald J. Trump’s personal attorney and was tasked with digging up dirt on the Bidens in Ukraine.
“There was never any actual evidence, just conspiracy theories spread by people who knew exactly what they were doing,” Mr. Parnas wrote to Mr. Comer. “With due respect, Chairman Comer, the story you are seeking for this investigation has been proven false multiple times, by a wide array of respected sources. There is simply no merit in investigating this matter further.”
Glenn Thrush contributed reporting.