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House panel releases transcripts from Hunter Biden investigation

Ways and Means chairman says committee has not sought Biden's tax returns

Hunter Biden attends the Kennedy Center Honorees reception in the East Room of the White House on Sunday, Dec. 4, 2022.
Hunter Biden attends the Kennedy Center Honorees reception in the East Room of the White House on Sunday, Dec. 4, 2022. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

The Ways and Means Committee voted along party lines to release whistleblower testimony on the Biden administration’s handling of a federal investigation into the president’s son Hunter Biden.

The panel made public transcripts totaling almost 400 pages from interviews with two IRS employees, including Criminal Supervisory Special Agent Gary Shapley, who spoke publicly to CBS last month.

The vote comes after Shapley contacted Ways and Means alleging mishandling of the Hunter Biden case, and as the GOP has embarked on multiple investigations into the Biden family and members of the administration after taking the House majority this year.

“This meeting is about transparency and bringing to light facts about alleged government misconduct,” Chairman Jason Smith, R-Mo., said before it got underway.

He said afterwards that Ways and Means has been quietly pursuing aggressive oversight, which has happened largely behind the scenes due to restrictions protecting taxpayer information.

Ways and Means’ 25-18 vote to submit materials to the House, which allowed them to become public, followed about three hours of closed-door debate. The committee also approved the release of a transcript of the private session, which was held because the documents included taxpayer information protected under section 6103 of the tax code.

While Shapley reached out to Ways and Means, the committee requested testimony from a second witness. Smith said Republicans heard that the second witness wanted them to reach out, so they contacted that individual through their legal counsel.

Shapley first contacted the House Ways and Means and Senate Finance panels in April, and in May testimony, told the committee that the Delaware U.S. attorney’s office, Justice Department tax division and broader DOJ had provided preferential treatment and failed to check conflicts of interest in the investigation of Hunter Biden. He also alleged that the DOJ slow-walked the probe.

The Finance Committee’s Democratic majority had no update related to the April letter as of Wednesday evening.

Court filings on Tuesday revealed that Hunter Biden agreed to plead guilty to two charges of misdemeanor tax evasion related to allegations he avoided more than $100,000 in federal income tax in both 2017 and 2018. He has agreed to pay back taxes, according to a statement from his attorney.

Smith said after the Ways and Means vote that the testimony shows the IRS recommended additional charges against Hunter Biden and that he received “a slap on the wrist for charges that have put other Americans behind bars.”

Committee Republicans are also focused on information they say shows the Justice Department overstepping in the investigation and retaliation against an IRS whistleblower. Shapley alleges in his testimony that he and his team had faced retaliation since October 2022, including that he was passed over for a promotion.

In addition to the transcripts of interviews with Shapley on May 26 and an IRS criminal investigator whose name is redacted on June 1, the committee released a June 19 letter updating the criminal investigator’s testimony from his lawyer, supplemental information from Shapley dated June 12 and IRS correspondence including with Commissioner Danny Werfel related to the whistleblower and allegations of retaliation.

‘Naked partisanship’

The transcripts’ release won’t mark the end of Ways and Means’ investigation. Smith said that there are additional people with which the committee needs to speak.

Democrats said 50 additional government employees are named in the transcripts but haven’t been interviewed.

The panel has not requested any of Hunter Biden’s tax returns, according to Smith.

Democrats didn’t resist entering the private session on Thursday, but they all voted against making information public at its close.

“We do not object to the documents being reviewed publicly. We object to the process,” the panel’s top Democrat, Richard E. Neal of Massachusetts, said after the meeting. “Clearly the case is not ready. So many witnesses were never even contacted. They never discerned a clear legislative purpose in the discussion.”

Neal said that during the closed-door meeting, Democrats also made the case that this situation is unique from their effort to obtain and publicly release former President Donald Trump’s tax returns, which ended in a party-line vote late last year.

Neal drew that distinction during opening remarks that he made in the closed session, according to a transcript of prepared comments released by his staff, emphasizing their successful yearslong court battle and legislative purpose, after Democrats made the case they needed Trump’s filings to review the IRS system for auditing presidents’ tax returns.

In those comments, Neal said Republicans were acting out of “naked partisanship” to expose a private citizen’s tax records. He said that the DOJ and Trump-appointed U.S. attorney in Delaware are handling the case while retaliation claims have been referred to inspectors general at the DOJ and IRS who should all be allowed to complete their work.

Rep. Lloyd Doggett, D-Texas, said the investigation hasn’t turned up notable information. “There’s really much smoke here and not much fire,” he said.

Michael Macagnone contributed to this report.

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