Skip to content

Ways and Means votes to release more Hunter Biden documents

Documents set stage for House Oversight panel to hold hearing on impeachment inquiry

Chairman Jason Smith, R-Mo., makes a statement prior to a closed-door Ways and Means Committee meeting to review additional evidence submitted by IRS whistleblowers regarding allegations of misdeeds by President Joe Biden and his family in the Longworth House Office Building on Wednesday.
Chairman Jason Smith, R-Mo., makes a statement prior to a closed-door Ways and Means Committee meeting to review additional evidence submitted by IRS whistleblowers regarding allegations of misdeeds by President Joe Biden and his family in the Longworth House Office Building on Wednesday. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

After meeting for several hours behind closed doors, the Ways and Means Committee voted along party lines to release additional documents related to the investigation into Hunter Biden’s taxes.

The panel’s 24-17 vote made public almost 700 pages of IRS documents, emails, letters and other materials turned over by two IRS employees who previously testified before the committee as witnesses, Criminal Supervisory Special Agent Gary Shapley and Agent Joseph Ziegler.

The vote came after the committee spent about two and a half hours privately debating the release of the documents because they contain taxpayer data protected under section 6103 of the tax code, which also allows the tax committees to procure documents from the IRS.

The documents’ release comes nearly a week after Hunter Biden — who has faced misdemeanor charges for failing to pay taxes and remains under investigation — filed a civil lawsuit against the IRS, alleging that Shapley and Ziegler unlawfully disclosed private tax information.

Shapley and Ziegler provided whistleblower testimony to the committee on the Biden administration’s handling of the federal investigation into the president’s son and have been its primary witnesses in that probe.

In June, Ways and Means made the nearly 400-page transcript of the interviews with the two employees publicly available on a 25-18 vote. That vote also happened at the end of a closed committee meeting because the interviews dealt with protected taxpayer information.

Wednesday’s meeting also came in time to aid Republicans’ broader push to investigate the president. The House Oversight Committee is scheduled to hold a hearing on the basis for an impeachment inquiry into President Joe Biden on Thursday, and couldn’t take up the new documents without Ways and Means voting to release them.

The House GOP’s impeachment effort is focused on Hunter Biden’s business dealings. Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., announced the impeachment inquiry into the president amid demands from the right wing of his conference for the probe. The right flank of the GOP has also pressured the speaker with threats to make a motion to boot him from the job and frustrating his government funding proposals.

No definitive evidence has been made public that Biden acted at the direction of his son’s business partners. In Ways and Means’ investigation, Republicans have argued that Hunter Biden received preferential treatment in his tax case and that IRS employees faced retaliation for coming forward. Democrats dispute those claims and have said the committee is overstepping its bounds.

Ways and Means Chairman Jason Smith, R-Mo., said in a news conference following the meeting that the new documents show that Hunter Biden was peddling his father’s influence, while reinforcing Shapley and Ziegler’s integrity.

He also said the investigation would continue and that panel Republicans have a long list of potential witnesses they hope to question. “We’re following the facts, and we’re going to see where the facts lead us,” Smith said.

During the lengthy closed-door session, Democrats said the meeting was a distraction from a looming government shutdown and GOP chaos, adding that additional witnesses had undercut the whistleblowers’ allegations of retaliation, according to ranking member Richard E. Neal’s prepared remarks.

Neal, D-Mass., also said the documents that the panel took up were “cherry-picked” and redacted by the whistleblowers themselves, Shapley and Ziegler.

“It’s an incomplete picture because the majority hasn’t dared to request documents directly from agencies,” Neal said, according to the remarks. “Fully knowing that they have no legislative purpose. Instead, they are relying on a piecemeal transfer that I question is even legal.”’

Neal referenced his own yearslong legal battle to get access to former President Donald Trump’s tax returns, which Ways and Means voted along party lines to release late last year.

Neal told reporters after the meeting that he was “flabbergasted” that panel Republicans hadn’t used section 6103 of the tax code to request documents directly from the Treasury Department; that part of the law protects taxpayer data but also allows chairs of the congressional tax committees to obtain it.

Rep. Lloyd Doggett, D-Texas, added that it was the IRS whistleblowers themselves who redacted the documents and chose what to conceal. “We don’t know what was in that,” he said.

The Ways and Means GOP staff report on the materials released Wednesday is here.

Recent Stories

Spared angry protests at Morehouse, Biden pushes post-war Gaza plan

Capitol Lens | Duck dodgers

Election year politics roil the EV transition

Thompson’s animal welfare, whole milk priorities in farm bill

Schumer plans vote on border security bill that GOP blocked

Republicans look to reverse rule based on gun law they backed