The House Ways and Means Committee huddled behind closed doors on Tuesday in a daylong session that ended with it publicly releasing additional documents as part of its probe into the investigation of Hunter Biden’s taxes.
Two IRS agents who have provided testimony to the panel sat down with lawmakers in a rare, shuttered hearing because they were set to discuss private taxpayer information. Ways and Means then voted 40-0, to make public a transcript of that hearing and documents provided by the agents.
The efforts by GOP members of the tax-writing committee to air out Hunter Biden’s business dealings, some of which have run afoul of the IRS, are part of leadership’s efforts to lay the groundwork for possible impeachment of President Joe Biden.
Republicans said the private testimony demonstrates Biden knew of his son’s financial activities and use of the family name to further his interests, while Democrats said the whistleblower testimony hadn’t been verified and fresh documents lacked substantial new details.
Ways and Means Chairman Jason Smith, R-Mo., said in opening remarks provided by his office that he held the hearing privately and under section 6103 of the tax code — which provides for protections of taxpayer information along with conditions for providing data to congressional tax committees — so lawmakers could ask any questions of the two witnesses. He said they’re credible witnesses who risked their careers to bring information to Ways and Means.
Ranking member Richard E. Neal, D-Mass., said in an opening statement provided by his office that House Republicans’ investigation is “nakedly partisan” and hasn’t produced evidence of wrongdoing by Biden or his administration.
While Democrats oppose the Ways and Means investigation, they shifted to support a public process on Tuesday after Hunter Biden expressed a willingness to testify publicly before another House panel.
Neal told reporters after the meeting that Democrats all voted alongside Republicans to make documents from the day’s session public because he agreed with Hunter Biden’s position of being willing to speak publicly and because he hoped to block the GOP from selectively leaking information.
“We think it’s so weak, people should see it,” he said of the day’s business.
Neal also pressed to keep the proceedings public at the start of Tuesday’s session and allow the public and press to remain in the room, but Republicans voted against his effort. The closed hearing then spanned over five hours, followed by a markup and the vote to release documents.
Ways and Means released the documents and testimony from both IRS employees, Gary Shapley and Joseph Ziegler, on Tuesday evening. A full hearing transcript was expected to be released later on.
Documents made public Tuesday include two years of Ziegler’s performance reviews and emails about both Ziegler and Shapley’s work and employment, as well as documents showing emails related to the Bidens.
Shapley and Ziegler exited the meeting after the hearing portion ended, and each urged congressional committees to continue pursuing investigations in comments to reporters.