Justice swerved | WORLD

Justice swerved | WORLD

MARY REICHARD, HOST: It’s Tuesday the 25th of July, 2023.

Glad to have you along for today’s edition of The World and Everything in It. Good morning, I’m Mary Reichard.

NICK EICHER, HOST: And I’m Nick Eicher.

First up: the Hunter Biden investigation re-examined.

Last week, two IRS whistleblowers testified before the House Ways and Means Committee. Their testimony reinforces concerns that the Department of Justice investigation into Hunter Biden’s taxes wasn’t on the up and up.

WORLD’s Clara York has the story.

CLARA YORK, REPORTER: The whistleblowers who testified Wednesday said their five year investigation into Hunter Biden’s taxes was unlike other cases they’ve worked on — and not in a good way.

GARY SHAPLEY: That’s correct, it was the pattern that really drove me to come forward of the deviation from normal investigative processes.

That’s special agent Gary Shapley, speaking to the House Ways and Means Committee. Sitting beside him was Joseph Ziegler, another special agent previously known as Whistleblower X. The two men have spent the past five years investigating Hunter Biden’s suspicious business activity, but they say the Justice Department interfered with their work. House Republicans asked questions about the Biden family from several angles, but the agents stuck to their transcripts of submitted evidence.

Shapley and Ziegler presented several concerns about Delaware U.S. Attorney David Weiss and assistant U.S. attorney Lesley Wolf, both of whom worked for the prosecution. Shapley said Wolf refused to secure search warrants even though she admitted they had probable cause. The first one she denied was a search of one of Joe Biden’s residences. She said “optics” were a key factor in turning down the warrant. Later that year, Ziegler wanted another search warrant to comb through Hunter’s storage unit of documents in Northern Virginia, and he said he met the standards for probable cause in this case too. But Wolf again refused. Here’s Shapley, Ziegler’s supervisor:

SHAPLEY: The circumstances being achieved and knowing the evidence was there, I don’t know how she could have not allowed us to execute that search warrant.

Instead, according to Ziegler, Wolf tipped off Hunter’s attorneys about the storage unit. The special agents still do not know what happened to the unit or the documents.

And speaking of documents, the whistleblowers said they could have used the FBI’s 10-23 form that contained unconfirmed tips about Hunter Biden’s alleged financial dealings. FBI Director Christopher Wray, after much negotiation and a threatened contempt of Congress charge, allowed the House Oversight Committee to view the document last month. IRS investigators never got that chance. Here’s Ziegler:

JOSEPH ZIEGLER: There’s things that are contained on that document that could further corroborate other information that we might be having an issue corroborating because it could be regarding a foreign official.

Timing was also an issue. The DOJ typically shelves sensitive investigations 60 days before a national election to avoid the appearance of trying to influence voters. But Shapley said his requests were “slow-walked” as early as April of 2020, more than 200 days before the presidential election.

Another problem Ziegler and Shapley presented was that the DOJ was not clear about who had jurisdiction to press charges. Here’s where it gets a little technical. Tax crimes are prosecuted in the state the defendant filed taxes in while the crime was committed. The prosecution planned to charge Hunter for crimes in tax year 2014-2015, when he filed in DC. He failed to report roughly $400,000 of income from Ukraine-based company Burisma, escaping $125,000 in taxes.

But in October 2022, Shapley was shocked to learn that DC U.S. Attorney Matthew Graves saw the recommended charges but declined Delaware Attorney Weiss’s request to file in the District of Columbia. Weiss told the investigative team, including Shapley and Ziegler, that his hands were tied. He said he requested special counsel authority but the DOJ denied it.

SHAPLEY: During that meeting the United States attorney said that he wasn’t the deciding person. he said it right out.

But earlier in June of this year, Weiss wrote to Congress that he was the deciding person – and that he had the authority to charge wherever he wanted. After Ziegler’s and Shapley’s testimony went public, Weiss changed his story again. He clarified in a letter to Congress that he had talked to his supervisors about possibly receiving the special status, but that he didn’t necessarily have it at the time.

The statute of limitations expired one month later, so now the IRS can’t prosecute those crimes.

SHAPLEY: The American public deserves to hear why he allowed 2014 and 2015 DC charges to expire. No number of carefully worded denials or evolving half-truths can overshadow this stark fact.

During Wednesday’s hearing, committee reactions fell along partisan lines. Republicans claimed the DOJ’s delays amount to an obstruction of justice. They accused President Joe Biden, Hunter, and other members of the family of exchanging political favors for money. Democrats accused Republicans of hypocrisy for not being equally diligent over past investigations into Trump family finances. They also pointed out that Hunter has repaid some of his back taxes. During his opening statement, ranking member Jamie Raskin speculated investigators like Shapley and Ziegler cannot possibly see the whole picture and so questioned the credibility of their testimony.

JAMIE RASKIN: Today we get to witness MAGA Republicans take the side of IRS agents from the deep state against a Trump appointed US attorney and a rich guy exercising his second amendment rights, but now facing federal gun charges and tax charges that they would call in any other circumstance purely technical.

But the whistleblowers steered away from political questions. Ziegler, who is married to another man, introduced himself as a Democrat who did not vote in the 2020 election so that he could remain objective. He insisted politics took the back burner in his investigation. And now, politics should take the back burner in the interests of ensuring that justice can be served.

ZIEGLER: I do not want my colleagues at the IRS, FBI and other federal law enforcement agencies to go through my frustrating journey and that of our team. I believe such a path will strengthen the public’s confidence in their institutions and their fair and equal treatment of all Americans under the law.  

Reporting for WORLD, I’m Clara York.

WORLD Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of WORLD Radio programming is the audio record.

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