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Breaking News Alert This Week In Lawfare Land: 'Deadly Force'

Exclusive: Grassley Demands DOJ, IRS Come Clean About Targeting Hunter Biden Whistleblowers 

A review of the underlying court filing submitted by Special Counsel David Weiss in the federal tax evasion case pending against the president’s son supports Grassley’s charges.

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A recent court filing in the criminal case against Hunter Biden suggests the Justice Department and IRS seek “to dirty up the very whistleblowers” who exposed political favoritism and misconduct in the Hunter Biden investigation, Sen. Chuck Grassley charged in a letter to the IRS commissioner obtained exclusively by The Federalist. A review of the underlying court filing submitted by Special Counsel David Weiss in the federal tax evasion case pending against the president’s son supports Grassley’s charges — highlighting again that Attorney General Merrick Garland never should have named Weiss as special counsel.

On Thursday, Grassley dispatched a letter to the IRS commissioner expressing concern over the agency’s retaliation against IRS whistleblowers Gary Shapley and Joseph Ziegler. As the Iowa Republican’s letter detailed, beginning in 2020, Shapley and Ziegler “made legally protected whistleblower disclosures to IRS officials concerning government misconduct relating to the Hunter Biden investigation.” Following further whistleblower disclosures to the House Ways and Means Committee, and that committee’s vote to release documents and testimony related to its investigation of the whistleblowers’ charges, the country learned the specifics of those charges.

Among other things, the whistleblowers revealed to the House Ways and Means Committee that the investigation into Hunter Biden had been thoroughly thwarted: Search warrant and subpoena requests were improperly denied, limitations were placed on investigators concerning who could be questioned and about what, and then someone tipped off the Biden transition team, preventing agents from successfully questioning nearly a dozen witnesses.

But the obfuscation went much higher. The whistleblowers revealed that in early August 2022, they had recommended in a 99-page memorandum that felony and misdemeanor charges be brought against Hunter Biden. However, prosecutors allowed the statute of limitations to run on the most serious felony counts — because the DOJ refused to grant U.S. Attorney Weiss the authority to charge Hunter Biden in D.C. or California, and the Biden-appointed U.S. attorneys in those districts declined to bring charges.

Weiss’s office instead offered Hunter Biden a sweetheart misdemeanor plea agreement. After that deal collapsed following questioning by a federal judge on the propriety of the agreement, Garland, in August 2023, named Weiss special counsel. Weiss finally had the authority needed to pursue charges in other federal districts, which he did, charging Hunter Biden in a nine-count indictment with multiple tax offenses, including tax evasion, in the Central District of California on Dec. 7, 2023. The felony tax charges in California were in addition to felony gun charges Weiss brought against the president’s son in his home district of Delaware.

Hunter Biden’s high-priced attorneys quickly executed a multi-prong offensive to repel the accumulating charges. As Grassley’s Thursday letter detailed:

Hunter Biden’s attorneys went into overdrive to try and discredit these brave whistleblowers. A June 27, 2023, New York Times article reported that Hunter Biden’s lawyers asserted to the Justice Department that Shapley broke federal laws by making legally protected whistleblower disclosures to Congress concerning the mishandling of the investigation into their client. Days after that article, on June 30, 2023, Hunter Biden’s attorney sent a letter to House Ways and Means Chairman Jason Smith amazingly alleging that Shapley and Zeigler’s legally protected whistleblower disclosures before Congress were unlawful.

While it is not surprising that Hunter Biden’s well-heeled attorneys would seek to represent their client zealously, even if it meant attacking the whistleblowers, as Grassley’s letter highlights, a recent filing in the California tax case suggests Weiss and the IRS are cooperating in those efforts. The DOJ and FBI may even be investigating Shapley and Ziegler for “making legally protected disclosures,” the senator worried.

Of concern was Weiss’s March 11, 2024, response to Hunter Biden’s motion to dismiss the tax charges based on supposedly “outrageous government conduct.” In his motion, Hunter argued that Shapley and Ziegler willfully disclosed his confidential tax information and that illegal or improper conduct should bar the special counsel from pursuing the tax charges. 

Weiss’s response stressed that Hunter had failed to present any evidence indicating the alleged “outrageous government conduct” had anything to do with tax charges the special counsel’s office brought. In fact, the indictment came more than a year after Shapley and Ziegler were removed from the Hunter Biden investigation, the special counsel noted. 

Weiss could have ended there but instead claimed that Hunter’s repeated assertions “that the IRS took no action to address Shapley and Ziegler’s decision to make public statements” “is simply not true.” Weiss’s response memorandum then cited a declaration he filed under seal that prosecutors maintain establishes “the IRS has taken responsible steps to address Shapley and Ziegler’s conduct.” 

Filed simultaneously with the special counsel’s response was an application to seal the declaration and two other exhibits. According to Weiss, the three exhibits he sought to seal “relate[] to a potential ongoing investigation(s).” Those potential investigations are unrelated to Hunter Biden, Weiss stressed.

The most logical inference from Weiss’s description of the exhibits is that Shapley and Ziegler are the subjects of one or more investigations. Here, Grassley skewered the special counsel, writing in his Thursday letter: “On the one hand, the Justice Department has argued that a ‘potential ongoing investigation’ is so sensitive that it cannot be publicly revealed and yet, on the other hand, it has precisely done that in a public filing.”

“If this ‘potential ongoing investigation’ relates to Shapley and Ziegler, its reference in public and sealed court documents can only be viewed as a Justice Department and IRS tactic to dirty up the very whistleblowers that exposed Justice Department and IRS misconduct,” the senator from Iowa continued. Grassley then stressed the impropriety of Weiss’s involvement in any such investigation: “U.S. Attorney Weiss’s conduct would be the definition of a conflict of interest since he’d be investigating and potentially prosecuting whistleblowers that disclosed misconduct by him.”

Grassley, who has been a stalwart protector of whistleblowers, asked the IRS to confirm whether Shapley and Ziegler were the subject of an ongoing investigation and, if so, when and why the IRS chief counsel shared that information with the Justice Department, given the actual conflicts of interest among the whistleblowers, Weiss, and the DOJ more broadly.

“We appreciate Congress taking steps to ensure DOJ is transparent about whether the government is engaged in a retaliatory investigation of the IRS whistleblowers,” Tristan Leavitt, the president of Empower Oversight, which represents the whistleblowers, told The Federalist when asked about Grassley’s letter.

Leavitt, however, stressed that the conflict of interest is not limited to the criminal case against Hunter Biden. Referencing a letter Empower Oversight sent Garland last week, Leavitt told The Federalist that the DOJ’s conflicts of interest extend to “Hunter Biden’s baseless lawsuit accusing the IRS whistleblowers of crimes.” In defending Hunter Biden’s separate civil suit against the IRS, which seeks to hold the federal agency liable for Shapley and Ziegler’s disclosures, the DOJ has yet to argue the IRS agents’ statements were protected whistleblower disclosures.

Grassley’s demand for answers from the IRS about the DOJ’s conflict of interest in the criminal case against Hunter Biden may provide a necessary spotlight on the Biden administration’s animus toward the whistleblowers, which extends to Hunter Biden’s civil case against the government. As Shapley and Ziegler’s attorney told The Federalist, “DOJ’s interests align too closely with Hunter Biden’s for these actors to be impartial.” And that is precisely why naming Weiss as special counsel made no sense.

This article has been updated since publication.


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