Democrats on the House Ways and Means Committee are silent about whether anyone shared the allegations of IRS whistleblowers with either the White House or the Justice Department in advance of a plea deal Hunter Biden struck with federal prosecutors.
Among allegations by two IRS agents in sworn testimony was that Justice Department officials “tipped off” the legal team of President Joe Biden’s son before investigators could execute search warrants.
What’s less clear is whether the content of the two whistleblowers’ information affected the timing of the plea agreement announced June 20 between the younger Biden and the Justice Department.
If a leak from the Ways and Means Committee occurred, “there is a serious potential criminal element added to this already growing web of influence peddling,” Mike Howell, director of The Heritage Foundation’s Oversight Project, said. (The Daily Signal is Heritage’s multimedia news organization.)
Gary Shapley, a supervisory agent who is a 14-year veteran of the IRS, testified May 26 to investigators for the Ways and Means Committee.
Less than a week later, on June 1, a second and anonymous IRS agent who was part of the agency’s investigation of the younger Biden also testified under oath.
The office of U.S. Attorney for Delaware David Weiss on June 20 announced a plea deal with Hunter Biden, some five years after the Internal Revenue Service began looking into Biden’s tax returns in the wake of his business dealings in China, Ukraine, Romania, and elsewhere.
Two days later, the Ways and Means Committee had voted along party lines to release the transcripts of the two IRS agents’ testimonies. Democrats voted to keep the transcripts secret.
No Democrat on the committee responded to The Daily Signal’s questions about whether the lawmaker or staff shared the content of the whistleblower testimony.
The Daily Signal asked spokespersons for the committee’s 18 Democrats whether the lawmaker or staff members shared contents of the whistleblowers’ testimonies with the White House or the Justice Department, either before the authorized release of the transcripts or before the department reached a deal with the younger Biden.
In the case of Rep. Richard Neal, D-Mass., the committee’s ranking member, The Daily Signal sought answers multiple times by phone and email Friday and Monday. Some members were reached Friday, and all members were contacted Monday.
None of the spokespersons for the committee Democrats responded.
The information from the IRS whistleblowers’ testimonies wasn’t authorized for public disclosure until last week, when the committee voted to release the transcripts.
According to the whistleblowers, IRS officials had recommended to Justice Department prosecutors that Hunter Biden be criminally charged with attempting to evade taxes, committing fraud, making false statements, willfully failing to file returns, and failing to provide information on more than $8.3 million in income.
If someone provided such contents in advance to the White House or Justice Department, it could have swayed the timing of the plea agreement with Biden.
Perhaps more significantly, if someone shared or leaked the whistleblowers’ testimonies to committee investigators before the committee authorized release of the transcripts, it could be a violation of federal law regarding the confidentiality of and disclosure of income tax returns and the information on such returns, Howell told The Daily Signal.
“There are very specific legal protections for the disclosure and handling of confidential taxpayer information,” Howell said. “These provisions were outlined clearly in the transcribed interviews.”
Howell, a lawyer with previous stints as staff counsel for House and Senate committees as well as for the Department of Homeland Security, referred to specific provisions of the law: 26 U.S. Code § 6103 and 26 U.S.C. Section 7213.
Section 6013 states that “no officer or employee of the United States, … shall disclose any return or return information obtained by him in any manner in connection with his service as such an officer or an employee or otherwise or under the provisions of this section.”
Section 7213 makes it unlawful to make any disclosure of tax returns or return information not authorized by Section 6103.
“Violations are a felony punishable by up to $5,000 or five years in prison, as well as the cost of the prosecution,” Howell said.
“So my question is: Was anything from the transcribed interviews made known to anyone outside the Ways and Means Committee prior to the official release of the transcripts, which all Democrats voted to cover up?” he asked. “If so, there is a serious potential criminal element added to this already growing web of influence peddling.”
In a 2014 civil case, the IRS agreed to pay $50,000 to the National Organization for Marriage, a group advocating traditional marriage, after someone in the tax-collecting agency leaked the organization’s tax return to an LGBT advocacy group, the Human Rights Campaign. At the time, an IRS spokesperson referred to privacy provisions in Section 6103 of the tax code.
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