The chief IRS agent investigating whether Hunter Biden had committed tax crimes told Congress his team uncovered evidence Mr. Biden had invoked his father, who was then out of office, while lobbying a potential business partner China in 2017 to move forward with a proposed energy deal, House Republicans said.
In testimony released Thursday, Gary Shapley, an IRS agent since 2009 who has overseen the tax agency’s investigation into Hunter Biden, said his team used a search warrant to obtain a July 30, 2017 WhatsApp message. from Mr. Biden to Henry Zhao, a Chinese businessman.
In a summary of the message, provided to the House Ways and Means Committee by Mr. Shapley, Mr. Biden told Mr. Zhao that he was sitting with his father and that « we would like to understand why the commitment made has not been fulfilled. »
“Tell the director I would like this matter resolved now before it gets out of hand, and now means tonight,” Biden wrote, referring to other participants in the proposed deal. “And, Z, if I get a call or text from anyone involved in this other than you, Zhang or the president, I will make sure that between the man sitting next to me and every person he knows and my ability to forever hold a grudge that you will regret not following my lead.
Taken at face value, the message would nullify President Biden’s long-standing claims that he had nothing to do with his son’s international affairs.
Just days after Hunter Biden agreed to plead guilty to two misdemeanors for failing to file his taxes on time in 2017 and 2018, the information release underscored House Republicans’ determination to continue trying to tie up his father to his business dealings and suggest they were corrupt.
But it wasn’t immediately clear whether Hunter Biden was with his father when he sent the message or what his father – then a private citizen, having finished his term as vice president six months earlier – knew about his son’s negotiations with his potential Chinese partners.
It is also unclear whether Mr. Biden was using his father’s name without his knowledge to extort money in business. Indeed, Mr. Shapley also told Congress that his investigation had uncovered some evidence that some of the claims of the elder Mr. Biden’s involvement were mere « wishful thinking ».
He recounted an interview conducted with Hunter Biden’s business partner, Rob Walker, who told investigators it was a « projection » that former Vice President Biden would be involved in their business ventures.
« I certainly never thought the VP was part of anything we were doing, » Mr. Walker said, according to Mr. Shapley.
Hunter Biden was addicted to crack cocaine at the time, engaged in tacky and self-destructive behavior, and faced financial pressures. He had spent years pursuing ventures that raised ethical concerns about their intersection with his father’s career, especially during the eight years the elder Mr. Biden spent as vice president. And his brother Beau’s death in 2015 had contributed to his downward spiral.
Mr Shapley said investigators had received the WhatsApp message in response to a search warrant. But the message was not among those Biden’s lawyers gave to federal prosecutors in response to grand jury subpoenas during the lengthy investigation conducted by the Justice Department with help from the IRS, according to a person familiar with the matter, nor was the message one that prosecutors have pressed Biden’s lawyers to explain.
It also wasn’t among the many messages that emerged from a laptop that Mr. Biden left at a repair shop in Delaware that was later made available to reporters.
The WhatsApp message was part of a series of documents released by the Ways and Means Committee along with transcripts of interviews with Mr. Shapley and a second IRS investigator whose name has been withheld.
The two investigators, one of whom described himself as a Democrat, told Congress of a long period of conflict between them and others involved in the investigation. They said a particular Justice Department prosecutor blocked some of their efforts and gave too much information to Hunter Biden’s legal team.
Mr. Shapley suggested that IRS investigators believed there were grounds to charge Mr. Biden with more serious crimes than he finally agreed to plead guilty as part of his deal with the Justice Department. Mr. Shapley told the committee that he was « arguing, with evidence, that the DOJ has provided preferential treatment, slowed down the investigation, done nothing to avoid obvious conflicts of interest in this investigation. »
House Republicans have tried to portray the testimony as further evidence that Hunter Biden had gotten what they call a sweet deal from the Justice Department, even though his agreement to plead guilty to two misdemeanor charges seemed in line with the how other non-violent first-time offenders were typically treated. Mr. Biden paid back taxes and penalties in 2021.
In a letter to Congress this month, David C. Weiss, the Delaware-based US attorney who charged Hunter Biden with his tax issues and separate gun purchases, said he had « supreme authority » on the case. Weiss was nominated by President Donald J. Trump and was required to complete the investigation under President Biden.
A Justice Department spokesman reiterated Thursday that Mr. Weiss had « a responsibility to decide where, when and whether to bring charges as he sees fit » and needed no further approval to do so. The White House said President Biden had no involvement in the investigation and that it was conducted « free from any political interference. »
“Hunter Biden took advantage of his father’s name. He has not reported millions of dollars in revenue from foreign sources,” said Rep. Jason Smith, a Republican from Missouri and chairman of the Ways and Means committee. “Any ordinary American caught doing so would face serious consequences. Hunter Biden doesn’t. Why not? »
Rep. Richard E. Neal of Massachusetts, the top Democrat on the Ways and Means committee, accused Republicans of rushing to get piecemeal results from their work without conducting a full investigation.