IRS whistleblower: DOJ "slow-walked" tax probe said to involve Hunter Biden
A whistleblower from inside the Internal Revenue Service has spoken publicly for the first time about a highly sensitive political probe he has supervised, which CBS News has determined is the ongoing probe into the finances of President Biden's son Hunter Biden.
He said he became so concerned about prosecutors' handling of "a high profile, controversial" investigation that he felt duty-bound to sound alarms.
"There were multiple steps that were slow-walked — were just completely not done — at the direction of the Department of Justice," said Gary Shapley, a 14-year veteran of the agency, who spoke exclusively to CBS News chief investigative correspondent Jim Axelrod on Tuesday. "When I took control of this particular investigation, I immediately saw deviations from the normal process. It was way outside the norm of what I've experienced in the past."
EXCLUSIVE: In his first interview, CBS News sat down with the IRS agent who is blowing the whistle on what he says was preferential treatment during a federal investigation that CBS has learned is tied to the president’s son, Hunter Biden, for possible tax crimes. pic.twitter.com/CUVjVVNsh2
— CBS Evening News (@CBSEveningNews) May 24, 2023
The accusations come more than three years into an investigation into Hunter Biden that's being conducted in Delaware by a U.S. Attorney appointed by then-President Trump and held over by President Biden to avoid any appearance of political bias. The investigation focuses on potential crimes related to outstanding tax debts connected to income earned from a controversial stint as a board member for the Ukrainian energy company Burisma while his father was vice president, and a potential false statement related to a gun purchase. Last year CBS News reported that the past-due taxes were paid off with a loan from high-powered Hollywood attorney Kevin Morris, who provided Hunter Biden with financial backing.
Six months ago, a leak from the FBI revealed that agents there believed they had provided prosecutors with enough evidence to support criminal tax charges. No such charges have been brought as of this publication.
Shapley told CBS News he became increasingly concerned about measures being taken that he said appeared to shield the target of the investigation — which CBS News independently confirmed is Hunter Biden.
"Each and every time, it seemed to always benefit the subject," Shapley said. "It just got to that point where that switch was turned on. And I just couldn't silence my conscience anymore."
Shapley is a supervisory special agent with the IRS's criminal investigations department, currently overseeing a team of 12 agents who specialize in international tax and financial crimes. Previously, he was an officer with the National Security Agency's Office of the Inspector General. He was assigned to a "sensitive" investigation in January 2020, and within months, he said he grew concerned about how the Justice Department was handling the investigation. CBS News has learned that was the Hunter Biden probe. Shapley says he began documenting his concerns around June 2020.
"For a couple years, we'd been noticing these deviations in the investigative process. And I just couldn't, you know, fathom that DOJ might be acting unethically on this," he said.
The existence of a whistleblower inside the Hunter Biden probe became known last month after one of Shapley's attorneys, Mark Lytle, wrote to Congress seeking legal protections for his client, who was maintaining his anonymity at the time. Without those protections, Shapley said he can't share anything about a taxpayer investigation—including the identity of the subject— without breaking tax secrecy laws.
Shapley is scheduled to appear before members of the House Ways and Means Committee on Friday, but his testimony will not be open to the public.
CBS News obtained a letter Shapley's attorneys sent last week to the Office of the Special Counsel, a federal agency dedicated to assisting government whistleblowers. The letter alleges "irregularities" in the Department of Justice's handling of the case,and cites a "charged meeting" Shapley's team had with Justice Department prosecutors last October. According to the letter, following that meeting, Shapley's team was effectively excluded from the investigation. Shapley would not say if he made prosecutors aware of his concerns but did acknowledge the incident prompted him to blow the whistle.
"It was my red-line meeting," Shapley said. "It just got to that point where that switch was turned on, and I just couldn't silence my conscience anymore."
In his April letter to Congress, Lytle said Shapley previously made whistleblower disclosures to the IRS, the Treasury inspector general for Tax Administration, and the Justice Department's inspector general. He also wrote his client would contradict sworn testimony "by a senior political appointee." In his interview with CBS News, Shapley declined to identify the sworn testimony or name the political appointee.
Whistleblowers in Washington
In recent months, House Republicans have brought forward federal officials who they said were blowing the whistle on perceived political interference from within the Department of Justice on other matters. The effort to highlight these concerns is the result of the recently created subcommittee on the "weaponization" of government by the House Judiciary Committee. Democrats have questioned the legitimacy of those claims, and Ranking Member Stacey Plaskett, a Democrat representing the U.S. Virgin Islands, has referred to the subcommittee as "a political stunt."
Shapley told CBS News he has taken no money from anyone in deciding to step forward. His legal effort is being assisted by a nonprofit whistleblower advocacy group with staff who have previously worked with Republicans in Congress, and he is a registered Republican. But he said he has never been politically active. He says he hasn't made any political donations or been involved in political campaigns.
"I'm not involved with any of that stuff," he said. "It's not what I want to do. I'm just simply not a political person. This is a job, and my oath of office is to treat everybody fairly that we investigate."
Shapley may already be paying a price for his decision to speak out. Last week, his attorneys informed Congress that he and his staff had been removed from the investigation "at the request of the Department of Justice." He claims he's faced retaliation from IRS leadership. In addition, Hunter Biden's legal team has already accused him of breaking the law.
The White House declined to comment on the matter, but shared a statement it has previously released saying President Biden "has made clear that this matter would be handled independently by the Justice Department, under the leadership of a U.S. Attorney appointed by former President Trump, free from any political interference by the White House. He has upheld that commitment."
In a Senate hearing in March, Attorney General Merrick Garland vowed not to interfere with the work of David Weiss, the U.S. Attorney in Delaware leading the Hunter Biden investigation.
"I promise to ensure that he's able to carry out his investigation and that he be able to run it," Garland said on March 1.
Shapley would not say whether he was being investigated by the Justice Department in connection with the steps he's taken.
"If I were being investigated, it would be in retaliation for making a whistleblower complaint," he said.
Spokespersons for both the Justice Department and the U.S Attorney's Office in Delaware declined to comment.
The IRS also declined comment, saying, "Under federal law, the IRS can't comment on specific taxpayer matters." The agency's statement added that it remains "deeply committed to protecting the role of whistleblowers, and there are robust processes and procedures in place to protect them."
Shapley said he finds this new role — as a whistleblower — to be well outside his comfort zone, and is not something he wants to do. But he said he felt an obligation to come forward and report what he views as a violation of his oath of office.
"When I saw the egregiousness of some of these things, it no longer became a choice for me," he said. "It's not something that I want to do. It's something I feel like I have to do."
He said his ultimate motivation is what drove him to pursue the work of criminal tax investigations in the first place.
"When taxpayers are treated differently — and subjects of investigations are treated differently," he said, "I don't see how it doesn't affect the fairness of the system."
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