A pair of IRS whistleblowers doubled down on their previous claims that Justice Department officials stymied their investigation into Hunter Biden's tax affairs during congressional testimony on Wednesday -- allegations disputed by both the Justice Department and the Trump-appointed U.S. Attorney who led the government's case.
Gary Shapley, a 14-year IRS veteran, and Joseph Ziegler, a veteran IRS investigator who had previously been unidentified, sparred with congressional Democrats who presented evidence that appeared to undermine their claims, including U.S. Attorney David Weiss' own assurance that he had "ultimate authority" to bring charges against Hunter Biden.
"It was [Weiss'] decision," said Rep. Jamie Raskin, the ranking Democrat. "Isn't that right, Mr. Shapley?"
"No," Shapley said. "That's not supported by the facts."
"Really, well which facts is that not supported by?" Raskin said.
"His own admissions … that I documented contemporaneously," Shapley said.
"But he contradicts what you're saying," Raskin said. "He doesn't agree with what you're saying."
Ziegler, who introduced himself as a Democrat and a gay man, echoed the sentiments conveyed by Shapley and reiterated that he believed that prosecutors "did not appear to follow the normal investigative process."
"It appeared to me, based on what I experienced, that the U.S. Attorney in Delaware in our investigation was constantly hamstrung, limited and marginalized by DOJ officials," Ziegler said in his opening statement. "I still think that a special counsel is necessary for this investigation."
Both whistleblowers reported facing backlash for their decision to come forward, and Shapley said he had “been attacked as incompetent and falsely accused of being a liar, a leaker, or both.” Ziegler reported that his detractors have “said that I am a traitor to the Democratic Party and that I'm causing more division in our society.”
In opening statements of their own, Republicans lauded the whistleblowers as "brave and credible" and "courageous" for their decision to come forward, and called Democrats' efforts to discredit the whistleblowers' testimony as a "vicious smear campaign."
Democrats painted a different picture, defending the investigation into Hunter Biden and accusing Chairman James Comer of turning the panel into "a theater of the absurd and an exercise in futility and embarrassment."
In June, the younger Biden struck a deal with Weiss' office to plead guilty to a pair of tax-related misdemeanors and enter into a diversion program to avoid prosecution on a felony gun charge. He will likely avoid jail time if a judge signs off on the arrangement next week in Delaware.
Republicans decried it as a "sweetheart deal," and have pointed to Shapley's allegations as evidence of a justice system that benefitted the president's son.
But Weiss himself has directly disputed some of Shapley's most troubling claims, notably that Justice Department leaders rebuffed Weiss' request for special counsel status.
"To clarify an apparent misperception and to avoid future confusion, I wish to make one point clear: in this case, I have not requested Special Counsel designation," Weiss wrote earlier this month in a letter to Sen. Lindsey Graham, the top Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee.
As taxpayers evaluate the merit of Shapley's claims, Democrats have sought to highlight Shapley's decision to hire Empower Oversight, a legal and public relations team comprised of former staffers from the office of Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa – one of the Senate's fiercest Biden family critics.