IRS whistleblower tells Congress his investigative team was removed from Hunter Biden probe.IRS Commissioner Daniel Werfel has told Congress there would be no retaliation against whistleblowers.
WASHINGTON – A whistleblower at the Internal Revenue Service, which is investigating Hunter Biden for potential tax violations, told lawmakers Monday his entire team was removed from the probe, according to a letter from his lawyers obtained by USA TODAY.
The letter said the IRS criminal supervisory special agent “was informed that he and his entire investigative team are being removed from the ongoing and sensitive investigation of the high-profile, controversial subject about which our client sought to make whistleblower disclosures to Congress.” The Justice Department informed the whistleblower about the change.
IRS Commissioner Daniel Werfel had testified on April 27 at the House Ways and Means Committee that no one at the agency would be retaliated against.
“I can say without hesitation there will be no retaliation for anyone making an allegation or a call to a whistleblower hotline,” he said.
Lawyers for the undisclosed whistleblower disagreed.
“However, this move is clearly retaliatory and may also constitute obstruction of a congressional inquiry,” said the letter from Trian Leavitt, president of Empower Oversight, a group representing whistleblowers, and Mark Lytle, a partner at Nixon Peabody.
“Our client has a right to make disclosures to Congress,” the letter added. “Any attempt by any government official to prevent a federal employee from furnishing information to Congress is also a direct violation of longstanding appropriations restriction.”
President Joe Biden said he would leave decision-making in criminal cases to the Justice Department and he has, according to White House spokesman Ian Sams. The case is being investigated by Delaware U.S. Attorney David Weiss, who was appointed by former President Donald Trump and who hasn’t announced any charges yet.
“Since he took office and consistent with his campaign promise that he would restore the independence of the Justice Department when it comes to decision-making in criminal investigations, 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,” Sams said. “He has upheld that commitment.”
The IRS issued a statement Monday that under federal law the agency can’t comment on specific taxpayer matters, but that the agency is “deeply committed to protecting the role of whistleblowers.”
“As IRS Commissioner Danny Werfel has stated, we will not tolerate retaliation against any IRS employee making a whistleblower allegation,” the agency statement said. “When suggestions of wrongdoing are raised, we work with all appropriate parties, including the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration, to ensure the integrity of the whistleblower process is safeguarded.”
The letter, which was first reported by the New York Post, was sent to leaders of the House Ways and Means, and Judiciary, committees and the Senate Finance and Judiciary committees.
Ways and Means Chairman Jason Smith, R-Mo., asked Werfel for an explanation.
“This most recent communication concerning allegations of retaliatory actions against a whistleblower appears to contradict the sworn testimony by Commissioner Werfel who pledged that whistleblower protections would be upheld,” Smith said in a statement. “Not only does retaliation like this discourage whistleblowers, it can also rise to the level of an illegal violation of statutory protections for whistleblowers.”
Hunter Biden announced in December 2020 he was under investigation for tax issues.
“I take this matter very seriously but I am confident that a professional and objective review of these matters will demonstrate that I handled my affairs legally and appropriately, including with the benefit of professional tax advisors,” he said in a statement.
House Republicans have been investigating Hunter Biden for alleged influence peddling from lucrative business deals in Ukraine, Romania and China. But Biden’s lawyers and the White House have dismissed the accusations as baseless innuendo.