An IRS whistleblower who worked on the Hunter Biden criminal tax investigation publicly revealed his identity on Wednesday, telling Congress that federal prosecutors obstructed his probe of President Joe Biden's son to shield him from felony charges.
Joe Ziegler, a special agent with the tax agency for 13 years, described himself as a "gay Democrat married to a man" and said he decided to come forward despite his personal politics because he believes "no one should be above the law regardless of your political affiliation." It was the first public appearance by Ziegler, who had previously given closed-door testimony to Congress under the alias "Whistleblower X."
Ziegler and his former IRS supervisor, longtime special agent Gary Shapley, said during the House Oversight Committee hearing on Wednesday that federal prosecutors blocked agents from asking about Joe Biden while questioning witnesses, tipped off the Biden presidential transition team about the investigators’ next steps, and delayed search warrants. Their testimony comes one month after Hunter Biden reached a plea deal with prosecutors on misdemeanor tax charges, which Ways and Means Committee chairman Jason Smith (R., Mo.) described as a "sweetheart agreement."
Prosecutors "did not appear to follow the normal investigative process, slow-walked the investigation, and put in place unnecessary approvals and road blocks from effectively and efficiently addressing the case. A lot of times, we were not able to follow the facts," Ziegler said.
He said prosecutors repeatedly tried to block agents from following standard investigative procedures. At one point, Ziegler said Assistant U.S. Attorney for Delaware Lesley Wolf warned that he would be in "hot water" if he tried to interview President Biden’s adult grandchildren, who were named as part of false tax deductions made by Hunter Biden.
Ziegler said he was initially worried about revealing his identity, adding that some critics have accused him of being a "traitor to the Democratic Party." But he said he felt a "duty" to speak out.
"I equate this to the experience and feelings I encountered when coming out [as gay]," said Ziegler. "It was, honestly, one of the hardest things I ever went through."
Shapley said the Hunter Biden probe was "very different than any other case in my 14 years in the IRS. At every stage decisions were made that benefited the subject of this investigation."
"There should not be a two-track justice system depending on who you are and who you’re connected to," said Shapley. "In this case, there was, based on my experience."
The former IRS agents said the case against Biden should have automatically carried a felony charge under Department of Justice rules. They also noted that the four prosecutors assigned to the case recommended felony charges last August, but Biden ultimately only faced misdemeanor charges.
"In August of 2022, the assigned prosecutors, all four attorneys, agreed to recommend felony and misdemeanor charges for the 2017, ‘18, and ‘19 tax years," said Ziegler. "That didn’t happen here and I am not sure why."
He said the DOJ tax division policy states that cases "involving individuals who fail to file tax returns or pay a tax, but also commit acts of evasion and obstruction, should also be charged as felonies to avoid inequitable treatment."
Democrats avoided direct attacks on the whistleblowers’ credibility but accused Republicans of "hypocrisy" for holding the hearing.
"There seems to be a new level of hypocrisy here," said Rep. Stephen Lynch (D., Mass.), claiming that Republicans had "no interest" in investigating President Donald Trump’s public criticism of the DOJ during the prior administration.
Smith, the Republican Ways and Means Committee chairman, slammed Hunter Biden’s legal team for mounting a "vicious smear campaign to discredit these whistleblowers and discourage others from coming forward."