The House Committee on Oversight and Accountability on Monday released a transcript from a former FBI agent that Republicans say validates a key claim from an IRS whistleblower about management of the tax crimes investigation into Hunter Biden, the president’s son.
But Democrats have argued that the interview actually discredits GOP claims of improper political influence in the investigation.
The closed-door interview with the now-retired FBI special supervisory agent, who oversaw the investigation into Hunter Biden conducted in conjunction with the IRS, was conducted in July and has prompted sparring between the two parties in the weeks since. The agent’s name is redacted in the transcript.
Republican interest in the FBI agent’s testimony centers on how they say it substantiates a piece of testimony from one of the IRS whistleblowers who raised alarm about how the tax crimes investigation into Hunter Biden was conducted, specifically about how a planned attempt to interview Hunter Biden at his home in California on Dec. 8, 2020, unfolded.
That whistleblower, IRS Supervisory Agent Gary Shapley, and the FBI agent said their plan was to show up at Hunter Biden’s home for a possible interview and “hail mary” consent search. They planned to notify the local Secret Service office in Los Angeles at 8 a.m. the day of their planned attempt, since Hunter Biden was a Secret Service protectee.
“The initial plan was to have the local field office of the Secret Service be notified the morning of to diminish opportunities for anybody else to be notified,” the FBI agent said in the interview.
But the FBI agent said he was notified the evening before, on Dec. 7, 2020, that FBI headquarters had contacted the Secret Service headquarters — which upset both the FBI agent and the Shapley from the IRS.
“I felt it was people that did not need to know about our intent,” the FBI agent said. “I believe that the Secret Service had to be notified for our safety, for lack of confusion, for deconfliction, which we would do in so many other cases, but I didn’t understand why the initial notification.”
Shapley had told the House Ways and Means Committee in May that the “transition team” was also notified about the plan. The FBI agent said he did not recall that until he had heard it from Shapley, but remembered “that’s why I was upset that evening, that somebody beyond Secret Service was notified.” The agent could not provide any other information about who in the transition team was notified.
On the day of Dec. 8, the plan changed, the agent said. He was told his information would be given to the Secret Service, but that he was to stay away from Hunter Biden’s home while he awaited further contact, which he said he had never been instructed to do before.
They were never able to interview Hunter Biden.
During Democratic questioning, however, the FBI agent said he had never interviewed a Secret Service protectee as part of a criminal matter, and acknowledged that FBI policy means that politically sensitive investigations require “greater approvals” from up the chain of command.
The agent also told the committee he couldn’t say whether the change in plans was driven by political considerations, but understood that FBI headquarters and Secret Service headquarters could want to “foster an ongoing good working relationship, so that one was not blindsided by the other.”
The agent also indicated that it was unlikely that Hunter Biden would have agreed to speak to him even if he had been allowed to try to knock on his door.
“In my experience, an attorney would be less likely to agree to succumb to an interview,” the FBI agent said.
Republicans are using the interview to boost their claims of mismanagement of the investigation into Hunter Biden, which Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) has said could evolve into an impeachment inquiry into President Biden.
“IRS whistleblower Gary Shapley’s testimony that Secret Service headquarters and the Biden transition team were tipped off is confirmed by a former FBI agent,” House Oversight Committee Chairman James Comer (R-Ky.) said in a statement on Monday alongside the transcript’s release.
“Tipping off the transition team and not being able to interview Hunter Biden as planned are just a couple of examples that reveal the Justice Department’s misconduct in the Biden criminal investigation that occurred under U.S. Attorney Weiss’ watch,” Comer added.
Weiss was appointed as a special counsel in the ongoing investigation of Hunter Biden last week, a move that Republicans have criticized given their disapproval with how he handled previous aspects of the case as outlined by the IRS whistleblowers.
But Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), the top Democrat on the Oversight committee, wrote in a letter last month that the FBI agent transcript “discredited House Republicans’ claim of political interference in the prosecution of President Biden’s son” and “debunked the idea that political influence played any part in the investigation.”
Raskin had for weeks called on Comer to publicly release the FBI agent transcript. Republicans said that the transcript was going through a normal review process and that they planned to eventually release it, as Comer said he wanted to do.