An Internal Revenue Service agent who handled “95%” of the tax evidence in the Hunter Biden investigation told CBS News that he “felt handcuffed” during the five-year investigation and was prevented from conducting an investigation that he believed could have been related to Hunter Biden’s father, President Joe Biden.
Second IRS Whistleblower in Hunter Biden Investigation – “Agent X”
Special Agent Joseph Ziegler, a 13-year veteran of the IRS, is the second IRS official to say a federal tax investigation into the president’s son supports criminal charges more serious than the tax charges to which he must plead guilty next week as part of a plea deal.
“When you’re prevented from going down certain roads, I guess I don’t know what would have been found if we hadn’t been clipped in the hamstrings or handcuffed,” Ziegler told CBS News.
Ziegler, known only as “Agent X,” revealed his identity on Wednesday at the urging of lawmakers who called him before a House committee to describe his role in the federal investigation into Hunter Biden. As the lead agent on the IRS case, he worked with his boss, Gary Shapley, and says the evidence they uncovered “substantiates tax charges of felony and torts.”
The Ziegler investigation spanned both the Trump and Biden administrations.
“I am a Democrat. I didn’t actually vote in the last presidential election,” Ziegler said. “I thought it would be irresponsible of me because I didn’t want to be biased one way or the other.”
During an executive meeting in June, the Ways and Means committee voted to publicly release the transcripts of Shapley’s and Ziegler’s informant testimony, obscuring Ziegler’s identity. The committee’s minority representative, Democratic Rep. Richard Neal of Massachusetts, said during that closed-door meeting that Republicans’ efforts to release a private individual’s tax returns were an example of “overt partisanship and giving in to the status of this committee.”
Democrats also focused on Shapley and Ziegler’s choice of legal representation; their lawyers were associated with Republican Party politics. These lawyers counter that they have worked with both Republican and Democratic whistleblowers and organizations. Democrats also wondered if the two agents were not aware of the factors prosecutors faced in deciding which charges to file. And they noted that Hunter Biden returned the taxes due to him.
Questions about deductions
Ziegler claims the evidence he collected showed Hunter Biden wrongfully claiming business deductions for a range of personal expenses, such as college tuition for his children, luxury Hollywood hotel bills, attendant pay, and employee no-shows. In 2021, Ziegler said he drafted a memo recommending that prosecutors charge Hunter Biden with numerous felonies and misdemeanors.
“In August 2022, we had a phone call with all appointed prosecutors and they said that all four are recommending that criminal and misdemeanor tax charges be approved,” Ziegler said.
Hunter Biden’s lawyers did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Ziegler said Trump-appointed Delaware U.S. Attorney David Weiss told him he agreed with some of the felony charges, but other officials in the Justice Department were met with resistance who thought jurors might sympathize with Hunter Biden’s drug addiction and the death of his brother Beau Biden.
“David told us… ‘I’m getting some concerns from the Justice Department’s tax department, the evidence that may come out related to his substance abuse and the death of his brother Beau Biden, it could influence the jury’s opinion,'” Ziegler said.
Court documents unsealed last month showed that U.S. Attorney’s eventually agreed to a deal that would see Hunter Biden charged with two tax offenses, to which the president’s son agreed to plead guilty, and a felony firearms charge, in which Biden agreed to participate in the diversion program. Biden will not plead guilty to the weapons charge, which will be dropped if he meets certain conditions. The deal must be approved by a federal judge who has scheduled a hearing on the matter next week in Delaware.
“At the end of the day, the question is, do we treat everyone the same? Do we treat all taxpayers equally?” Silger said. In this case, no, I don’t think so.
IRS whistleblowers baffled by Hunter Biden’s decision to indict
The decision not to charge the president’s son with tax crimes remains a source of worry and confusion for both IRS agents who have now spoken out on the matter. Both men expressed concern about the possibility that Biden’s Justice Department interfered with the case in some way.
In a letter released last month, Weiss responded that he has ultimate authority in these matters and has “never been denied the right to bring charges in any jurisdiction.”
The US Attorney’s Office for Delaware declined to comment on the story.
Attorney General Merrick Garland, who kept Weiss on the job to complete the Biden investigation, previously said in response to the accusations that Weiss “was allowed to continue his investigation and decide to prosecute in any way he wanted and in any county he wanted.”
Both Ziegler and Shapeley told congressional and CBS News investigators that they were told prosecutors in Delaware were barred from bringing charges in other jurisdictions, including California and Washington, D.C., and Shapeley said Weiss told him that the Justice Department denied him special counsel status.
“The District of Columbia said, ‘No, we’re not going to help you file charges in our district. And we don’t think you should be making these allegations in our county,” Ziegler explained to CBS News.
Whistleblower ‘felt handcuffed’ during investigation
During the investigation, Ziegler said he “felt like he was in handcuffs.” For example, he says he wanted prosecutors to get a search warrant to access a warehouse in Virginia to look for potential business records, but they refused to do so. He said requests to interview Hunter Biden’s adult children about tax payments were thwarted by prosecutors, who he alleges said the requests could “stump us.”
Zeigler’s requests for a series of investigative actions came while Trump was still in office, and Attorney General William Barr instituted a policy requiring him to personally approve any investigation into a president or presidential candidate. Ziegler told CBS he was “not aware” of any permissions being sought from Barr at the time.
On Monday, after the Committee on Oversight and Accountability interviewed an FBI agent from the Wilmington field office, the leading Democrat on the committee, Rep. Jamie Ruskin of Maryland, accused Republicans of “misrepresenting[ing]”evidence for “promoting the false Republican narrative of political interference in the Hunter Biden investigation.”
Hunter Biden’s statement about his father in a WhatsApp message
On another occasion, Ziegler said he was trying to get location data to determine if Joe Biden was in the room, as his son boasted in a 2017 WhatsApp message where he apparently pressured a Chinese businessman to pay off a debt by mentioning his father.
“I’m sitting here with my father…we would like to understand why this commitment has not been fulfilled,” Hunter Biden allegedly wrote to the businessman, according to the transcript. He added, “I’d like to work this out now before it gets out of hand” and “now means tonight.”
Ziegler said the WhatsApp message was found on Hunter Biden’s iCloud account obtained through a search warrant. He says he was unable to determine if Hunter Biden and his father were together when the WhatsApp message was sent. President Biden said he was never present when such a message was sent and denied knowing about the message.
“Every time we potentially wanted to ask questions related to the president, we said:“ This will require too many approvals. We cannot ask such questions.”
Zeigler said he expected additional approvals in the investigation into the president’s son, but he said the requests went unanswered.
There would be a moment where it would be like, “Well, let’s think about it.” Let’s put this on the back burner. And now it will move to number 50,” Ziegler said.
President Biden denies any involvement in his son’s business affairs.
“I have never taken a dime from any foreign source in my life,” Mr. Biden said in an October 2020 presidential debate.
Ziegler says he only made it public at the request of Congress, adding: “I do this with a heavy heart. It’s horrible. Going through this is not fun. I don’t wish this on anyone.”