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IRS whistleblower in Hunter Biden probe says he was stopped from pursuing investigative leads into "dad" or the "big guy"

IRS whistleblower speaks out on Hunter Biden case
IRS whistleblower says he was told not to pursue leads involving President Biden 02:52

The IRS supervisory agent who helped oversee the investigation of Hunter Biden continues to raise questions about what he alleged was special treatment in the probe of the president's son, telling CBS News that, dating back to the Trump administration, he was repeatedly prevented from taking steps he would have considered routine in other cases.

"We have to make sure as a special agent for IRS Criminal Investigation that we treat every single person exactly the same," said Gary Shapley, a 14-year veteran of the agency, who spoke exclusively to CBS News chief investigative correspondent Jim Axelrod on Tuesday. "And that just simply didn't happen here."

Shapley's comments come a week after the Trump-appointed U.S. attorney for Delaware, David Weiss, who has been leading the probe, announced a plea deal in the case against Hunter Biden. A Republican who said he has no political motive and has never been engaged in politics, Shapley told CBS News he believes stronger charges could have been brought.

According to a Justice Department filing made public last week, Hunter Biden reached a tentative deal with the U.S. attorney in Delaware, agreeing to enter guilty pleas to two misdemeanor tax charges and admitting to felony gun possession. 

Hunter Biden's plea will include an acknowledgement that drug use was a contributing factor in his gun crime, and he will enter into a pretrial diversion agreement on that charge, according to the filing. It is expected that for two years, Hunter Biden must remain drug-free and must not commit additional crimes. If he fulfills this successfully, the gun count would be dismissed. This does not amount to a guilty plea.

A federal judge has yet to approve the deal. A hearing has been scheduled on July 26 before Judge Maryellen Noreika at the federal courthouse in Wilmington. 

Shapley said the five-year investigation uncovered conduct that he says could have resulted in additional charges.

IRS supervisory agent Gary Shapley CBS News

"Based on my experience, if this was a small business owner or any other non-connected individual, they would have been charged with felony counts," Shapley said.

Legal experts are split about whether the plea agreement was too strong, or not strong enough.

"It is almost embarrassing that the tax division of the Department of Justice apparently approved this sweetheart of tax deals," says former federal prosecutor Gene Rossi. "Should he have gotten a felony? Absolutely yes."

Others, like former federal prosecutor Renato Mariotti disagree. He tweeted, "If anything, Hunter Biden was treated harshly — those crimes are rarely charged."

Shapley told CBS News that Hunter Biden wrote off as business expenses the money he paid for "prostitutes, sex club memberships, travel for the prostitutes, hotel rooms for purported drug dealers, no show employees." Hunter has admitted to the drug use in his memoir "Beautiful Things," published by an imprint of Simon & Schuster, a division of CBS News' parent company. 

Hunter Biden
Hunter Biden Andrew Harnik/AP

Hunter Biden's criminal attorney, Christopher Clark, did not respond to a request for comment regarding Shapley's allegations. But in an earlier statement, issued at the time the plea arrangement was announced, he said "as his attorney through this entire matter, I can say that any suggestion the investigation was not thorough, or cut corners, or cut my client any slack, is preposterous and deeply irresponsible."

In 2021, Hunter Biden repaid more than $2 million in past-due taxes after receiving a loan from one of his private attorneys.

A spokesperson for the U.S. attorney's office in Delaware declined to comment.

Last week, the GOP House Ways and Means Committee chairman released transcripts of congressional interviews with two IRS whistleblowers, including Shapley, who both questioned whether the U.S. attorney overseeing the case was free to bring charges he saw fit. 

"The testimony we have just released details a lack of U.S. attorney independence, recurring unjustified delays, unusual actions outside the normal course of any investigation," Chairman Jason Smith, a Republican from Missouri, told reporters. 

But three weeks ago in a letter to the House Judiciary Committee, Weiss asserted that he was granted "ultimate authority over this matter, including responsibility for deciding where, when, and whether to file charges."

Attorney General Merrick Garland told reporters Friday that Weiss had "complete authority to make all decisions on his own" and required no permission from Justice Department headquarters to bring charges.

"Mr. Weiss was appointed by President Trump. As the U.S. attorney in Delaware and assigned this matter during the previous administration, [he] would be permitted to continue his investigation and to make a decision to prosecute any way in which he wanted to and in any district in which he wanted to," Garland said, reiterating sworn statements he has made to Congress.

Shapley, however, told CBS News: "I documented exactly what happened. And it doesn't seem to match what the attorney general or the U.S. attorney are saying today." 

Shapley says he provided lawmakers with contemporaneous e-mail correspondence he wrote after an October 7, 2022 meeting, where he says the U.S. attorney communicated the opposite. "Weiss stated that he is not the deciding person on whether charges are filed," Shapley wrote to his supervisor.

"There were really earth-shaking statements made by David Weiss that really brought to light some of my previous concerns. And the first one was that he is not the deciding person on whether or not charges are filed," Shapley said. "It was just shocking to me."

Shapley, who is still a supervisory special agent with the IRS, says he was prevented from pursuing any leads that involved President Joe Biden, including the now-infamous 2017 email from James Gilliar, a business associate of Hunter Biden's, which bore the subject line "Expectations" and outlined a "provisional agreement" for "equity" in a deal with a Chinese energy company. 

Two of Hunter Biden's former business partners who received the message told CBS News that a line in the email — "10 held by H for the big guy?" — was shorthand for 10% held by Hunter Biden for his father.

Shapley told CBS News that his efforts to look further into money trails that involved "dad" or "the big guy" were blocked by a senior prosecutor working for Weiss. 

"I would say that they limited certain investigative leads that could have potentially provided information on the president of the United States," Shapley said. 

When the email became public in 2020, Gilliar told the Wall Street Journal that Joe Biden was not involved. And in one of the interviews FBI agents conducted during the investigation, another partner of Hunter Biden's said the same. "I certainly never was thinking at any time that [then-Vice President Biden was] a part of anything we were doing," businessman Rob Walker told agents, according to a transcript released by Congress.   

President Biden has denied involvement in his son's business affairs. 

"I have not taken a penny from any foreign source, ever, in my life," Mr. Biden said in October 2020 at a presidential debate.

Shapley's requests to look into those details came in late 2020, when Trump Attorney General William Barr had instituted a policy requiring he personally approve any investigation of a president or presidential candidate. Asked by CBS News if it was possible he was simply not read-in to all the reasoning for decisions by the prosecutors, Shapley acknowledged that was possible.

"I documented what I saw, and ultimately that's the evidence. If they want to explain how that's wrong, they can," Shapley told CBS News. "All of the things that I've testified in front of the House Ways and Means Committee is from my perspective, but it's based on the experience I've gained over 14 years."

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