Watch CBS News

IRS whistleblower in Hunter Biden investigation removed from probe, his attorneys say

Latest accusations against Biden family
Breaking down Republicans' accusations against Biden family 04:57

An IRS whistleblower who claims the Justice Department interfered with the Hunter Biden criminal probe says that "he and his entire investigative team are being removed" from the investigation, according to a letter sent Monday by his attorneys to Congress.

Whistleblower's lawyer meets with congressional panels

One of the attorneys, Mark Lytle, met May 5 with members of the House Ways and Means and Senate Finance Committees to discuss what the whistleblower could tell investigators and how he could do so without running afoul of taxpayer privacy laws. Lytle wrote in an April letter to Congress that the unnamed IRS criminal supervisory special agent could shed light on how the years-long, high-profile investigation had been hindered by "preferential treatment and politics." 

Whistleblower says he's removed from probe

On Monday, the agent and his team were told they were being removed from the investigation "at the request of the Department of Justice," Lytle and another attorney, Tristan Leavitt, wrote to Congress Monday.

A Justice Department spokesperson said the agency "cannot comment on the matter" and referred CBS News to Delaware U.S. Attorney David Weiss, who is overseeing the investigation.

"As to any investigation of Hunter Biden, as the Attorney General has said, that investigation is being handled by U.S. Attorney David Weiss, who has full authority to make investigative decisions and to bring charges in any jurisdiction as he deems appropriate," the spokesperson said.

Weiss' office did not return a request for comment.

The IRS said in a statement that it "is deeply committed to protecting the role of whistleblowers, and there are robust processes and procedures in place to protect whistleblowers." 

"As IRS Commissioner Danny Werfel has stated, we will not tolerate retaliation against any IRS employee making a whistleblower allegation," the agency said in its statement, which did not directly address the Hunter Biden investigation. "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."

Whistleblower Protection Act

It is not clear why the whistleblower and his team were removed from the investigation.

Tom Devine, a lawyer who has represented thousands of whistleblowers during the last 40 years, said it would violate the federal Whistleblower Protection Act if the agent were to be removed from the investigation because of his disclosures.

"That's considered a significant change in duties and working conditions to remove you from a case, and if it's because of your whistleblowing, that would make it a violation of the law," said Devine, who is the legal director for the nonprofit Government Accountability Project, a whistleblower protection and advocacy organization.

Devine said even if the Justice Department believes it removed the agent and his team appropriately, there's a "reverse burden of proof" required to prove he wasn't being retaliated against.

"It's a tough test. They have to show by clear and convincing evidence that they would have taken the same action for legitimate independent reasons, even if you never opened your mouth," Devine said. 

Whistleblower claims his information contradicts testimony by "senior political appointee"

In an April interview with CBS News, Lytle said his "client wants to come forward to Congress.… He's ready to be questioned about what he knows and what he experienced under the proper legal protections." 

Lytle wrote in his April letter to Congress that the agent would contradict sworn testimony "by a senior political appointee."

In a Senate hearing in March, Attorney General Merrick Garland vowed not to interfere with Weiss' work. 

"I promise to ensure that he's able to carry out his investigation and that he be able to run it," Garland said on March 1.

When President Joe Biden took office, dozens of U.S. attorneys appointed by Trump were asked to resign, as is customary in a new administration, but Weiss, who was leading the investigation into Hunter Biden, was asked to stay.

Hunter Biden's lawyers met with Justice Department officials on April 26 to address the ongoing investigation into the president's 53-year-old son, according to two sources familiar with the meeting. 

The meeting, a status update at Hunter Biden's request, included officials representing the department's tax division and Weiss. 

Attorneys representing clients under federal investigation may request to meet with prosecutors for updates. Hunter Biden has not been charged and maintains his innocence in the matter. An attorney for Hunter Biden has previously declined to comment on the whistleblower's claims.

The IRS and Treasury inspector general for tax administration have not responded to earlier requests for comment.

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.