While Republicans Work to Undermine Rule of Law and Distract from Trump’s Criminal Acts, Oversight Democrats Highlight Witness Testimony Undercutting GOP Narrative
Washington, D.C. (July 20, 2023)—Rep. Jamie Raskin, Ranking Member of the Committee on Oversight and Accountability, led Democrats in emphasizing the unbiased and complete nature of the Department of Justice’s investigation into Hunter Biden, contrasting it with the Trump Administration’s efforts to undermine and interfere with the justice system.
“At today's hearing, we're going to hear about wrongdoing by Hunter Biden, who's pleading guilty on two tax charges and a gun charge next week. We'll hear about the back and forth among investigators, prosecutors, and a Trump-appointed US attorney—over a dozen people who spent four years investigating the President's son. We'll hear about how they disagreed on investigative steps and what criminal charges to bring—all normal stuff in government investigations that doesn't usually lead to a Congressional hearing. But one thing you will not hear today is any evidence of wrongdoing by President Joe Biden or his administration,” said Ranking Member Raskin in his opening statement.
The hearing included testimony from Gary Shapley, Supervisory Special Agent, Internal Revenue Service, and Joseph Ziegler, Criminal Investigator, Internal Revenue Service.
Committee Democrats provided important context to the whistleblower testimony, highlighting the absence of any evidence of interference by President Biden or his Administration in the years-long, thorough investigation and prosecution begun under the Trump Administration and led by a Trump-appointed U.S. Attorney, hand-picked for the assignment by Attorney General Barr, who had full authority to bring charges in any district.
- In his opening statement, Ranking Member Raskin made clear the fair and impartial nature of the investigation into Hunter Biden, stating: “His investigation began under the Trump Administration. It was conducted by a U.S. Attorney for Delaware, David Weiss, who Donald Trump appointed to his office and who Attorney General Barr chose for this assignment, to conduct this investigation. In his final press conference in December of 2020, Attorney General Barr expressed full confidence in Weiss’s work, saying it was ‘being handled responsibly and professionally within the Department and to this point I've seen no reason to appoint a Special Counsel and I have no plan to do so before I leave.’” Ranking Member Raskin further clarified that “Attorney General Merrick Garland made sure that Mr. Weiss, appointed by Donald Trump, had full authority and resources to pursue this probe and charge it however and whenever he saw fit in any district in the country.”
- Mr. Shapley conceded he had no evidence of wrongdoing by Attorney General Garland, “I never claimed to have evidence that Attorney General Garland knowingly lied to Congress.”
- Even Republican Rep. Chuck Edwards stated, “I’ve heard over and over that President Biden has not been implicated or proven for any wrongdoing here, and I acknowledge that.”
- Rep. Jasmine Crockett emphasized the fact that neither witness testified to any wrongdoing by President Biden, confirming that neither the deposition testimony from Mr. Shapley nor Mr. Ziegler states that President Biden or Attorney General Merrick Garland interfered with their investigations. Rep. Jasmine Crockett said: “The reason that I say that is because it’s the insinuation that this Committee is trying to make, or at least one side of this Committee is trying to make, is that for some reason there was interference. And my colleagues continue to make sure that they outline the fact that this investigation actually started under the Trump Administration, so that’s the reason about who appointed who comes up. But at the end of the day, we have no evidence whatsoever that the President nor the Attorney General of the United States interfered.”
- In response to questioning by Rep. Ro Khanna, Mr. Shapley admitted that IRS criminal counsel disagreed with “a vast majority” of his recommendations, later agreeing that rate was “about 90%.”
- Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez provided context to the amount of detail that the witnesses were able to recollect over many years, describing how Mr. Ziegler had to send a correction to the testimony he previously provided to the Ways and Means Committee: “In light of the correction, and you know truly in good faith these things happen all the time, right? The recollection of these investigations requires an extraordinary amount of detail. And the charges of what is being brought forward today are extremely serious, which require a high threshold of evidence, including investigations and depositions. But I hope you would agree that even the best memory would be fallible at times, and that is the widely understood reality in our justice system.”
- Rep. Dan Goldman similarly highlighted the lack of evidence of any involvement by President Biden at the conclusion of a “five-year criminal investigation, with tens of thousands of documents, maybe hundreds of thousands, unusual warrants, aggressive techniques.” He stated: “You not only have no direct evidence connecting Joe Biden to any of Hunter Biden’s business deal, you actually had proof that he wasn’t involved. That is the proof that you had.”
- Rep. Robert Garcia underscored that the core matter at issue was a simple disagreement between investigators and prosecutors, confirming to both witnesses: “[You] gave recommendations to prosecutors based on your work, which you’ve described today. And then Donald Trump’s handpicked prosecutor then made recommendations to charge Hunter. He acted independently and he himself has confirmed this. You did your job making recommendations, and then the prosecutor did his job. You don’t have to agree with his conclusions, but that’s the bottom line of what we have today.”
- Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton detailed the comprehensive nature of the investigation: “It sounds like Hunter Biden’s taxes were subject to a great deal of scrutiny and rigorous review by a large team of expert investigators who had experience working complex cases. This investigation occurred over several years, spanned multiple agencies and divisions, and had an expert team. The time, personnel, and other sources devoted to this investigation make it abundantly clear that this investigation was taken seriously by both the IRS and DOJ. While our witnesses here today may disagree with the US Attorney’s decisions, it is undeniable that Hunter Biden was subject to a thorough and rigorous investigation.”
- Rep. Ocasio-Cortez concluded the hearing by explaining: “Today, we have gotten a new conspiracy theory. One that requires us to believe that David Weiss, a Trump-appointed U.S. Attorney, trusted by Trump-appointed Attorney General Barr, had somehow been complicit in abetting and concealing a deep state conspiracy to protect Hunter Biden on behalf of the Biden Administration when they were selected by Donald Trump. This is a theory which has apparently been proven unsuccessful given that Hunter Biden is now criminally charged and facing sentencing by a Trump-appointed judge.”
Committee Democrats contrasted the Biden Administration’s commitment to giving a Trump-appointed U.S. Attorney full license to continue investigating and criminally charge the President’s son with the Trump Administration’s egregious efforts to use federal law enforcement to serve Donald Trump’s personal and political interests.
- Rep. Stephen F. Lynch highlighted the hypocrisy of Republicans claiming to be concerned about the integrity of the Justice Department after ignoring former President Trump’s interference: “Despite the fact that Mr. Flynn pleaded guilty twice to lying to the FBI, President Trump’s Attorney General William Barr personally intervened in the case, and that led the Department of Justice to abruptly reverse course and have the case dismissed, on grounds that a federal judge found ‘dubious to say the least,’ and that’s a quote from the judge. In the case of longtime Trump associate and advisor Roger Stone, a federal jury found him guilty in 2019 of obstructing a congressional investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, by lying to Congress and witness tampering. In response, a sitting president, President Trump, immediately took to Twitter, attacking the Department of Justice and accusing them of employing a ‘double standard’ and committing a ‘miscarriage of justice.’ President Trump also publicly attacked the Department’s sentencing recommendation for Roger Stone, leading senior officials to overrule the federal prosecutors who had investigated and brought the case. So this blatant political intervention, not complained of at all by my Republican colleagues at the time, caused those prosecutors, some of them, to resign or withdraw from the case. President Trump even congratulated former Attorney General Barr for interfering. That’s what political interference looks like, and we know it on this Committee.”
- Rep. Gerald E. Connolly raised the fact that “according to recent reporting in the New York Times, President Trump explicitly told his Chief of Staff John Kelly that they ‘ought to investigate’ and ‘get the IRS on’ former civil servants that Mr. Trump considered his political enemies. Explicit testimony from his own Chief of Staff. But again, absolute silence on the other side of the aisle.”
- Rep. Jared Moskowitz discussed the insincerity of Republicans’ treatment of these whistleblowers in light of their treatment of Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, a key witness in the Trump impeachment proceedings who was retaliated against and intimidated by the then-President for testifying, noting: “There should be no retaliation against you as whistleblowers, unlike my colleagues that said nothing and supported President Trump when he retaliated and fired Vindman and escorted him from the building for appearing in an investigation.”
Committee Democrats called out Republicans for ignoring and exacerbating the true two-tiered justice system in this country where people of color are treated more harshly and the richest people and corporations are subject to fewer tax audits.
- Rep. Shontel Brown underscored the ways Republicans ignore genuine flaws in the criminal justice system: “What if we talk about the other unspoken two-tiered justice system in this country? The one where people of color are subject to a deliberately harsher system at every turn, from policing to prison to parole. In this country a Black person is five times more likely to be stopped without due cause than a white person, and Black defendants are 25 percent more likely to be held pretrial. Meanwhile the twice-indicted former president is out campaigning around the country and didn’t even have to post bail.”
- Rep. Maxwell Alejandro Frost emphasized the way that Republicans have co-opted the language of racial justice: “There is a two-tiered justice system—it does exist—but it’s not what my Republican colleagues want to say it is, using your story for that. It’s not Republican versus Democrat. It’s Black, brown, and poor people versus everyone else. And I won’t accept when Republican politicians look to appropriate the language of Black Lives and civil rights to fit a political agenda to defend Donald Trump.”
- Rep. Summer Lee underscored the false premise that the “two-tiered system of justice” applies to the outcome of the Hunter Biden investigation: “I’d like to address the way my Republican colleagues are attempting to co-opt the phrase ‘two-tiered justice system’ to make it sound like Trump and his cronies are somehow the victims here when the reality is that the term two-tiered system of justice is meant to refer to the very real system that exists in the United States and which affects Black and brown folks, not powerful former presidents and their political allies. The real two-tiered system of justice is one in which in 2021, according to the DOJ’s Bureau of Justice Statistics, the imprisonment rate for black men aged 18 and 19 was 11.6 times the rate for white males.”
- Rep. Greg Casar called on the Committee to investigate the ways that the highest-income individuals and corporations have lower tax compliance rates than low- and middle-income Americans: “There are so many millionaires and billionaires and big corporations who are never held accountable for tax evasion, and in fact they are shielded by this GOP majority. Republicans are not interested in that kind of accountability, instead they’re interested in trying their hardest to embarrass the President and prevent our government from operating as it should. If Republicans were truly interested in holding the powerful accountable, we would be holding hearings on making sure the IRS has the resources to investigate every billionaire and every big corporation who cheats on their taxes.”