Hunter Biden filed a lawsuit in federal court in Washington, D.C., against the Internal Revenue Service over alleged “unlawful disclosures” made by two whistleblowers who accused government prosecutors of mishandling their investigation about the president’s son – a claim from the Justice Department. denied but nevertheless breathed new life into Hunter Biden’s legal tribulations.
Lawyers for Biden, 53, have accused Gary Shapley and Joseph Ziegler, both veteran IRS investigators, of waging a campaign to “embarrass and inflict harm on Mr. Biden” by inappropriately sharing his private information about taxpayers during media interviews.
“During these interviews, Mr. Shapley and Mr. Ziegler provide unsubstantiated and selectively cherry-picked allegations of harmful and potentially criminal behavior,” wrote Hunter Biden’s attorney, Abbe Lowell.
The IRS “failed to take reasonable steps to prevent its personnel from unlawfully disclosing” Hunter Biden’s confidential taxpayer information, in violation of the Privacy Act, Lowell argued.
After a nearly five-year investigation, Hunter Biden was indicted last week on gun-related crimes, two months after a plea deal he negotiated with prosecutors collapsed under questioning a federal judge.
These developments came in the wake of troubling claims by Shapley and Ziegler, who contacted Congress in April with allegations that senior Justice Department officials blocked efforts to bring more serious charges against Hunter Biden , limited their scope of investigation and refused to grant special counsel status. to the Trump-appointed U.S. attorney who oversaw the case.
The Justice Department and Attorney General Merrick Garland have denied the claims, defending U.S. Attorney David Weiss’ independence on the case. Weiss himself wrote to lawmakers in June to clarify that he had “full authority” to file charges whenever and wherever he wished.
But those denials did little to alleviate concerns that the Justice Department offered the younger Biden a “sweetheart deal” from prosecutors, as congressional Republicans have claimed. Nearly half of Americans said they were not convinced the Justice Department conducted its investigation of Hunter Biden in a fair and nonpartisan manner, according to an ABC News/Ipsos poll conducted earlier this month.
In a statement responding to the lawsuit, Shapley’s attorneys said, “Neither IRS SSA Gary Shapley nor his attorneys have ever disclosed confidential taxpayer information except through whistleblower disclosures authorized by the law. Once Congress releases this testimony, like any American citizen, it has a right to discuss this public information.
IRS officials declined to comment on the lawsuit.
During their “media circus,” as Lowell described it, Shapley and Ziegler made statements that fell “well outside the bounds of whistleblower protection.”
Congressional Republicans voted in June to release transcripts of interviews they conducted with the two whistleblowers. But in subsequent television and podcast interviews, the whistleblowers made statements that were not included in their testimony, Lowell wrote – despite the committee’s instruction not to share what had been discussed in the interview “to persons not designated to receive such information”.
As a result, the lawsuit says, the IRS shirked its responsibility to protect Hunter Biden’s tax information from publication.
“The IRS has never asked Mr. Shapley, Mr. Ziegler or their representatives to refrain from publicly and illegally disclosing confidential information from Mr. Biden’s tax return, let alone take any action reasonable to prevent its staff from illegally accessing and disclosing Mr. Biden’s tax returns. return information,” Lowell wrote.
Hunter Biden’s lawyers are seeking $1,000 in damages for each “unauthorized disclosure” of his tax information, a claim that the IRS “willfully, knowingly and/or through gross negligence, unlawfully disclosed the confidential information of Mr. Biden’s tax return,” and any documents in the IRS’s possession related to Hunter Biden’s tax information.