FOIA Update
April 4, 2024

WASHINGTON – Empower Oversight is pressing Attorney General Merrick Garland to address conflicts of interest within the Justice Department that are enabling retaliation against IRS whistleblowers Supervisory Special Agent (SSA) Gary Shapley and Special Agent (SA) Joseph Ziegler.

In a letter to the Attorney General, Empower Oversight expresses the concern that in the Department’s prosecution of Hunter Biden in Delaware and California, as well as in Mr. Biden’s own lawsuit against the IRS, Department officials on whom SSA Shapley and SA Ziegler blew the whistle are still in charge of litigation that provides further opportunity to retaliate against the whistleblowers. Those officials seem determined to ignore the tax whistleblower protections Shapley and his attorneys relied on, which the letter lays out in extensive detail.

Even before SSA Shapley and SA Ziegler made the protected disclosures, Biden’s attorneys have hurled false allegations against the whistleblowers, and have asked the Justice Department to investigate them for allegedly breaking laws protecting the privacy of grand jury deliberations and confidential taxpayer information. Biden lawyers have continued to echo these false accusations and frivolous claims in various forums, including in court filings before a federal judge in Delaware who promptly rejected them.

In today’s request, Empower Oversight president Tristan Leavitt detailed the concerns that the government’s interests align with Biden attorneys when it comes to retaliating against the whistleblowers.

In the letter, Leavitt writes, “To say the least, we are concerned about the months of lobbying Mr. Biden’s defense counsel have done with the Department against SSA Shapley and SA Ziegler. Those concerns have intensified since it has become clear that the Department refuses to acknowledge the existence of 26 U.S.C. § 6103(f)(5) (‘Disclosure by whistleblower’).”

These issues gained public attention recently as filings from the Office of Special Counsel David Weiss, on whom SSA Shapley and SA Ziegler blew the whistle, disclosed the existence of a “potential ongoing investigation” into the whistleblowers. Multiple Members of Congress have written to Attorney General Garland seeking transparency on this issue.

Of Biden’s lawsuit against the IRS, Leavitt writes: “It is an understatement to note there are institutional conflicts of interest that could impact how vigorously and effectively the Department (particularly the Tax Division) will defend the actions of SSA Shapley and SA Ziegler. The Department’s behavior raises the prospect that the Department may fail to zealously defend the Government’s interests in this lawsuit, simply out of a desire to see critics of the President’s son punished.”

Leavitt also presses the Justice Department to respond to multiple Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests Empower Oversight filed last September for communications with Hunter Biden’s legal team or the press about the IRS whistleblowers.

Today’s letter also includes a new FOIA request asks for communication about what the Department has done to mitigate the conflicts of interest in the various legal matters involving Hunter Biden and the IRS employees who blew the whistle on the Department.

To see the full, 20-page letter to Attorney General Merrick Garland, click here.