For months, Republicans have been pointing to testimony from IRS whistleblower Gary Shapley as evidence that the FBI and Department of Justice were protecting Hunter Biden. That coverup supposedly included U.S. Attorney David Weiss, who Shapley said was unable to bring the charges he wanted against President Joe Biden’s son because his authority was too limited.
But just hours after Republican Speaker Kevin McCarthy announced that he was turning the multiple House investigations into an impeachment inquiry without bothering to hold a vote of House members, it turns out that not only was that whistleblower evidence in serious doubt—but Republicans already knew it.
As The Washington Post reports, FBI agent Thomas Sobocinski, who manages the team investigating Hunter Biden, contradicted much of Shapley’s testimony in closed-door testimony with legislators. However, unlike Shapley’s claims, Republicans have been completely quiet about Sobocinski. Because what the agent in charge had to say doesn’t fit their manufactured narrative.
What the Post referred to as Shapley’s “most eyebrow-raising allegations” concerned a meeting that took place on Oct. 7, 2022. According to the IRS whistleblower, that meeting was his “red-line” in stepping forward because Weiss admitted at that meeting that another U.S. attorney was blocking him from filing charges against Hunter Biden. Shapley also claimed that Weiss had asked to be named special counsel but had been “denied that authority.”
However, Sobocinski, who was also present at that meeting, said he did not hear Weiss claim he asked to be named special counsel, and did not hear Weiss complain about someone blocking his ability to file any necessary charges. “I never thought that anybody was there above David Weiss to say no,” Sobocinski said. That testimony matches that of another, currently unknown FBI agent also present at the meeting.
Transcripts of Shapley’s testimony and the testimony of another IRS agent, Joseph Ziegler, who reported to Shapley, have been released by House Republicans. Their claims that Hunter Biden should have been charged with multiple felonies, and that President Biden was pulled into phone conversations with Hunter Biden’s clients, have been central to the claims Republicans have made about the president’s involvement in his son’s business.
In a letter to Sen. Lindsey Graham, Weiss rebutted a key point of Shapley’s testimony. The U.S. attorney—who was put in office by Donald Trump and reportedly spent over two years investigating Hunter Biden before Joe Biden was elected—stated flatly that he had “not requested Special Counsel designation” and that he had all the authority he needed to file any charges he sought.
In fact, Weiss would not have needed to be named special counsel to file charges outside Delaware. That only requires a special attorney provision, which is routinely granted to U.S. attorneys whose cases cross district boundaries. Both Attorney General Merrick Garland and the office of another U.S. attorney mentioned by Shapley have confirmed that Weiss was not blocked in any effort to file charges. Weiss has subtly suggested that Shapley may not have understood the difference between a discussion of the special attorney provision and seeking special counsel status.
Shapley has continued to stand by his testimony and claims to have taken real-time notes during the meeting to verify his claims. However, it now seems that Republicans also heard from Sobocinski, who was at the same Oct. 7 meeting and whose recollections do not at all match those of Shapley.
Ziegler was not in the meeting. However, he claimed in his testimony that FBI agents working on the case had tried to persuade Weiss to seek special counsel status, but were being stifled by their leadership.
According to The Washington Post, Sobocinski, who has been on the case for the past two years, indicated that he “had no awareness or recollection of conversations in which FBI officials working on the case lobbied for the appointment of a special counsel.”
Since that October 2022 meeting, according to Shapley, the IRS criminal investigation unit (known as the IRS CI) has “taken every opportunity to retaliate against me and my team,” which presumably includes Ziegler. Shapley says he was “passed over for a promotion for which I was clearly most qualified,” in an office he had anticipated taking over for years. He also stated that both Sobocinski and another FBI agent “sent threats” to the IRS field office to keep other whistleblowers from coming forward, and that the IRS CI leadership removed his team even though they “had been investigating [Hunter Biden] for over 5 years.”
Sobocinski did agree with Shapley and Ziegler on one thing: Weiss was taking too long.
Weiss was appointed as the U.S. attorney for Delaware in February 2018. He was retained as U.S. attorney in Delaware during Biden’s presidency, surely to avoid any appearance of interfering with the investigation. Still, it took over four years before Weiss announced a deal in June 2023 that would have seen Hunter Biden plead guilty on charges of tax evasion and illegal possession of a weapon while under the influence of drugs.
Expectations were that Hunter Biden would be saddled with a fine and probation, but the deal fell apart under intense public pressure from Republicans. According to The New York Times, the Trump-appointed U.S. attorney had originally decided to “forgo any prosecution of [Hunter] Biden at all.” That changed when Shapley and Ziegler took their story to Republicans in Congress.
According to the Times, Republicans have claimed that “the evidence they brought forward, at the precise time they did” resulted in the prosecution of Hunter Biden. The continued pressure also seems to have played a role in undercutting the deal between Hunter Biden’s attorneys and the DOJ.
All of which makes it clear that someone really has put a finger on the scales and altered the outcome of a federal investigation … and it’s not President Biden.
Correction: A previous version of this story misspelled Lindsey Graham's first name.
Kerry talks with Drew Linzer, director of the online polling company Civiqs. Drew tells us what the polls say about voters’ feelings toward President Joe Biden and Donald Trump, and what the results would be if the two men were to, say … run against each other for president in 2024. Oh yeah, Drew polled to find out who thinks Donald Trump is guilty of the crimes he’s been indicted for, and whether or not he should see the inside of a jail cell.