Hunter Biden, the son of President Joe Biden, filed a federal lawsuit Monday against the Internal Revenue Service for allegedly violating his privacy because two of its investigators revealed confidential information about his taxes.
The IRS agents, Gary Shapley and Joseph Ziegler, testified before Congress as federal whistleblowers who said they were hindered during the five-year investigation of Biden. Abbe Lowell, Biden’s lawyer, argued in the lawsuit the agents disclosed confidential tax information during 20 nationally televised interviews and public statements.
Lowell argued the lawsuit wasn’t about the whistleblower statute or congressional oversight, but about an “assault” on Biden’s privacy.
“Rather, IRS agents have targeted and sought to embarrass Mr. Biden via public statements to the media in which they and their representatives disclosed confidential information about a private citizen’s tax matters,” Lowell wrote.
The lawsuit contends Biden is eligible for $1,000 in statutory damages for each unauthorized disclosure and also unspecified punitive damages.
“IRS does not comment on pending litigation,” spokesman Robert Marvin said in a statement.
The lawsuit describes Shapley and Ziegler giving closed-door testimony in May and June before the House Ways and Means Committee, which governs tax issues. Transcripts show the agents being warned against disclosing the testimony publicly and to consider “the entire interview and resulting transcript as protected confidential information.”
But Shapley allegedly disclosed confidential information during interviews with Fox News, CBS News, The Megyn Kelly Show, and John Solomon Reports and CNN, according to the lawsuit.
The alleged violations included details of the Biden investigation, purported “deviations in the investigative process and the Justice Department’s involvement, according to the lawsuit.
“During these interviews, Mr. Shapley and Mr. Ziegler provided unsubstantiated and selectively chosen allegations of nefarious and potentially criminal behavior,” the lawsuit said.
Hunter Biden had agreed to plead guilty to two misdemeanor tax charges. But the agreement over those charges and a federal gun charge fell apart in July when U.S. District Judge Maryellen Noreika questioned the terms because of disputes between Biden’s lawyers and federal prosecutors about the terms.
Justice Department special counsel David Weiss filed three new gun charges against Hunter Biden on Sept. 14. Tax charges could potentially also be refiled.
Prosecutors said Hunter Biden took in $2.4 million in income in 2017 and $2.1 in 2018 through Ukrainian energy firm Burisma, a Chinese-development firm, as well as domestic business interests and legal services.
Leo Wise, an assistant U.S. attorney, has said an accountant prepared Biden’s taxes both of those years, but his corporate and personal taxes were not paid. During this period, Hunter Biden made large cash withdrawals and covered other expenses like car payments on a Porsche, Wise said.
Lowell also challenged information that Rep. Jason Smith, R-Mo., chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, released about Hunter Biden’s late tax filings associated with the IRS testimony.
Ziegler testified that “Hunter underreported his tax return by $500,000” in 2018, according to a letter Lowell sent Monday to Smith. In a June 24 interview Shapley gave to CBS Morning News, he disclosed Biden purportedly owed $2.2 million in taxes from 2014 to 2019, according to the letter.
But Lowell said Biden previously paid $900,000 to the IRS and, pending a final review, will receive a refund for 2018.
“I am writing to let you know that your agents and you are wrong,” Lowell said.
A Smith spokesperson declined comment.