"Targeted": Hunter Biden hits IRS with lawsuit for “engaging in a campaign to publicly smear” him

Biden accuses IRS agents of “engaging in a campaign to publicly smear” him and unlawfully releasing his tax info

By Gabriella Ferrigine

News Fellow

Published September 18, 2023 11:36AM (EDT)

Hunter Biden (Kris Connor/WireImage/Getty Images)
Hunter Biden (Kris Connor/WireImage/Getty Images)

Hunter Biden sued the Internal Revenue Service on Monday, alleging that two investigators at the agency had illegally released his tax information, thereby violating his privacy rights amid mounting public scrutiny.  

The lawsuit, filed in federal court in Washington, D.C., alleges that agents "targeted and sought to embarrass Mr. Biden," and that the IRS wrongly disclosed his tax return, neglecting to ensure his personal information remained confidential. CNN reported that while the suit does not name the two agents, Gary Shapley and Joseph Ziegler, as defendants, it does focus on disclosures made by them and their attorneys in public statements, interviews, and congressional testimony. By disclosing Biden's tax information in more than 20 nationally televised interviews and multiple public statements, the suit says, the agents were "engaging in a campaign to publicly smear Mr. Biden."

President Joe Biden's son's suit comes mere days after he was indicted by a federal jury in Delaware on three gun-related charges, including two counts related to illegally owning a firearm as a drug user and one count for lying on a form when he allegedly bought the gun. If convicted, Biden could face up to 25 years in prison and hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines. 

Hunter Biden, the suit claims, "has all the same responsibilities as any other American citizen, and the I.R.S. can and should make certain that he abides by those responsibilities."

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"Similarly, Mr. Biden has no fewer or lesser rights than any other American citizen, and no government agency or government agent has free reign to violate his rights simply because of who he is," it continues. "Yet the I.R.S. and its agents have conducted themselves under a presumption that the rights that apply to every other American citizen do not apply to Mr. Biden."

"Despite clear warnings from Congress that they were prohibited from disclosing the contents of their testimony to the public in another forum, Mr. Shapley and Mr. Ziegler's testimony only emboldened their media campaign against Mr. Biden. And finally, since their public testimony before the House of Representatives on July 19, 2023, the agents have become regular guests on national media outlets and have made new allegations and public statements regarding Mr. Biden's confidential tax return information that were not previously included in their transcripts before the Committee on Ways and Means."

CNN also noted that Biden's lawyers in the suit underscored information Shapely shared during a CBS interview that aired in June, in which he claimed that Biden "took certain personal expenses as business expenses, including 'prostitutes, sex club memberships, hotel rooms for purported drug dealers,' and that Biden owed $2.2 million in unpaid taxes."

"The lawsuit is about the decision by IRS employees, their representatives, and others to disregard their obligations and repeatedly and intentionally publicly disclose and disseminate Mr. Biden's protected tax return information outside the exceptions for making disclosures in the law," the suit adds. 

Shapley's lawyers on Friday released a statement saying Biden's attorneys have attempted to get the Justice Department to turn against their clients for sharing information protected under whistleblower rules. "Taxpayer privacy laws are written by Congress, and it gave itself authority in those laws to hear disclosures about taxpayer information," the statement said.

"These agents' putative 'whistle-blower' status cannot and does not shield them from their wrongful conduct in making unauthorized public disclosures that are not permitted by the whistle-blower process," the suit says.

In June, the Justice Department signaled that it had reached a plea deal with Biden, in which he would plead guilty to two tax misdemeanors for failing to pay his taxes on time in 2017 and 2018. Biden also reached a separate deal to avoid prosecution on a gun possession charge; however, the agreement fell apart at the eleventh hour during a court hearing in July.

The New York Times noted that Biden's "decision to go ahead with the suit shows that he and his legal team are continuing to take an aggressive stance in fending off inquiries from congressional Republicans even as he faces the possibility of further prosecution on tax charges by the Justice Department amid his father's re-election campaign."

By Gabriella Ferrigine

Gabriella Ferrigine is a news fellow at Salon. She began writing at a young age, inspired by the many books she read as well as the world around her. Originally from the Jersey Shore, she moved to New York City in 2016 to attend Columbia University, where she received her B.A. in English and M.A. in American Studies. Currently, Gabriella is pursuing an M.A. in Magazine Journalism at NYU. Prior to working at Salon, she was a staff writer at NowThis News.

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David C. Weiss D.c. Delaware Gary Shapley Guns Hunter Biden Irs Joe Biden Joseph Ziegler Washington