Daniel Werfel, commissioner of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), has denied directing retaliation against whistleblowers involved in the agency’s investigation of President Joe Biden’s son, Hunter Biden.
“I want to state unequivocally that I have not intervened—and will not intervene—in any way that would impact the status of any whistleblower,” Werfel stated in a May 17 letter to the House Ways and Means Committee that was obtained by Fox News.
Last month, attorney Mark D. Lytle of Nixon Peabody LLP came forward on behalf of an unnamed whistleblower. In an April 19 letter (pdf) to members of Congress, Lytle claimed this whistleblower had made protected disclosures to the IRS, the U.S. Treasury Inspector General, the Office of Inspector General, and the Department of Justice and would like to additionally disclose to Congress that the tax agency is mishandling an “ongoing and sensitive investigation of a high-profile, controversial subject since early 2020.”
Lytle said the whistleblower’s disclosures would contradict sworn testimony to Congress by a senior political appointee and involve “failure to mitigate clear conflicts of interest” and show “examples of preferential treatment and politics improperly infecting decisions and protocols that would normally be followed by career law enforcement professionals in similar circumstances if the subject were not politically connected.”
Lytle’s letter did not identify Hunter Biden by name, but in an April 20 interview with Fox News, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) claimed the whistleblower specifically involved Hunter Biden. The whistleblower advocacy group Empower Oversight, which is supporting the whistleblower claims, has also retweeted reports indicating the whistleblower claims relate to the president’s son.
“This is somebody in the IRS at a high level, who apparently is willing to come forward to tell the Congress that during the investigation of Hunter Biden, there was obstruction, there was a thumb on the scale to the point that they feel they need to let the Congress know,” Graham said in his April 20 Fox News interview.
Graham also claimed Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) had expressed a commitment to investigate the whistleblower claims. Graham said he would hold Durbin to his word on an investigation.
Following the initial letter to Congress, Lytle and Empower Oversight President Tristan Leavitt sent another letter to Congress on May 15, alleging retaliation against their client.
Lytle and Leavitt said the IRS whistleblower was informed that “he and his entire investigative team are being removed from the ongoing and sensitive investigation of the high-profile, controversial subject about which our client sought to make whistleblower disclosures to Congress.”
“He was informed the change was at the request of the Department of Justice,” their letter added.
Lytle and Leavitt said the move was “clearly retaliatory and may also constitute obstruction of a congressional inquiry.”
Rep. Jason Smith (R-Mo.), who chairs the House Ways and Means Committee, sent a letter (pdf) to Werfel on May 16, demanding answers regarding the retaliation claims.
While Werfel told Congress that he had not intervened “in any way that would impact the status of any whistleblower,” Werfel did admit that the particular whistleblower Smith referenced was given a change in work assignments.
“The IRS whistleblower you reference alleges that the change in their work assignment came at the direction of the Department of Justice. As a general matter and not in reference to any specific case, I believe it is important to emphasize that in any matter involving federal judicial proceedings, the IRS follows the direction of the Justice Department,” Werfel’s May 17 letter states.
“When I first learned of the allegations of retaliation referenced in your letter and in media reports on May 16, 2023, I contacted the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA),” Werfel added. “In light of laws and policies designed to protect the integrity of pending proceedings, I am unable to provide details on this matter.”