James Comer pointedly warns against witness intimidation, too narrow DOJ focus in Hunter Biden probe

"We've got witnesses that are scared to death to come forward,"alleged the Kentucky Republican, chairman of the House Oversight and Accountability Committee. "They fear for their lives."

Published: April 27, 2023 11:07pm

Updated: April 27, 2023 11:37pm

The chief congressional investigator in the Hunter Biden scandal says he is deeply worried that the Justice Department has tailored its criminal investigation narrowly to protect the first family and that Democrat defenders are coming close to engaging in witness intimidation that could obstruct his probe.

House Oversight and Accountability Chairman James Comer told Just the News on Thursday night that he is deeply troubled by legal letters and veiled threats that defenders of Hunter Biden have sent witnesses. Threats were allegedly made to cooperating banks, and political attack activities were being funded in the districts of some lawmakers who are investigating the Biden family for alleged influence peddling.

"The Hunter Biden legal team — they're testing the limits," Comer said in an interview with the "Just the News, No Noise" television show. "I'll put it like that with respect to witness intimidation. I mean just look in my district. We've got dark money groups that are being funded through prominent high-ranking Democrat officials in Congress. Also the communications director for the White House continues to retweet things trying to intimidate me for having the audacity to investigate.

"We've got witnesses that are scared to death to come forward. They fear for their lives. I mean, you've got the banks that have worked with us, they're being squeezed by attorneys, by high-ranking officials in the Democrat Party for having the nerve to work with us to comply with our subpoenas."

The rising temperature in the Hunter Biden case comes as an IRS whistleblower on Thursday got clearance from the House Ways and Means Committee to give evidence to lawmakers of what he said is political interference in the criminal probe of Hunter Biden's tax affairs and lawyers for the first son met with DOJ reportedly to discuss impending criminal charges.

As the actions play out, there are growing questions in Washington whether the DOJ probe is narrowly focused on tax transactions from 2018 forward instead of earlier deals dating to 2014 that involved Russia, China and Ukraine.

For instance, congressional investigators for two years have had an email to Hunter Biden from close business associate Eric Schwerin, warning that the first son had failed to pay taxes on $400,000 in income he received from the controversial Ukraine energy firm Burisma Holdings all the way back to 2014. The author of that letter, Eric Schwerin, is now cooperating with Comer's probe, according to Comer.

"In 2014 you joined the Burisma board and we still need to amend your 2014 returns to reflect the unreported Burisma income," Schwerin wrote Hunter Biden in the Jan. 16, 2017 email that appeared on a laptop turned over to the FBI and Congress. "That is approximately $400,000 extra so your income in 2014 was closer to $1,247,328."

You can read that email here:

While that email has been public, suggesting a tax probe dating to 2014, the reported discussion at the DOJ seems to involve small amounts from later years. That has some lawmakers and experts wondering whether the DOJ allowed the statute of limitations to expire or any agreement extending the legal deadline for indictment commonly known as "tolling agreements."

Comer was asked Thursday whether he feared the DOJ was too narrowly focused in its probe. "Look, his tax problems go back to at least 2014," he answered. "He owes a lot more in taxes than what I've heard they're wanting to indict him on. At the end of the day, if you look at all the potential charges and all the potential wrongdoing that Hunter Biden has done over the past decade, tax evasion for one or two years is a drop in the bucket. It wouldn't even be in the top five things that I think the DOJ could charge him with. This is another example of a two-tier system in justice, of justice in America. This is another example of a privileged Democrat, getting away with things that no average, working, taxpaying American could get away with."

Hunter Biden has acknowledged since December 2020 that he has been under criminal investigation for tax matters, and his representative disclosed last year he paid overdue tax bills totaling $2 million. He has expressed confidence he will be cleared of criminal wrongdoing.

Comer said the theory congressional investigators have developed after reviewing scores of secret bank records, including suspicious activity reports filed with the U.S. government, is that the Biden family was getting paid by foreign entities that simply had an interest in Joe Biden's foreign policy portfolio when he was vice president to Barack Obama.

"What we found when we went into the Treasury was there were many more bank accounts, many more LLCs and many more Bidens that were involved in this influence peddling scheme than we first thought," Comer said. "So we're still trying to track down who the final beneficiary was of all this money. But let's just be realistic here: Why would China be sending this family millions and millions of dollars?

"We believe that China was getting a return on their investment. And there was nothing that Hunter Biden could do, there was nothing that his family members could do for China. But there was a lot that Vice President Joe Biden or President Joe Biden could do for China. So this is why we're investigating the Biden family. It's all about investigating and trying to determine whether or not this president of the United States is compromised."

Comer also revealed that he plans to release an interim report next month with early findings of what his committee has learned.

"We plan on being very transparent with the media and the American people in the next couple of weeks and update them on all of our findings," Comer said. "And I think that you will feel the earth shake in a few places."

Elsewhere on Capitol Hill, the tax-writing House Ways and Means Committee took a key step Thursday to free an IRS agent to reveal to lawmakers his concerns about political interference in the Hunter Biden criminal investigation as its powerful chairman pointedly admonished the agency's director to protect the whistleblower from any reprisals.

"Last week, a whistleblower came forward with troubling claims about abuses of power," Ways and Means Chairman Jason Smith (R-Mo.) told IRS Commissioner Daniel Werfel at the start of an oversight hearing on the agency's affairs. "We are conducting a review of this matter and will go wherever the facts lead us. I expect full cooperation from the IRS, particularly with regard to ensuring this whistleblower is protected from retaliation."

While most of the hearing was reserved to address congressional Republicans' other concerns with the agency, like audits, Smith's opening statement accentuated just how seriously Congress is taking the whistleblower's allegations that agents have been blocked from taking certain steps to investigate Biden family matters.

Smith's committee officially sent a letter authorizing two lawyers for the IRS whistleblower to gather information from their client about what alleged wrongdoing he witnessed during his time investigating Hunter Biden's tax affairs and to transmit that information to Congress.

The letter frees the agent and his lawyers from what is known as 6103 tax privacy obligations so the allegations can be relayed to Congress for investigation.

The Senate Finance Committee, led by Democrat Chairman Ron Wyden of Oregon, was expected to do the same.

The agent has not been identified by name, only by his rank as an IRS supervisory criminal investigator. His lawyer Mark Lytle told Just the News last week that if freed from tax privacy restrictions his client could provide Congress contemporaneous documents and witnesses to substantiate his allegations.

Hunter Biden's lawyers have not responded to a request for comment. 

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