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House Republicans seek testimony on Hunter Biden probe

JUANA SUMMERS, HOST:

Three House chairmen are demanding that more than a dozen officials from the Justice Department, the IRS and Secret Service testify about details of their investigation of Hunter Biden, the president's son. This comes after Hunter Biden pleaded guilty to two misdemeanor tax charges and a firearm offense, a plea agreement that Republicans are calling a sweetheart deal. NPR congressional correspondent Deirdre Walsh has an update. Hey.

DEIRDRE WALSH, BYLINE: Hey, Juana.

SUMMERS: So Deirdre, what do House Republicans want to learn here?

WALSH: House Republicans say Hunter Biden has used his father's name to enrich himself and investigating him has really been an ongoing issue that Republican leaders in the House say is part of their oversight responsibilities. This week, the chairs of the House Judiciary Oversight and Ways and Means Committees put out a joint statement saying that the Hunter Biden plea deal, quote, "showed politicization and misconduct at the Justice Department and the IRS." Their stepped-up efforts now come after a whistleblower told one of these committees that the investigation of the president's son was slow-walked and that Hunter Biden received preferential treatment from prosecutors.

Now these committees' chairs, as you said, want a dozen officials, including David Weiss - he's the prosecutor in the Hunter Biden case, who was actually nominated by President Trump - to come in for interviews. Weiss says his investigation is still ongoing. Typically, Justice officials don't talk to Congress while they have an open investigation, but we'll see. The chairman gave a July 13 deadline for these officials to arrange their interviews.

SUMMERS: Now, you mentioned a whistleblower who spoke to one of the congressional committees. Who was that person? What did they have to say?

WALSH: Gary Shapley is his name. He was this whistleblower. He was a 14-year veteran IRS investigator. His investigation found that Hunter Biden failed to pay more than $2 million in taxes over several years, and he says there's evidence to - there was evidence to charge felony tax evasion. Shapley also released a WhatsApp message from 2017, when Joe Biden was vice president, from Hunter Biden to a Chinese business associate claiming his father was involved in the deal - in a business deal. The president was asked earlier about this week, and he insisted he didn't know anything about it. I talked to Utah Republican Blake Moore. He's a member of the House Ways and Means Committee, and he's saying he just wants more transparency.

BLAKE MOORE: I want to make sure that the whistleblower testimony and that aspects of that are clearly taken into consideration or prove that they were taken into consideration to get to this particular plea deal.

WALSH: Moore did acknowledge there's no evidence he's seen of anything illegal when it comes to the president's conduct. We should also say, when it comes to this Hunter Biden plea deal, many former prosecutors said it was essentially in line with what others who have had similar legal issues have been charged with.

SUMMERS: So Deirdre, is this debate here related to the push from Speaker Kevin McCarthy to possibly impeach Attorney General Merrick Garland?

WALSH: It is. I mean, the speaker is saying if the Justice Department doesn't cooperate and hand over what they're asking for by early July, they're going to move forward with an impeachment inquiry. Garland has said that the investigator - the prosecutor, David Weiss, has full authority to conduct his probe and that he's never talked to him. A lot of moderate Republicans think before the House moves to impeach any Cabinet member or the president, they need to build a case. Here's Mike Garcia, a California Republican I talked to, talking about moving forward with impeachment.

MIKE GARCIA: It's a very emotional thing. Some people want the instant gratification of a pound of flesh, but there's a process through which we go by, and it protects them as much as it protects the people they don't like. So that's what we're trying to do.

WALSH: And there's a lot of pressure from the base to move forward on impeachment.

SUMMERS: NPR's Deirdre Walsh. Thank you.

WALSH: Thanks, Juana. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Deirdre Walsh is the congress editor for NPR's Washington Desk.