A spokesman for Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., falsely claimed the Hunter Biden IRS whistleblower had “backed out” of an agreement to meet with the Senate Finance Committee next week, the whistleblower’s attorneys told The Federalist.
“It’s disappointing Senator Wyden’s staff is playing partisan games by releasing inaccurate information,” said the legal team representing the whistleblower, who was identified as Gary Shapley during a CBS interview Wednesday. “As emails show, our client didn’t ‘back out’ of anything because there was never anything to back out of.”
On Wednesday, CNN reported the Senate Finance Committee’s claims, quoting Wyden’s spokesman, Ryan Carey, saying, “Committee staff on both sides agreed with counsel to meet directly with the whistleblower next week, however the whistleblower has since backed out of that agreement and declined an attempt to reschedule.” Carey added that “Chairman Wyden’s staff stand ready to arrange a meeting on terms that comply with laws protecting taxpayer data and ensure a fair and rigorous investigation.”
CNN later updated the article to include a detailed denial of the staffer’s claim by Shapley’s legal team.
Emails obtained by The Federalist between Shapley’s lawyers and Wyden’s staff confirm the whistleblower’s version of events.
On Friday, May 19, 2023, Mark Lytle, Shapley’s Nixon Peabody lawyer, arranged for a conference call between the whistleblower’s legal team and Wyden’s office to discuss logistics for their client to sit for a transcribed deposition. The next email in the thread came from a Wyden staffer the day after Lytle and his co-counsel Tristan Leavitt, the president of Empower Oversight, had dispatched their May 22 letter to the chairs and ranking members of the Senate Finance Committee, the House Ways and Means Committee, and the Senate and House Judiciary Committees, as well as Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley’s office.
In their May 22 letter, the whistleblower’s legal team summarized their version of what had transpired. They also noted that they had informed the Senate Finance Committee’s staff that Shapley would testify before the House Ways and Means Committee on Friday, May 26, and reiterated their preference for a single joint interview or, at minimum, an interview the previous day, May 25.
“Unfortunately, the Finance Committee would not commit to a date consecutive to the House interview as an accommodation to our client’s concerns, as the staff had previously offered,” the letter stressed. Wyden’s staffers also refused to commit to an interview the Tuesday after the long Memorial Day weekend. The Senate Finance Committee’s political game-playing prompted the whistleblower’s attorneys to move forward with the House interview.
It was only then that Wyden’s office attempted to commit to an interview with the whistleblower before the Senate Finance Committee. In doing so, the staffer sent an email that both ignored Shapley’s letter and misrepresented the prior communications, the whistleblower’s legal team confirmed.
The email communications back up those claims, with the whistleblower’s legal team writing that during their Friday call, Wyden’s office “would not commit to *either* Thursday or the following Tuesday after the holiday.”
“We asked you to reconsider Thursday and you offered to check on logistics for Tuesday, expressing doubt that you could get a court reporter,” the email continued. “We did not hear from you over the weekend or Monday, and thus sent the letter articulating our position and the reasons for it.”
In response, Wyden’s staffer did not dispute that sequence of events, but instead wrote that since Tuesday was represented as a “‘distant third’ option, it was an option”: “In line with that agreement, Tuesday the 30th is the date the Committee is available to meet. Please let us know how you’d like to proceed by the end of the day.”
That final email confirms there was no agreement between the Senate Finance Committee and the whistleblower, as Wyden’s spokesman had told CNN, but only continued efforts to reach an agreement.
The Federalist requested clarification from Daniel Goshorn, the Wyden staffer on the email exchanges, asking whether the senator’s spokesman had misspoken when he said there was an “agreement” for Shapley to testify. The Federalist also asked whether Wyden’s office on Friday had been unwilling to commit to either a Thursday or a Tuesday interview. Finally, The Federalist queried Wyden’s office on why they won’t agree to a joint interview.
Goshorn did not respond with a comment by press time.
However, no matter the reason Wyden and the Democrat-controlled Senate Finance Committee have for refusing to conduct a joint interview with the House, that may be their only option at this point. The whistleblower is poised to appear on Friday before the Ways and Means Committee and indicated an unwillingness to testify again later before the Senate.
Rep. Jason Smith, the chair of the House Ways and Means Committee, shouldn’t leave the decision up to Wyden, though, because the Senate Democrat has proven himself to be putting politics above the public interest. Smith should sidestep the political posturing and, as I explained on Tuesday, use Section 6103 of the Internal Revenue Code to open the House Ways and Means’ interview of the whistleblower to the relevant Democrat and Republican members from both the House and Senate.
If Smith refuses to do so, that will be as inexplicable as Wyden refusing to participate in a joint hearing — leaving one to wonder if the House Republican is playing politics as well.
Margot Cleveland is The Federalist’s senior legal correspondent. She is also a contributor to National Review Online, the Washington Examiner, Aleteia, and Townhall.com, and has been published in the Wall Street Journal and USA Today. Cleveland is a lawyer and a graduate of the Notre Dame Law School, where she earned the Hoynes Prize—the law school’s highest honor. She later served for nearly 25 years as a permanent law clerk for a federal appellate judge on the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals. Cleveland is a former full-time university faculty member and now teaches as an adjunct from time to time. As a stay-at-home homeschooling mom of a young son with cystic fibrosis, Cleveland frequently writes on cultural issues related to parenting and special-needs children. Cleveland is on Twitter at @ProfMJCleveland. The views expressed here are those of Cleveland in her private capacity.
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