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Democrats, GOP spar over interview with FBI agent in Hunter Biden probe

Democrats and Republicans on the House Oversight Committee are sparring over whether a closed-door interview with an FBI agent boosts the GOP’s claims of improper interference in the tax crimes investigation into Hunter Biden, the president’s son.

Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), ranking member on the committee, wrote to Chairman James Comer (R-Ky.) and called on him to publicly release the transcript of the interview that occurred on July 17, one day before the two IRS whistleblowers testified in a public hearing before the panel.

Comer had said last week that the FBI supervisory special agent had confirmed key portions of the testimony from whistleblower Gary Shapley, an IRS agent who was overseeing the investigation into Hunter Biden. 

But Raskin argues the interview “discredited House Republicans’ claim of political interference in the prosecution of President Biden’s son.”

Raskin’s letter set off further partisan pushback that mirrored the dynamic of last week’s hearing — and highlighted that the issue is likely to stay in the forefront.

Committee Republicans are tearing into Raskin for incorrectly asserting in an original copy of the letter –– which was later corrected in a subsequent version –– that the minority had not been provided a copy of the interview of with the FBI agent.

“Democrats should check their email before launching baseless accusations,” said a tweet from an account run by the committee’s Republican majority. “We emailed the transcript to Democrat staff the day after the interview on July 18 at 7:17pm ET, shortly after we received it ourselves.”

The committee Republicans also said the transcript will be publicly released as soon as possible.

“The transcript is going through the normal review process where the witness and his/her counsel reviews it and is able to suggest any corrections needed. Once that process has been completed (and because in this case doing so mid-investigation will not harm upcoming investigative steps), we will release it,” committee Republicans said.

Both Comer and Raskin agree that the testimony of the FBI agent in question corroborated Shapley’s claims that the two were set to seek an interview with Hunter Biden on Dec. 8, 2020 — as his father Joe Biden was preparing to take office — but the interview never happened after the FBI headquarters notified Secret Service headquarters ahead of time, and that the “transition team” was also notified about the interview.

But while Comer in a statement last week said the advance notification that may have derailed the interview revealed a “two-tiered system of justice,” Raskin argues Comer had a “grossly incomplete narrative based on cherry-picked facts.” 

Additional context and information from the FBI agent’s interview, Raskin argues, “debunked the idea that political influence played any part in the investigation.”

Republicans shot back that it was Democrats who are cherry-picking, disputing Raskin’s characterization of some key facts, and saying that the value of the interview is that it corroborates some key facts about the transition team notification by the IRS whistleblower Shapley.

“The value of the former FBI supervisory special agent’s testimony is that it supports what the IRS whistleblowers said happened. Democrats are cherry-picking from the transcribed interview to attack whistleblowers because they can’t attack what happened,” a GOP Oversight Committee spokesperson told The Hill in a statement.

Raskin wrote in his letter to Comer that in the interview, the FBI agent “explained that it was necessary for FBI headquarters to alert the U.S. Secret Service of its intent to interview Hunter Biden for the safety of agents on the investigative team seeking to approach a Secret Service protectee.”

A GOP aide, though, said the agent did not say it was necessary for FBI headquarters to alert Secret Service headquarters, but that he understood why that could happen to foster an ongoing working relationship. Shapley had said that the plan was for the FBI Los Angeles special agent in charge to notify the Los Angeles Secret Service agent in charge on the day of the planned interview, but that the night before, he learned that FBI headquarters had informed Secret Service headquarters of the plan.

A person with knowledge of the transcript said the FBI agent said in the interview that it was common sense for the FBI to tell the Secret Service of the plan so that headquarters and agents in the field were aware, to speed up the process of getting the interview and keep law enforcement safe.

A more major point for Republicans is the testimony from Shapley and the FBI agent that they heard the transition team — as Biden was preparing to take office — was informed of the plan to seek an interview with Hunter Biden, which Republicans see as inappropriate.

Raskin’s letter also poked holes in the significance of the two men hearing that the transition team was notified of the plan to speak to Hunter Biden.

“He also stated that, while he was told an unspecified ‘transition team’ would also be notified by FBI headquarters, he was not provided any actual details as to what transition team this referred to, and he did not know anything about whether they were actually notified,” Raskin said.

A GOP aide countered that the FBI former agent understood the “transition team” to be the typical meaning of the presidential transition team.

A person with knowledge of the transcript said that the FBI agent said that he had no knowledge of who in the transition team, or at level, was supposedly made aware of the plan.

Oversight Republicans had said in a press release last week that notification was not the original plan by the career agents, and that it frustrated their investigative efforts because people found out who did not need to know. 

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