Democrats and prominent media outlets claimed Tuesday that a senior FBI official has undermined the credibility of two IRS whistleblowers. But upon closer examination, that's not what happened at all.
Last week, Thomas Sobocinski, the FBI special agent in charge of the Baltimore Field Office, testified before the House Judiciary Committee in a closed-door meeting. Transcripts of his testimony then leaked, and Hunter Biden's top defenders — Democrats and the legacy media — tried hard to spin it.
- The New York Times : "F.B.I. Agent Undercuts Claims of Political Interference in Hunter Biden Inquiry
- The Washington Post : "Senior FBI agent disputes some whistleblowers’ claims about Hunter Biden probe"
- Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.) : "Only hours after Republicans launched their impeachment stunt it's already falling apart as the stories of two of their 'whistleblowers' start to unravel."
Sobocinski, according to the Post and Times, denied that Delaware U.S. Attorney David Weiss — now a special counsel — told investigators he lacked authority to charge the first son outside of his jurisdiction.
Specifically, IRS whistleblower Gary Shapley alleges that Weiss told FBI and IRS investigators in a meeting last October that he was not the "deciding official on whether charges are filed." Sobocinski, who attended that meeting, told House investigators he did not remember Weiss saying that.
Sobocinski admitted there was a "bureaucratic administrative process" that Weiss needed to follow to bring charges outside Delaware, but Sobocinski said he always felt that Weiss "had the authority to bring whatever he needed to do." However, Sobocinski also admitted he did not take notes of the meeting during or afterward, whereas Shapley did memorialize the meeting with notes and emails.
What neither the Post nor the Times included in their stories is the fact that two attorneys accompanied Sobocinski to his testimony, one from the FBI and another from the DOJ (the Post disclosed the DOJ attorney). According to the Federalist , those attorneys were not representing Sobocinski — but the government.
That's an important fact when you learn that under questioning about Weiss' authority, one of the government lawyers paused the testimony to speak with Sobocinski off the record. And when Sobocinski returned, he began hedging on his assertion that Weiss had the authority to charge Hunter Biden whenever and wherever.
Here is what Sobocinski said, according to the Federalist, which obtained a copy of his testimony:
So for us, when it comes to charging decisions, that’s not an FBI role. I always assume that the U.S. Attorney’s Office that I am working with has some authority to do it in their venue. And if they don’t, there are administrative ways in which cases are brought to other districts in the U.S. That’s something I’ve worked with regularly throughout my career. There are various ways that happens. We can transfer a case. I have a general sense that David could go to — Mr. Weiss could go to another district. He could ask to have that joined. If it’s not, then he goes back for an administrative authority to bring the case on his own. But it’s administrative in nature. At no point did I think he did not have that authority to do all of those steps with all that we were looking at.
Remember: Even the New York Times independently corroborated the claim that Weiss could not charge Hunter Biden in any jurisdiction he wanted. Couple that with the fact that on the same day that Attorney General Merrick Garland announced Weiss as a special counsel, Weiss filed court documents requesting that the charges against Hunter Biden in Delaware to be vacated so that he could refile them in other jurisdictions, the two in which he was reportedly blocked.
Two important questions are thus raised: Why would Weiss need special counsel powers if he already had the authority to do what he needed? And why would he move the charges to different jurisdictions if he wasn't initially blocked?
Meanwhile, the Times suggested that Sobocinski's testimony exonerates the investigation of claims of "political interference." But the question the Times cited referred to whether Sobocinski believes President Joe Biden himself interfered. No one is arguing that.
Rather, the allegation is that career DOJ officials slow-walked the investigation. To that point, the Post reported that Sobocinski agrees with that claim.
"Sobocinski ... agreed with the IRS whistleblowers that Weiss had moved slowly in making a charging decision," the Post reported.
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