Is the Office of Special Counsel Retaliating Against the Very Whistleblowers It's Supposed to Protect?

AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin

It seems that every thread the House Oversight, Judiciary, and Ways and Means Committees pull reveals yet another tangled web of incompetence, if not outright corruption, in our federal government. Add the Office of Special Counsel (OSC) to the list of suspect agencies now. 

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On Monday, House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-LA) and Majority Leader Steve Scalise (R-LA) joined with the chairs of the Oversight, Judiciary, and Ways and Means Committees (James Comer (R-KY), Jim Jordan (R-OH), and Jason Smith (R-MO)) to direct a letter to Karen Gorman, Acting Principal Deputy Special Counsel for the OSC, inquiring into actions taken by the agency in response to retaliation claims by IRS whistleblowers Gary Shapley and Joseph Ziegler. 

In the letter, the leaders demand a briefing from OSC "to determine whether there has been improper influence in the IRS whistleblowers’ claims pending before OSC."

The letter notes that Shapley and Ziegler both have pending whistleblower retaliation claims before the agency following disclosures they made in relation to alleged prosecutorial misconduct in the Hunter Biden investigation. Specifically, Shapley alleges that U.S. Attorney (and now Special Counsel) David Weiss began retaliating against him in November 2022 after learning that he had made disclosures regarding the DOJ's (mis)handling of the investigation. 

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Most troubling is the fact that in March, Weiss's office filed a redacted pleading in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California (presumably in Hunter Biden's ongoing criminal tax case), which was placed on the court's public docket and, due to the phrasing of the redactions, left the impression that Shapley and Ziegler were themselves under investigation for wrongdoing when such is not the case. Rather, the OSC is ostensibly continuing to investigate their retaliation claims. However, the pleading remained public and was left uncorrected for two months. 

Additionally, the letter questions the appointment of attorney Hampton Dellinger to serve as Special Counsel to oversee whistleblower complaints and possible Hatch Act violations, given that Dellinger used to work with Hunter Biden at Boies Schiller. 

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While the letter requests a briefing from OSC, it does not set a deadline for response, and given the pace at which some of these oversight investigations have proceeded, it is unclear how soon OSC will respond or whether we'll be privy to the substance of such briefing. Still, it's yet another matter that the House GOP is digging into — and needs to continue scrutinizing. 

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