WASHINGTON — The FBI agent who oversaw the agency's investigation into Hunter Biden disputed a claim by IRS whistleblower Gary Shapley that the Justice Department gave preferential treatment to President Joe Biden's son, according to a transcript of an interview obtained by NBC News.
In an interview Sept. 7 with the House Judiciary and Ways and Means committees, Thomas Sobocinski rebutted Shapley's claim that U.S. Attorney David Weiss had said he was not the deciding person on whether to bring charges in the case.
After an Oct. 7 meeting with Weiss’ team and investigators from the FBI and the IRS working on the case, Shapley prepared an email of notes that stated that Weiss said he was “not the deciding person on whether charges are filed.” That claim has been central to the House GOP’s scrutiny of Weiss’ investigation.
Sobocinski, who oversaw the FBI’s work on the investigation when he became the special agent in charge of the Baltimore field office in July 2021, said he did not remember Weiss making that statement.
“I was consistently aware that David Weiss had the authority in the U.S. to bring the charges where venue presented itself,” Sobocinski said. “The minute I got there in July of '21, it was always the understanding and the communication between David Weiss and myself is that he had that authority to bring it on behalf of the Department.”
Later, he added, “In my recollection, if he would have said that, I would have remembered it.”
In response to news reports about Sobocinski's remarks, Shapley's lawyers sent a letter to Jordan and other top lawmakers on the Judiciary and Ways and Means committees Wednesday saying their client's contemporaneous notes during the Oct. 7 meeting corroborated his account. The lawyers included a photograph of what they said was one of the pages of those notes, which included the handwritten line “Weiss stated — He is not the deciding person.”
Shapley's lawyers said Wednesday that “while it’s not unusual for people to have slightly different recollections of the same event, in this case ... Shapley took notes in real-time and that day emailed his summary of the meeting to several people, including his supervisor who contemporaneously corroborated his account—which is all very different from trying to recall information a year later with no notes.”
The White House has denied that the president was involved in his son's business affairs or the Justice Department's case.
The Washington Post first reported on details from Sobocinski’s interview.
During the five-hour interview, Republican investigators pressed Sobocinski about differences between his recollection of the meeting and Shapley’s. “I went in believing he was the deciding official, and I left believing the same,” he said.
Of Shapley’s claim that Weiss had requested and been denied special counsel authority — which he was ultimately granted last month — Sobocinski said that “I don’t have a recollection with him saying that there or at any point in my communication with Mr. Weiss” and that he would have remembered it because it “would have been a total 180 from all our previous conversations about authorities.”
Asked about Shapley’s claims that FBI Agent Joe Gordon indicated to him that the Baltimore field office was pushing for Weiss to get special counsel authority, Sobocinski said, “I have no idea what Joe Gordon meant by that.”
Republicans also tried to press Sobocinski about Weiss’ decision not to charge Hunter Biden over his 2014 and 2015 taxes and when the decision was made, but he said he did not have a direct date or knowledge of when those decisions happened. He also declined to answer many questions directly relating to the investigation, keeping with the Justice Department's policy not to comment on ongoing investigations.
Sobocinski said multiple times that he was working to bring the case to “resolution,” and ultimately, under questioning from Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, he said, “I would have liked for it to move faster.”
Sobocinski also spoke multiple times about his concern about increased threats against agents working on the case, as well as their families and significant others.