President Joe Biden's son Hunter Biden sued the US Internal Revenue Service on Monday, alleging unlawful disclosure of his taxes by whistleblowers who work for the US tax agency.
The lawsuit, filed in US District Court for the District of Columbia, focused on statements made by IRS agents Gary Shapley and Joseph Ziegler in media interviews amid a long-running investigation by House of Representatives Republicans into the younger Biden's taxes and business dealings.
The center of a political maelstrom
Hunter Biden, 53, is at the center of a political maelstrom, as House Republicans mount an impeachment inquiry against his father focused on alleged ties between his business practices and his father's policies during his father's tenure as vice president from 2009 to 2017. They have so far presented no evidence showing that the elder Biden profited from his son's businesses. The White House has denied any wrongdoing.
Hunter Biden is the first child of a sitting US president to have been criminally indicted. Prosecutors last week charged him with three counts related to the fact that he was lying about using illegal drugs when he bought a firearm. Hunter Biden and prosecutors earlier had reached a plea deal over tax and gun charges, but it collapsed.
Monday's lawsuit refers to "more than 20 nationally televised and non-congressionally sanctioned interviews and numerous public statements" by Shapley, Ziegler and their lawyers about Hunter Biden. Shapley and Ziegler have testified in Congress as whistleblowers about alleged political interference in an IRS investigation into Biden's taxes. The Justice Department has denied any such interference.
"The lawsuit is about the decision by IRS employees, their representatives, and others to disregard their obligations and repeatedly and intentionally publicly disclose and disseminate Mr. Biden's protected tax return information outside the exceptions for making disclosures in the law," the lawsuit reads.
Biden is seeking $1,000 for each unauthorized disclosure of his tax return information, a declaration from the IRS, a data security plan from the agency, production of documents related to Biden's taxes and other relief.
"This suit against the IRS is just another frivolous smear by Biden family attorneys trying to turn people's attention away from Hunter Biden's own legal problems and intimidate any current and future whistleblowers," Shapley's legal team said in a statement.
"The efforts by the Biden family lawyers to silence Mr. Ziegler and other IRS employees will not succeed," a lawyer for Ziegler said in a statement.
The IRS did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The Republican-led House Judiciary Committee called the lawsuit "intimidation" in a post on social media.
Hunter Biden last week also filed a lawsuit against a former White House aide during Donald Trump's presidency over the aide's alleged role in the publication of embarrassing images and emails.
Trump, who has cheered on the impeachment inquiry, was the first US president to be impeached twice. The Senate acquitted him both times. Trump also has been charged in four criminal cases this year.