The President's son evades jail time with the Justice Department agreement, stoking concerns of political interference and unequal justice.
In a striking turn of events, Hunter Biden, son of President Joe Biden, will plead guilty to federal tax offenses, averting a full prosecution on a separate gun charge. This deal with the Justice Department might keep him away from prison, but it leaves open unsettling questions about potential political influence in the justice system.
53-year-old Hunter Biden is set to plead guilty to misdemeanor tax offenses as part of a deal revealed on Tuesday. Notably, he'll evade prosecution for a felony charge of illegally possessing a firearm as a drug user, provided he adheres to conditions agreed in court. The simultaneous resolution of a federal criminal case as charges are filed is uncommon but not without precedent.
This arrangement concludes an enduring Justice Department investigation into Biden's younger son, who has publicly struggled with addiction since the death of his brother Beau Biden in 2015. It sidesteps a trial that could have produced distracting headlines for the White House, which has strived to maintain a hands-off approach to the Justice Department.
The deal necessitates Hunter Biden's admission of guilt, focusing narrowly on tax and weapon violations. Despite this, former President Donald Trump and other Republicans have sought to wield the case as a spotlight on Joe Biden, scrutinizing the independence of the Biden Justice Department.
Trump, who has thrown his hat into the ring for the 2024 presidential race, trivialized the agreement as equivalent to a “mere traffic ticket," expressing his outrage at what he perceives as a broken system. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, also a presidential contender, echoed Trump's sentiments, casting the outcome as preferential treatment for the president's son.
The president and first lady Jill Biden have offered simple, supportive sentiments for their son in a statement through the White House counsel’s office, offering no comment on the legal proceedings themselves.
Insiders privy to the investigation suggest that the Justice Department will recommend 24 months of probation for the tax charges, indicating that Hunter Biden will avoid prison time. Yet, the decision to accept any deal ultimately rests with the judge. These individuals requested anonymity due to the sensitive nature of the case.
Hunter Biden's guilty plea will cover charges of failing to pay over $100,000 in taxes on income exceeding $1.5 million for the years 2017 and 2018. The back taxes have reportedly been paid.
The gun charge alleges that Hunter Biden possessed a Colt Cobra .38 Special handgun for 11 days in October 2018, despite acknowledging his status as a drug user. Though the rarely filed count could lead to a 10-year prison sentence, the Justice Department confirmed a pretrial agreement, suggesting that adherence to certain conditions could expunge this case from his record.
This agreement comes amid the Justice Department's significant case against former President Trump concerning accusations of mishandling classified documents. The resolution of Hunter Biden's case occurs in the wake of a 37-count indictment against Trump, leading to further Republican accusations of the Justice Department's "politicization."
Meanwhile, congressional Republicans continue to scrutinize Hunter Biden's business dealings, especially his foreign payments. The GOP alleges a pattern of corruption tied to the family's financial connections.
The resolution of Hunter Biden's case represents an end to a five-year investigation, but it may well feed the swirling maelstrom of political debate and accusations of unequal justice.