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Hunter Biden reaches deal on US tax crimes and gun charge

Hunter Biden reaches deal on US tax crimes and gun charge
US President Joe Biden embraces his family First Lady Dr. Jill Biden, son Hunter Biden and daughter Ashley after being sworn in during his inauguation on the West Front of the U.S. Capitol on January 20, 2021 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

Hunter Biden, President Joe Biden’s son, will plead guilty to two misdemeanor tax crimes and enter an agreement with prosecutors to potentially avoid a charge for possessing a gun while addicted to an illegal drug, according to the US attorney’s office in Delaware.

The deal, outlined in a government letter in federal court on Tuesday, marks the end of a politically charged five-year probe while raising new allegations by Republicans that the deal is too lenient.

Biden’s participation in a federal diversion program could lead to the weapons offence being dropped if he complies with certain conditions for a period of time. Defendants who enter into these agreements with the government typically need to accept responsibility for their conduct, but they don’t plead guilty.

“It is my understanding that the five-year investigation into Hunter is resolved,” said Chris Clark of Clark Smith Villazor, Biden’s lawyer. “I know Hunter believes it is important to take responsibility for these mistakes he made during a period of turmoil and addiction in his life.”

The investigation has been led by US Attorney David Weiss of Delaware, who was appointed by former president Donald Trump and kept on by Attorney General Merrick Garland.

The plea deal sparked a quick partisan reaction amid the 2024 presidential race and Republican criticism of the recent indictment of Donald Trump — the GOP front-runner taking on the president — over his handling of classified documents. House and Senate Republicans blasted the agreement as “a sweetheart deal” with the Justice Department that won’t affect their ongoing congressional investigations into alleged corruption by the president and his family.

The White House pointed to an earlier statement on the case, noting that President Biden hasn’t been involved at all or discussed it with Garland or the Justice Department. 

“The president and first lady love their son and support him as he continues to rebuild his life,” White House spokesman Ian Sams added in a statement Tuesday. 

Tax charge

Prosecutors claimed Biden failed to pay more than $100,000 in income tax on at least $1.5-million in income received in 2017 and 2018.

The misdemeanor offenses of willful failure to pay tax carries maximum penalties of one year in jail and a $100,000 fine. The diversion agreement allows Biden to avoid pleading guilty to a gun charge that includes a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine, according to the filing.

The charges were reported earlier by the AP.

Federal prosecutors have been investigating Hunter Biden for possible tax and gun-related crimes since 2018. Earlier in the probe, the government was looking into Biden’s foreign business dealings.

The probe sparked corruption claims by Republicans including former President Donald Trump and has become a litmus test for how the Justice Department would handle such a politically explosive case.

Former federal prosecutor Barbara McQuade said Weiss’s presence at the top of the investigation is the public’s best assurance that the deal is fair.

“President Biden left him in place to avoid the appearance of partisanship and allow him to complete his investigation,” said McQuade. “I’m sure political opponents will howl at the US attorney’s use of misdemeanors, but there is nothing to suggest that this resolution is outside the realm of usual practice.”

Biden acknowledged in December 2020 that the Delaware attorney’s office was investigating his tax affairs.

“I take this matter very seriously but I am confident that a professional and objective review of these matters will demonstrate that I handled my affairs legally and appropriately, including with the benefit of professional tax advisers,” Biden said in a statement at the time.

Even with the resolution, the case is likely to continue to cast a shadow over Joe Biden’s presidential reelection campaign. House Republicans have vowed to continue investigating business dealings by Biden, his son and associates.

Senator Marsha Blackburn, a Judiciary Committee Republican, asserted it is “no coincidence” the Justice Department plea agreement with Hunter Biden was announced less than a week after Trump’s indictment. But Blackburn called it “pathetic” for Garland to suggest there is one standard of justice in play.

House Oversight and Accountability Chairman James Comer also complained that Hunter Biden “is getting away with a slap on the wrist”.

“These charges against Hunter Biden and sweetheart plea deal have no impact on the Oversight Committee’s investigation,” Comer added in a statement. Comer’s committee has been focusing on allegations that include unsubstantiated claims Joe Biden while vice president was involved in a bribery scheme with a foreign national.

There is no court date set for Biden’s first appearance. The judge will have final say on any sentence regardless of any possible deal on recommended prison time. DM

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