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Fortunate son?

The deal with Hunter Biden doesn’t touch the most serious accusations he faces

Hunter Biden talks with his sister Ashley Biden at his daughter Maisy Biden’s commencement ceremony at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia on May 15. Associated Press/Photo by Patrick Semansky

Fortunate son?
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Asked about his brother’s embarrassing antics peddling books and Billy Beer, President Jimmy Carter once said, “I have more influence over members of the U.S. Senate than I do over Billy.” America is anxious to find out exactly how much influence President Joe Biden had over his son Hunter, who is at the center of a swirl of scandals involving laptops, drugs, women, bribery, and Ukraine.

A federal plea deal by Hunter is the latest effort to cut those stories off at the pass. Only time will tell if the damage control works to staunch the bleeding just as the presidential campaign season kicks into gear.

Yesterday, the United States Attorney for the Biden clan’s home state of Delaware announced that he was charging Hunter with three crimes: two counts of tax evasion and one count of illegal ownership of a firearm. According to the prosecutor, Hunter received taxable income in excess of $1.5 million annually in calendar years 2017 and 2018. As a result, he owed at least $100,000 in income taxes each year, which he did not pay when it was due. He has since paid the taxes.

The gun charge stems from a federal law that makes it illegal for a person to own or possess a firearm while an “unlawful user of or addicted to any controlled substance.” In 2018, Hunter had a Colt Cobra revolver during a time he was struggling with a cocaine addiction—he writes in his memoir that during that period, “I was smoking crack every 15 minutes.”

The U.S. Attorney, David Weiss, is a holdover appointee of President Donald Trump who has overseen the Hunter Biden investigation for five years now. At the same time he announced the charges, he also announced a plea deal with Hunter, an unusually early resolution of the case. The first two counts are misdemeanors, which means Hunter faces no more than 12 months in federal prison for each count. Even so, because he is accepting responsibility by pleading guilty, the likely outcome is that he receives only probation.

The firearm crime is a felony, but Hunter has agreed to “pretrial diversion.” That means the government is going to hold the charge in suspension, and if Hunter completes a series of steps over the next two years (like staying clean, regular check-in meetings with a drug counselor, no additional violations), the prosecutor will withdraw the charge. The judge has some flexibility to depart from the deal, but most of the time such agreements receive the judicial imprimatur without difficulty.

This arraignment arrangement clears up one source of Hunter’s legal headaches, but other wounds likely will continue to bleed.

This arraignment arrangement clears up one source of Hunter’s legal headaches, but other wounds likely will continue to bleed. First, the U.S. Attorney’s statement says, “The investigation is ongoing.” Meanwhile, Chris Clark, the attorney representing Hunter, told NBC News, “it is my understanding that the five-year investigation into Hunter is resolved.” Well, which is it?

Regardless of that glaring discrepancy, congressional Republicans will not stop in their independent investigation into whether Ukrainian actors surreptitiously smuggled funds as a bribe to then-Vice President Joe Biden, potentially leveraging Hunter’s service on the board of energy giant Burisma Corp. The House GOP is particularly fixated on a June 2020 report filed by a credible, confidential source with the FBI alleging a $5 million bribe from a Burisma executive to Vice President Biden.

In the wake of this announcement, some will say that Hunter got off easy, while others will say he is getting disproportionately harsh treatment because of his presidential parent. Everyone will cry double-standard, although the baseline will vary red or blue. Some amount of head-scratching will be natural: If he is being charged with owning a gun while addicted to cocaine, why isn’t he being charged with violating federal drug laws?

Ultimately this won’t be the last we see of Hunter Biden, because his failure to pay income taxes and his drug use are personal failures that pale in comparison to his alleged business deals directly trading on his father’s position in the White House. If he was taking bribes to influence U.S. foreign policy, failing to pay taxes on the bribe money is the least of his legal problems.

Daniel R. Suhr

Daniel R. Suhr is an attorney who fights for freedom in courts across America. He has worked as a senior adviser for Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, as a law clerk for Judge Diane Sykes of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit, and at the national headquarters of the Federalist Society. He is a member of Christ Church Mequon. He is an Eagle Scout, and he loves spending time with his wife Anna and their two sons, Will and Graham, at their home near Milwaukee.

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