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Legal battle escalates for Hunter Biden

The president’s son faces new felony charges and a threat of contempt of Congress


Hunter Biden talks to reporters at the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday. Associated Press/Photo by Jose Luis Magana

Legal battle escalates for Hunter Biden

Republican lawmakers on Wednesday prepared questions and set a placard in an interview room in the Capitol, ready to pepper their target witness with questions about alleged foreign influence, business deals, and political favors. At the same time, their guest, Hunter Biden, made a surprise appearance on Capitol Hill—not for his deposition but for a news conference.

“I’m here today to acknowledge that I’ve made mistakes in my life and wasted opportunities and privileges I was afforded,” Biden said, referring to his battles with addiction. “For that, I am making amends.”

But President Joe Biden’s son did not cross the couple hundred feet to enter the Capitol, and he said he would not do so until the lawmakers investigating him agreed to a public hearing. Republicans want private testimony first on the younger Biden’s business deals with Ukrainian and Chinese businesses and on any involvement then–Vice President Joe Biden had. They’re not the only ones who have questions. The Justice Department last week filed several new fraud charges against Hunter, adding a second criminal case against him.

What are the new charges?

Special counsel David Weiss issued a 56-page indictment that hit Biden with nine counts of tax fraud. The three felonies and six misdemeanors allegedly occurred from 2016 to 2019. Weiss alleges that Biden ignored his tax payments, redirected business funds to his personal account, and lied about business expenses on his returns.

In text messages reported in the indictment, Biden complains to his ex-wife that he does not have enough money for their divorce settlement and alimony. At the same time, Weiss claims, he was paying for parties, vacation flights, and luxury expenses for “various women.” Some of the alleged crimes listed in the indictment stem from reports in Biden’s own memoir, Beautiful Things, in which he detailed lavish hotel stays, drug use, and partying. The Justice Department found those same hotel stays listed in his tax returns as business travel.

Between 2016 and 2020, Hunter Biden spent more than $5 million but did not pay his full taxes. His largest expenses were for pornographic websites and high-end clothes.

“The Defendant spent this money on drugs, escorts and girlfriends, luxury hotels and rental properties, exotic cars, clothing, and other items of a personal nature, in short, everything but his taxes,” Weiss wrote.

The Justice Department will argue that Biden “willfully failed” to pay his taxes. Then when he did file some payments, he lied about business deductions to evade the full amount.

What is his defense?

Both the tax fraud case and a pending gun charge case are the results of a plea deal that fell through earlier this summer. Biden’s legal team has argued that he is under undue scrutiny because his father is the president and that Hunter has already paid his owed taxes. This week, Hunter and his team asked a judge to dismiss the gun charges under the plea deal, but prosecutors point out that the agreement was never finalized.

Lead defense attorney Abbe Lowell is accustomed to high-profile cases. He defended Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump during probes into their connections with Russia, and he is representing Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., in his defense on espionage charges. Lowell says the latest charges are politically motivated.

“First, U.S. Attorney Weiss bowed to Republican pressure to file unprecedented and unconstitutional gun charges to renege on a non-prosecution resolution,” Lowell said in a statement last week. “Now, after five years of investigating with no new evidence—and two years after Hunter paid his taxes in full—the U.S. attorney has piled on nine new charges when he had agreed just months ago to resolve this matter with a pair of misdemeanors.”

What happens next?

The court has not yet scheduled an arraignment, but Hunter has said he will plead not guilty. If convicted of all the charges in the tax fraud case, he could receive a maximum of 17 years in prison. The gun charges carry a maximum of 25 years, but first-time, nonviolent offenders rarely receive the full penalty.

Prosecutors have until Jan. 16 to respond to the motions to dismiss the case. U.S. District Judge Mark Scarsi, a Trump appointee, has been assigned to the tax case in California.

Will he testify?

The charges and indictment also intensify a separate House investigation into whether to impeach President Biden on the basis of Hunter’s business dealings. Three House committees have been probing whether Hunter’s connections translated to abuses of power when Biden was vice president. Hunter was subpoenaed to appear for a closed hearing, but he has refused to speak to House Republicans unless it is in a public setting.

Oversight Committee Chairman James Comer, R-Ky., and Judiciary Committee Chairman Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, offered a public hearing, but only after private deposition, according to an open letter they sent Lowell. They also offered to release a transcript shortly after this hearing.

“Mr. Biden will not succeed in attempting to dictate to the committees how they conduct their investigation,” Comer and Jordan wrote. “The subpoenas Mr. Biden has received… are not mere suggestions open to Mr. Biden’s interpretation or preference.”

Shortly after a House vote on Wednesday night that formalized the impeachment inquiry, Comer said would will pursue contempt of Congress charges against Hunter. Democrats on the committee say Republicans only want a closed hearing to cherry-pick testimony and misrepresent what Hunter says. The formal inquiry vote gives the minority party equal authority to question and call witnesses.

“The committee issued a subpoena, and Hunter Biden is here in an attempt to comply,” said Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., a member of the Oversight Committee. “It is the committee that has rejected the terms that they themselves set out for compliance with that subpoena that is now preventing a public and due process from happening.”

Fellow Oversight member Rep. Tim Burchett, R-Tenn., said after the vote on Wednesday that the committee was simply following procedure. But he also expressed doubts that any Biden family member will actually appear for hearings.

“All Hunter did today was show his arrogance,” Burchett told WORLD. “He wants to grandstand and change the rules. That’s not what we’ve ever done in the past. We’re following the procedure to present the evidence to the American people.”

How does this affect the president?

President Biden has frequently said he had nothing to do with Hunter’s business practices. Comer released transcripts of phone calls in which Hunter says he is sitting next to his father to persuade a Chinese businessman to make payments. But it has not yet been confirmed if he was telling the truth. The indictment does not implicate or mention the president in any of the tax fraud charges.


Carolina Lumetta

Carolina is a WORLD reporter and a graduate of the World Journalism Institute and Wheaton College. She resides in Washington, D.C.

@CarolinaLumetta


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