His only true offense is being the son of a president Republicans seek to vilify
Hunter Biden was charged with three felonies on Thursday for lying on a gun purchase application in 2018. However, it’s difficult not to conclude that his true crime is being the son of a president whom Republicans are hell-bent on vilifying and defeating.
The indictment is based largely on Biden’s false claim that he was not using illegal drugs at the time he applied for the firearm. In fact, he was in the grip of a cocaine addiction that was fueling a series of tribulations that Republicans continue to use against his father.
Following a five-year investigation by David Weiss, Trump’s U.S. attorney for Delaware, whom President Joe Biden allowed to remain in office in a departure from standard procedure, the Justice Department negotiated a plea agreement with Biden that included a gun charge. Hunter Biden agreed to plead guilty to two misdemeanor tax violations and enter a pretrial diversion program in which the felony gun charge would be dropped if he stayed out of trouble for two years. Such agreements are a fairly common way to resolve minor charges.
The plea agreement fell apart for unusual reasons unrelated to Biden. The parties made the mistake of including provisions that gave a judge legitimate concerns about being called on to participate in a determination that Biden would not be prosecuted on other charges, assuming an executive branch function in violation of the separation of powers. As a result, the agreement was taken off the table to allow for renegotiation.
However, this created an opening for Donald Trump’s allies on Capitol Hill to lash out at the alleged sweetheart deal. However, as I explained at the time, the broad strokes of the agreement amounted to a reasonable resolution of a case that the Justice Department could easily have lost at trial.
It has since become clear that all of the outrage over the deal was directed at the president himself, whom Trump-fueled extremists in Congress are plotting to impeach. Republicans have nothing substantive to impeach Biden for, so they are attempting to link him to his son’s sins through speculative reasoning. The FBI formed a special task force to deal with the unprecedented number of threats made against agents and prosecutors working on the Hunter Biden case by Trump and his supporters.
The fact that the charges Weiss brought are rarely pursued for their own sake is the clearest indication that something is seriously wrong here. Such charges are brought by the department against defendants who use illegally obtained firearms to commit other crimes. In one or two cases, prosecutors appear to have used such charges against defendants they were aware were particularly dangerous. However, this indictment for an isolated lie by a relatively harmless firearm applicant appears to be unprecedented.
Hunter Biden, on the other hand, still has some legal cards to play. Abbe Lowell, his aggressive and capable counsel, will undoubtedly argue that the charges are an unlawful vindictive prosecution. Recent appellate court rulings implying that even felons retain 2nd Amendment rights may cast a constitutional doubt on at least one of the gun charges.
However, given that these arguments are relative long shots for Biden, he will almost certainly have to go to trial on charges that are rarely brought in the middle of a presidential campaign between his father and Trump. This will provide radical Republicans in Congress with the fodder they need to muddy the waters surrounding Trump’s multiple criminal indictments. Weiss has given them exactly what they desired.