Hunter Biden continues to be President Joe Biden's headache. A Los Angeles grand jury on Thursday opened a new court case against the president's son for allegedly committing tax crimes. This is the second case Biden has faced just as his father enters the campaign to retain the White House in 2024. The indictment filed in California federal court delves into the luxuries the 53-year-old lawyer afforded himself during the period he evaded paying taxes, between 2016 and 2019. This feeds the Republican Party's narrative, which points to the president's son as a sign of the corruption and nepotism of the Democratic administration.
The now accused initially acknowledged the commission of two crimes of tax fraud in 2017 and 2018 (already regularized with the payment of one million dollars) for which he was going to be sentenced to lesser sentences, foreseeably avoiding going to prison. The admission was part of a plea deal in which the prosecutor waived prosecution of another offense of illegal purchase and possession of a gun in exchange for staying away from drugs for two years and forfeiting future possession of a firearm.
The situation changed completely due to the different interpretation of the agreement between the prosecution and the defense and the pressures of the Republicans. They saw the pact as favored treatment for the president's son, although it was a common arrangement in similar cases where the defendants have been rehabilitated and have no criminal record.
The prosecutor, David Weiss, finally decided to file charges for the purchase of the gun, charging him with three crimes that add up to maximum penalties of up to 25 years in prison and fines of up to $750,000, although it is unusual for them to be imposed in a case like this. According to Weiss, he lied when he claimed he was clean of drugs when he bought a .38-caliber Colt Cobra five years ago. Hunter Biden, 53, submitted a written statement "certifying that he was not an illicit user or addict to any stimulant, narcotic or any other controlled substance, when in reality, as he knew, such statement was false and fictitious," according to the indictment. The prosecutor accuses him of two crimes for these alleged falsehoods (one for the alleged false information on the form and another for lying to the seller of the gun) and a third for the subsequent possession of the weapon, which would also be illegal because of his addictions.
Hunter Biden appeared in federal court in Wilmington, Delaware, in early October to hear charges against him for the alleged illegal purchase and possession of a handgun. He pleaded not guilty in a 20-minute hearing surrounded by great expectation.
Against the President
Republicans are using the case as a weapon against the president less than a year before the election. Hunter Biden has been summoned to appear in the House of Representatives. The president's son agrees to attend, but only if it is in a public statement and not behind closed doors, as the Republicans want. Hunter Biden fears that information from those statements could be selectively leaked and used to "manipulate, even distort, the facts and misinform the American public," he said in a letter to lawmakers.
The subpoena to Biden's son is part of the preliminary investigation to see if they have material to politically prosecute the president, with an impeachment. Biden on Wednesday dismissed as "lies" claims that he behaved illegally or unethically in connection with his son's business dealings. "I'm not going to comment on that. I haven't. It's just a bunch of lies. It's a lie," he said.
Republicans have told Hunter Biden's representatives that the subpoena for a closed-door deposition on Dec. 13 is non-negotiable and that if he does not show up they will charge him with contempt of Congress. It is not clear, however, that Congress has the power to force him to testify, especially when the investigation that has been launched has not been approved by the full House of Representatives. It was just a decision by former House Speaker Kevin McCarthy who was trying to appease the hardliners in his party. It didn't do him much good and he was dismissed.
The new Speaker of the House, Mike Johnson, plans to submit that pre-vote investigation next week. That will serve "so that when subpoenas are challenged in court, we are at the pinnacle of our constitutional authority," Johnson said. It seems to agree with those who believe that the subpoenas are not binding at the moment.
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