Hunter Biden to Plead Guilty in Tax and Gun Cases

From a Washington Post story by Devlin Barrett and Perry Stein headlined “Hunter Biden reaches deal to plead guilty in tax, gun case”:

President Biden’s son Hunter has reached a tentative agreement with federal prosecutors to plead guilty to two minor tax crimes and admit to the facts of a gun charge under terms that would likely keep him out of jail, according to court papers filed Tuesday.

Any proposed plea deal would have to be approved by a federal judge, and it was not immediately clear what day Hunter Biden, 53, might appear in court to enter his guilty plea.

The agreement caps an investigation that was opened in 2018 during the Trump administration, and has generated intense interest and criticism since 2020 from Republican politicians who accused the Biden administration of reluctance to pursue the case. The terms of the proposed deal — negotiated with Delaware U.S. Attorney David Weiss, a holdover from President Donald Trump’s administration — are likely to face similar scrutiny.

The court papers indicate the younger Biden has tentatively agreed to plead guilty to two misdemeanor tax charges of failure to pay in 2017 and 2018. The combined tax liability is roughly $1.2 million over those years, according to people familiar with the plea deal, who spoke on condition of anonymity to describe details of the agreement that are not yet public. Prosecutors plan to recommend a sentence of probation for those counts, these people said. Biden’s representatives have said he previously paid back the IRS what he owed.

In a letter filed in federal court in Wilmington on Tuesday, federal prosecutors said they were filing two documents called criminal informations — typically used in cases in which a defendant has agreed to plead guilty.

“The defendant has agreed to plead guilty to both counts of the tax Information,” the prosecutors wrote. The second criminal information is about the gun charge. “The defendant has agreed to enter a Pretrial Diversion Agreement with respect to the firearm Information,” the letter says.

Both the prosecutors and the defense counsel have requested a court hearing at which Biden can enter his plea, the letter said.

While Biden is pleading guilty to two tax charges, handling the gun charge as a diversion case means he will not technically be pleading guilty to that crime. Diversion is an option typically applied to nonviolent offenders with substance abuse problems.

In all, prosecutors would recommend two years of probation and diversion conditions, these people said. If Biden successfully meets the conditions of the diversion program, the gun charge would be removed from his record at the end of that period, the people familiar with the plea deal said.

The gun purchase that led to the criminal charge happened in late 2018, at a time when, by his own telling in his autobiography, Hunter Biden was regularly abusing crack cocaine. When he filled out paperwork to buy the gun, however, he denied using drugs or having a drug problem, exposing him to a potential charge of making a false statement on the document, as well as illegal gun possession once he acquired the weapon. Biden owned the gun for less than two weeks, because his then-girlfriend threw it away, according to public accounts of that time period.

Hunter Biden’s proposed plea deal will likely become grist for the 2024 presidential race, as the nation’s two main parties once again debate the influence of politics on law enforcement, and the effects of law-enforcement investigations on political campaigns.

Biden’s defenders have argued that Hunter Biden is a recovering addict accused of relatively minor offenses — the type of case that would not typically be prosecuted by federal authorities, barring some additional aggravating factors that are not present in this case. They suggest the investigation would have been dropped long ago if he wasn’t the president’s son.

Republicans seeking to win back the White House have sought to tie Hunter Biden’s legal woes directly to his father, claiming the extent of wrongdoing in the Biden family goes far beyond a simple tax and gun case, and that the Justice Department is trying to avoid prosecuting more serious matters. Attorney General Merrick Garland has said he gave full authority over the investigation to Weiss, a Trump appointee, and would not interfere in any charging decision.

Trump, who is the early front-runner for the 2024 Republican nomination for president, frequently tries to contrast the Justice Department’s treatment of Hunter Biden with his own legal jeopardy involving the discovery that hundreds of classified documents were kept at his Mar-a-Lago home and private club. Trump was indicted earlier this month on 37 federal charges of withholding highly sensitive national security information and trying to prevent the federal government from regaining possession of that material. He has denied wrongdoing.

Federal authorities began investigating Hunter Biden’s finances in 2018. Much of that work has centered around whether he evaded paying taxes on money he collected from overseas business clients. Last year, witnesses were called before a grand jury in Wilmington to answer questions about what they knew about Biden’s spending and work. Over time, the inquiry expanded to look at whether Biden’s gun purchase amounted to a crime.

People familiar with the situation, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss an ongoing case, told The Washington Post in October that federal agents had determined there was enough evidence to file tax and gun charges. Last month, The Post reported that prosecutors in the case were nearing a decision.

Lying on the government forms needed to purchase a firearm represents a small percentage of the nation’s overall firearm-related prosecutions. Between October 2022 and March 2023, federal prosecutors filed 3,863 cases in which the unlawful possession of a firearm was the lead charge, according to Syracuse University’s TRAC database, which gathers federal data. In 130 of those cases, or about 3 percent, the lead unlawful possession charge was related to making a false statement to acquire the weapon.

During that same six-month period, federal prosecutors in Delaware filed nine cases in which unlawful gun possession was the lead charge, according to the TRAC data. One of the nine involved making a false statement to acquire the weapon.

Adam Winkler, a UCLA law professor whose research focuses on gun policy, said prosecutors typically would not charge lying on a gun form as a stand-alone crime, instead filing it as a secondary charge when someone also may have committed a violent crime with the weapon.

In recent months, Hunter Biden has tried to take a more public and publicly combative stance in the face of the accusations. His revamped legal team has fired countersuits, issued criminal referral letters, and sent cease-and-desist letters to some of those who have publicly argued he committed crimes.

In April, he also was part of a high-profile visit to Ireland with his father, who introduced him enthusiastically to crowds, along with the president’s sister.

Hunter Biden’s finances became a subject of heated debate during the 2020 presidential campaign, in part because of reports in the New York Post about a laptop computer that he purportedly dropped off at a Wilmington repair shop in 2019 and never came back to collect.

The laptop was turned over to the FBI in December 2019, according to documents reviewed by The Post, and a copy of the drive was obtained by Rudy Giuliani and other advisers to then-President Trump a few months before the 2020 election.

Trump and his supporters have repeatedly argued that Hunter’s legal problems were evidence not just of his wrongdoing but misconduct by his father. Two areas of the younger Biden’s work came under particular scrutiny — a deal with Chinese firm CEFC, and his membership on the board of the Ukrainian energy firm Burisma.

As the 2020 election drew closer, Republicans pressed the FBI and Justice Department to explain the status of the Biden investigation and the relevance of the laptop to that investigation. The bureau declined to do so, citing the intense criticism directed at the FBI in 2016 for publicly reopening an investigation of Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton just weeks before Trump’s victory at the polls.

In December 2020, after Joe Biden was elected, FBI agents approached Hunter Biden seeking to question him about his finances, and he publicly confirmed he was under investigation.

At the time, a spokesman for Joe Biden said the president-elect had “never even considered being involved in business with his family, nor in any overseas business whatsoever.”

Devlin Barrett writes about the FBI and the Justice Department, and is the author of “October Surprise: How the FBI Tried to Save Itself and Crashed an Election.” He was part of reporting teams that won Pulitzer Prizes in 2018 and 2022. In 2017 he was a co-finalist for the Pulitzer for Feature Writing and the Pulitzer for International Reporting.

Perry Stein covers the Justice Department and FBI for The Washington Post. She previously covered D.C. education. Before she joined The Post in 2015, she was a staff writer for Washington City Paper and wrote for the Miami Herald,

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