Hunter Biden Tries to End Legal Problems

From a Wall Street Journal story by Ryan Barber headlined “Hunter Biden Tries to End Legal Woes as Republicans Vow to Keep Probing”:

Hunter Biden is trying to resolve the legal issues swirling around him before his father’s re-election bid begins in earnest, but House Republicans are vowing to forge ahead with their own probes aimed at tainting President Biden through his son.

In a matter of days last month, Hunter Biden settled a child-support dispute with the mother of his 4-year-old daughter and entered a plea deal with federal prosecutors in which he will admit to a pair of misdemeanor tax crimes and likely avoid jail time. As part of that agreement, he is also entering a so-called diversion program that will allow him to avoid prosecution on a gun possession charge if he remains drug-free and agrees to never own a firearm again.

Republicans pounced on the plea agreement, claiming it was too lenient and demanding an appearance by David Weiss, the Trump-appointed U.S. attorney who oversaw the yearslong investigation of the younger Biden. GOP lawmakers have highlighted allegations by an Internal Revenue Service supervisory agent that Weiss was denied special-counsel status and prevented from filing more serious charges in Washington, D.C., and California.

Weiss last week sent a letter to lawmakers saying he would appear “at the appropriate time,” which is likely to be after a July 26 court appearance in which the younger Biden is expected to formally plead guilty. Weiss also defended the integrity of the investigation and denied being blocked from pursuing other charges.

“He may have put some of his legal problems behind him, but anyone who thinks House Republicans will give this up will need to get their head examined,” said Jim Manley, a Democratic strategist and former Senate aide. “They smell blood and they’re not going to give up anytime soon.”

During the entrenched political fight, Hunter Biden has remained by his father’s side. Just days after prosecutors gave notice of his plea in a court filing, he appeared at a White House state dinner that Attorney General Merrick Garland also attended.

“I’m very proud of my son,” President Biden recently told reporters.

The president’s allies fret that his son could prove a liability on the campaign trail as the Republican front-runner, former President Donald Trump, mounts a third White House bid in the face of his own federal charges and a separate prosecution by the Manhattan district attorney.

Republicans have seized on the legal agreements to cast Hunter Biden as the privileged son of a sitting president, a strategy that could undercut his father’s efforts to portray an “everyman” image on the campaign trail.

“What’s more elite than doing all the things Hunter Biden did and still getting to go to the White House, still getting to fly on Air Force One, not having to take care of your kid,” said Scott Jennings, a Republican strategist who worked in former President George W. Bush’s administration. “What could be more elite than that? As a political matter, the blind spot they have for this is stunning.”

Few of the president’s advisers can talk to him about how Hunter Biden affects his political standing, according to people familiar with the sensitivity of the dynamics, even as some close to the family believe his son’s woes will dog the president in the campaign.

Hunter Biden has been seeking to set up a legal-defense fund, according to people familiar with the effort. Richard Painter, a University of Minnesota law professor who served in the White House as chief ethics lawyer to President George W. Bush, has been approached to help with the project.

Also, while Hunter Biden’s settlement in the child-support case pre-empted a trial planned for later this month, conservative news outlets have covered the case closely and highlighted how the president repeatedly acknowledges having six grandchildren, a total that doesn’t account for Hunter Biden’s daughter in Arkansas.

During the Arkansas proceedings, a lawyer for Hunter Biden revealed that he had been paying $20,000 a month in child support, for a total of about $750,000, to his 4-year-old daughter’s mother, Lunden Roberts. In his 2021 memoir, Hunter Biden wrote that he had “no recollection” of his encounter with Roberts, but DNA testing in 2019 established that he was the father of their child.

Hunter Biden cited a “substantial material change” in his finances in seeking to lower his payments.

Under the settlement terms, Hunter Biden agreed to pay a monthly sum that wasn’t disclosed in public court documents. Now in a second career as an artist, he also is set to turn over several of his paintings, with the net proceeds going to his daughter if they are sold. He also promised to discuss a college fund with Roberts, who dropped a bid to change her daughter’s last name to Biden as part of the agreement.

Roberts’s lawyer, Clint Lancaster, didn’t respond to requests for comment. Lancaster advertises on his website that he is a Republican and represented the Trump campaign in 2020 during the electoral vote recount in Wisconsin.

In the federal prosecution, Hunter Biden’s defense lawyers have treaded carefully, mindful that the plea deal isn’t fully realized until the president’s son admits his guilt in court. When prosecutors gave notice of the plea deal in a June 20 court filing, a lawyer for Hunter Biden said the president’s son “believes it is important to take responsibility” for his mistakes.

Meanwhile, his lawyer for congressional investigations, Abbe Lowell, recently jumped into the political fray with a letter responding to the House Republicans’ release of the IRS agent’s closed-door testimony.

In that testimony, IRS supervisory agent Gary Shapley said his team uncovered a 2017 WhatsApp message in which Hunter Biden invoked his father’s name in pressuring a potential Chinese business partner, saying he was “sitting here with my father.”

President Biden has long denied playing any role in his son’s overseas business dealings, and repeated investigations have shown no involvement on his part. Lowell said that the president and his son weren’t together that day and that no transaction actually occurred.

Annie Linskey contributed to this article.

Ryan Barber is a reporter in The Wall Street Journal’s Washington, D.C. bureau, where he covers the Justice Department and legal affairs.

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