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Hunter Biden indicted on firearms charges in Delaware

Hunter, President Biden’s son, was indicted Thursday for allegedly making false statements and illegally possessing a handgun — paving the way for a possible criminal trial of the younger Biden in 2024 while his father campaigns for re-election.

The criminal charges follow the collapse in July of a plea deal that Hunter Biden’s lawyers had negotiated with Delaware U.S. Attorney David Weiss. in which Biden allegedly pleaded guilty to two tax crimes while admitting to illegal possession of a firearm, but not actually pleading guilty to that criminal offense.

A separate indictment of Hunter Biden on tax charges is also possible, although the timing is unclear, according to people familiar with the matter who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss a sensitive matter.

Thursday’s indictment marks another earthquake in what has already been a tumultuous 2024 presidential campaign. Current front-runner for the GOP nomination Donald Trump faces four separate indictments on a slew of diverse allegations, including two from the same Justice Department that indicted Hunter Biden, and could also find himself on trial before the next presidential election.

Polls indicate that Trump’s lead over his Republican rivals has only grown with his indictments in New York, Florida, Washington DC and Georgia. He and other top Republicans have repeatedly tried to tie President Biden to his son’s legal and tax problems, accusing the first family of corruption with little evidence to support the claims.

The White House declined to comment Thursday, referring questions to the Justice Department and Hunter Biden’s lawyers. A spokesperson for Weiss declined to comment beyond a written announcement of the charges.

The four-page indictment accuses Biden of making two false statements while filling out paperwork to purchase a gun on Oct. 12, 2018. He claimed he was not addicted to or using illegal drugs, the indictment states accusation, “when in fact, as he knew that this statement was false and fictitious.

The third count accuses Biden of illegally possessing that weapon, a Colt pistol, for 11 days after the purchase. This charge is based on a federal law prohibiting possession of a weapon while a person is using illegal drugs.

Biden’s lawyer, Father Lowell, accused Weiss of giving in to inappropriate political pressure from Republicans by indicting the president’s son.

“Hunter Biden possessing an unloaded gun for 11 days did not pose a threat to public safety, but a prosecutor, with every power imaginable, bowing to political pressure poses a grave threat to our justice system,” Lowell said .

Previously, the younger Biden’s lawyers and defenders have argued that prosecutors very rarely charge people with such gun violations unless the charge can be linked to more serious crimes.

Weiss, who launched the Hunter Biden investigation as Delaware’s U.S. attorney during the Trump administration, signaled earlier this month that he planned to seek an indictment. After the plea deal fell through, Weiss requested and was granted special counsel status from the Justice Department, which gives him the authority to file charges outside of Delaware – something he reportedly needed. ‘special authorization to act as a US attorney.

Part of Biden’s failed plea deal required Biden to participate in a pretrial diversion program, an option typically applied to nonviolent offenders with substance abuse problems. In total, he would have spent about two years on probation but would have avoided prison time if he followed the terms of the deal, which included not possessing a firearm or engaging in criminal behavior.

Lowell argued Thursday that the diversion agreement remained in effect and said prosecutors therefore should not be allowed to bring new charges. “He did not violate this law and we plan to demonstrate all of that in court,” Lowell said.

The plea deal collapsed at a July court hearing in Wilmington, Del., under basic questioning by a federal judge who found that the two sides had very different interpretations about whether whether the deal meant Biden could still be charged with possible financial crimes or lobbying. Since that hearing, prosecutors have signaled that the appropriate place to file tax charges against the younger Biden would not be in Delaware, but in Washington DC and California.

How Hunter Biden’s plea deal fell apart

The investigation into Hunter Biden began during the Trump administration and became a central concern of Republicans, including the former president.

When Biden was elected, the attorney general he appointed, Merrick Garland, opted to keep Weiss, a Trump nominee, as U.S. attorney in Delaware to continue the investigation. Republicans have repeatedly attacked Weiss – who has deep roots in the Bidens’ home stateas being unable or unwilling to pursue this politically sensitive matter.

The saga of the investigation took another strange turn in the spring. Two IRS agents involved in the case became whistleblowers and told a congressional committee that Weiss and his office blocked and slowed the investigation for several months, frustrating the agents, who said They had wanted to bring harsher charges in this case. A senior FBI agent overseeing the investigation pushed back on some, but not all, of those claims.

Garland has long resisted calls from congressional conservatives to appoint a special counsel in the Hunter Biden case, saying Weiss is best suited to handle the matter. and that he had the autonomy to file whatever charges he wanted. But after the plea deal fell through, Weiss asked to be appointed special counsel, and Garland agreed.

Lying on government forms needed to purchase a gun represents a small percentage of all gun-related prosecutions in the country.

Between October 2022 and March 2023, federal prosecutors filed 3,863 cases in which illegal possession of a firearm was the primary charge, according to Syracuse University’s TRAC database, which aggregates federal data.

In 130 of those cases, or about 3 percent, the primary charge of illegal possession was related to making a false statement to acquire the gun.

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

Even after the indictment, congressional Republicans continued Thursday to question whether the Justice Department was properly prosecuting the case.

House Oversight Committee Chairman James Comer (R-Ky.) said he believes the gun charges are “the only crime you can’t link to Joe Biden,” adding : “This does nothing to make me think that justice is being served, or anything else… I’m still skeptical.

Tyler Pager and Jacqueline Alemany contributed to this report.


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