Federal prosecutors on Thursday charged Hunter Biden with lying about his drug use when he bought a gun in 2018.
The three-count indictment is the latest twist in a series of legal issues for Hunter Biden that could impact the reelection campaign of his father, President Joe Biden. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy on Tuesday announced an impeachment inquiry into President Biden that is based largely on Hunter’s past efforts to profit off of his perceived access to his father.
The new charges against Hunter Biden follow the late June collapse of a plea deal that his lawyers had negotiated with the US attorney in Delaware, David Weiss, under which Biden would have pleaded guilty to two misdemeanor tax crimes, along with a felony gun charge that could have been wiped off his record if he adhered to the deal’s terms. That agreement fell apart when questions from US District Court Judge Maryellen Noreika revealed that prosecutors and Biden’s lawyers had differing understandings of its provisions.
When Attorney General Merrick Garland assumed office in 2021, he left in place Weiss, a Donald Trump appointee, in an effort to avoid the appearance of interference with the ongoing investigations into Hunter Biden. Garland last month gave Weiss special counsel status in an attempt to further ensure his independence. And Weiss has insisted he has faced no pressure from Garland, President Biden, or others to curtail the probe.
Still, congressional Republicans have alleged that Weiss is going easy on the president’s son, and they have touted the disputed accounts of two IRS whistleblowers who claim their investigation into Hunter Biden’s alleged tax evasion was limited by political pressure. The notion that Hunter Biden is receiving special protection is a virtual article of faith on the right. Prosecutors on the case have faced threats and harassment from people convinced they are failing to enforce the law, NBC News reported Thursday.
But the new indictment complicates that narrative. Hunter Biden faces gun charges that he may well have avoided were he not the president’s son.
He’s charged with two counts of making false statements by checking a box attesting that was not using or addicted to drugs on a form he filled out when he bought a Colt Cobra Special in Wilmington in October 2018. A third count is for possessing the gun as a drug user. In a memoir, Biden detailed years of extensive crack cocaine use that included that period.
In a statement Thursday, Abbe Lowell, a high-powered defense attorney representing Hunter Biden, argued that Weiss’ office was bowing to political pressure—from Republicans.
“As expected, prosecutors filed charges today that they deemed were not warranted just six weeks ago following a five-year investigation into this case,” Lowell said. “The evidence in this matter has not changed in the last six weeks, but the law has and so has MAGA Republicans’ improper and partisan interference in this process. Hunter Biden possessing an unloaded gun for 11 day was not a threat to public safety, but a prosecutor, with all the power imaginable, bending to political pressure presents a grave threat to our system of justice.”
Lowell argued that the new charges “are barred by the agreement the prosecutors made with Mr. Biden, the recent rulings by several federal courts that this statute is unconstitutional, and the facts that he did not violate that law, and we plan to demonstrate all of that in court.”
Lowell is also taking on Republicans involved in the 2020 leak and publication of material from Hunter Biden’s laptop hard drive. On Wednesday, Biden’s lawyers sued former Trump White House aide Garrett Ziegler, who has played a prominent role in attempting to publicize material from the device. The lawsuit accuses Zeigler, his company, and 10 unnamed associates of violating computer fraud laws by obtaining “tens of thousands of emails, thousands of photos, and dozens of videos and recordings” from Hunter Biden without his consent and spreading them online.
Lowell previously threatened to sue 13 other Trump associates, including Steve Bannon and Rudy Giuliani, involved in spreading material from the laptop. Such litigation, along with the impeachment inquiry and the federal case against Hunter, make it likely his legal struggles will continue to command national attention as his father seeks reelection.