President Joe Biden's son, Hunter, leaves after a court appearance...

President Joe Biden's son, Hunter, leaves after a court appearance on July 26 in Wilmington, Del. Credit: AP/Julio Cortez

President Joe Biden’s son, Hunter, has been indicted on charges of allegedly lying on a firearms application and illegally possessing a gun, charges brought following a collapsed plea deal.

It’s the latest development in a long-running saga about Hunter Biden’s legal problems and business dealings, which Republicans have tried to use in an impeachment inquiry against President Biden. But they’ve yet to produce any hard evidence showing wrongdoing by the president.

Still, the indictment and possible trial could produce turmoil for the president amid the 2024 election.

Here is what to know about the Hunter Biden case:

WHAT TO KNOW

  • President Biden’s son, Hunter, has been indicted on charges of allegedly lying on a firearms application and illegally possessing a gun.
  • It came weeks after the collapse of a proposed plea deal that would have also had Hunter Biden pleading guilty to failing to pay taxes on about $4 million of income in 2017 and 2018.
  • Lying on a gun application accounted for two of more than 37,000 federal gun charges from 2008 to 2012, according to researchers.

Charges in Delaware

The indictment wasn’t filed in Washington, D.C., but rather in federal court in Delaware, longtime home of the Bidens. It was filed by David Weiss, the U.S. Attorney for Delaware who was nominated for the post by former President Donald Trump.

Hunter Biden, 53, is charged with two counts of making false statements on a gun-purchase application: falsely checking a box on the application saying he was not addicted to drugs and lying to the gun dealer by giving him the application.

The third charge alleges he possessed the gun for about 11 days despite knowing he was a drug user. He bought the gun in October 2018, a time when he has acknowledged struggling with addiction to crack cocaine, according to the indictment.

Plea deal collapsed

The indictment came just weeks after the collapse of a proposed plea deal that would have covered gun and tax charges.

Under the terms, Hunter Biden would have pleaded guilty to failing to pay taxes on about $4 million of income in 2017 and 2018.

He would have admitted gun possession but not plead guilty to the felony. Prosecutors would agree to eventually dismiss the gun charge if he stayed out of trouble.

But the deal fell apart during a court proceeding when the judge probed the details about what scale of immunity was being offered in exchange for the plea. Biden's attorneys thought it would broadly apply to his foreign business dealings while prosecutors believed it narrowly applied to the gun and tax charges. With disagreement over a key element, the judge put the agreement on hold, and Weiss revved up the investigation again.

Charge not common, but more possible

Republicans had criticized the plea bargain as a “sweetheart deal,” because it carried no prison time.

In contrast, Hunter Biden's attorney said of the gun charge that on one else would have faced this charge and his client was charged because he was the president’s son.

According to Syracuse University’s Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse, which tracks federal data, lying on an application accounted for two of more than 37,000 federal gun charges from 2008 to 2012.

The Associated Press reported that of all the people sentenced in 2021 for illegal gun possession, about 5% were charged because of drug use; typically that charge is brought in connection with other, more substantial charges.

Meanwhile, Weiss has indicated tax charges could be filed at a later date — in Washington or California, where Hunter Biden now lives. Recently, the U.S. Department of Justice elevated Weiss to “special counsel” in the matter, allowing him to file charges beyond Delaware.

Political tumult

Beyond Hunter Biden’s fate, the case has impacts in Washington and possibly next year’s elections.

The Republican-led U.S. House of Representatives has opened an impeachment inquiry into whether the president benefited from Hunter Biden’s business dealings — despite yet having produced no evidence as such.

Democrats have said the GOP is seeking to divert attention away from the multiple indictments of Trump — who faces charges for his efforts to overturn the 2020 election, his handling of classified documents and, in New York, his alleged filing of false business documents.

Still, the combination of the GOP inquiry and Hunter Biden’s indictment could create headaches for the Democratic president as he prepares to run for reelection.

Among other things, Hunter Biden could stand trial while the 2024 primaries are underway. President Biden didn’t address the indictment after the news broke, and the White House reportedly has no plans to do so and wants to emphasize the independence of the Hunter probe.

With the Associated Press

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