Hunter Biden could face trial as US special counsel named

Hunter Biden could face trial as US special counsel named

By Reuters

  • Hunter Biden may be headed for trial on criminal charges.
  • US Special Counsel in the case, David Weiss said talks on a potential plea deal had reached an impasse. 
  • Hunter Biden in July pleaded not guilty to charges of failing to pay taxes on more than $1.5 million in income in 2017 and 2018 despite owing more than $100 000.

President Joe Biden’s son Hunter Biden may be headed for trial on criminal charges after talks on a potential plea deal reached impasse, the newly named US Special Counsel in the case, David Weiss, said on Friday.

Moments earlier, US Attorney General Merrick Garland elevated Weiss, the federal prosecutor who has been handling the case, to special counsel status, which would give him additional authority to continue his investigation.

Republicans in Congress have threatened an impeachment inquiry into unproven claims that Biden benefited from his 54-year-old son’s business ventures.

Weiss filed misdemeanor criminal tax and gun charges against Hunter Biden in June and both parties reached a proposed plea deal. But a federal judge refused to accept the deal. Weiss said in a court filing on Friday that the two sides are at an impasse and a trial is likely.

READ | US President’s son Hunter Biden to plead guilty to tax crimes, reaches deal on gun charge

Hunter Biden in July pleaded not guilty to charges of failing to pay taxes on more than $1.5 million in income in 2017 and 2018 despite owing more than $100 000, prosecutors allege. He did not enter a plea in a separate case where he is charged with unlawfully owning a firearm while using illegal drugs, which is a felony.

A Hunter Biden trial could create an unprecedented spectacle in US history: The son of a sitting president facing criminal charges while his father campaigns for re-election in 2024, likely against Republican Donald Trump who faces three concurrent criminal trials of his own.

Trump appointee 

Weiss, originally appointed to his position as US Attorney for Delaware by Trump, began investigating Hunter Biden in 2019. He was allowed to stay on during the Biden administration. His appointment as special counsel gives him more independence than federal prosecutors usually enjoy.

Weiss said he might bring different charges against Hunter Biden in Washington or California, where the alleged criminal conduct took place.

An attorney for Hunter Biden did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Weiss will produce a report when his work is done, Garland said, and the Justice Department will make as much of it public as is possible.

“The appointment of Mr. Weiss reinforces for the American people the department’s commitment to both independence and accountability in particularly sensitive matters,” Garland told a press conference.

Republicans have accused the elder Biden of profiting from his son’s business ventures in Ukraine and China, though they have yet to produce any evidence of wrongdoing. House of Representatives Speaker Kevin McCarthy said in July that the chamber might launch an impeachment inquiry in the autumn.

READ | ‘It’s a family matter’: Biden acknowledges 7th grandchild for the first time in public

The White House declined to comment. Biden officials have previously dismissed Republican allegations as “insane conspiracy theories” and has said that Biden did not participate in his son’s business affairs.

Hunter Biden has worked as a lobbyist, lawyer, consultant and investment banker and has said he has struggled with alcoholism and crack cocaine use.

Republicans said Weiss lacked credibility to continue the investigation.

McCarthy said:

If Weiss negotiated the sweetheart deal that couldn’t get approved, how can he be trusted as a Special Counsel?

Weiss is the third quasi-independent prosecutor appointed by Garland to handle politically sensitive investigations.

Special Counsel Jack Smith has filed two criminal cases against Trump – one accusing him of trying over overturn his 2020 presidential defeat to Biden and a second that alleges he improperly took sensitive government documents with him when he left the White House and tried to prevent officials from recovering them.

Another special counsel, Robert Hur, is probing whether Biden mishandled classified documents after he left office as vice president in 2017.

Hunter Biden has been a focus of several Republican congressional committees.

One former associate told the House Oversight Committee that Hunter gave an impression that he emphasized his family ties while he was doing business in Ukraine nearly a decade ago, while his father was vice president. That witness, Devon Archer, said Hunter spoke with his father daily but said the conversations did not involve business dealings.

Trump also has frequently mentioned the younger Biden in an attempt to tar his father as the two gear up for a possible rematch in the 2024 presidential election. His spokesperson Stephen Cheung said Weiss should “quickly conclude” that Biden and his son “should face the required consequences.”

A June Reuters/Ipsos poll found half of Americans, including 75% of Republicans and 33% of Democrats, believed the younger Biden received preferential treatment from Weiss. But most said that would not affect their vote next year.

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