President Biden’s son found guilty, charges loom over re-election bid

Hunter Biden, son of US President Joe Biden, faces guilty verdicts for federal gun law violations and upcoming tax law charges. The cases, tying Joe Biden to Hunter’s actions, shadow the president’s reelection bid. Despite claims, no evidence connects Joe Biden’s political activities to his son’s deeds. The Bidens deny wrongdoing.

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By Chris Strohm, David Voreacos and Greg Farrell

The troubled life of Hunter Biden continues to weigh on his father, US President Joe Biden, who’s seeking a second term in November. 

On June 11, the president’s son was found guilty of violating federal gun laws for lying about his active drug use at the time he bought a firearm. He’s also scheduled to face a jury in Los Angeles in September on charges that he violated tax laws.

The cases are trouble for both Bidens. Conservative media have long tried to tie Hunter Biden’s activities to his father. A Republican-controlled committee in the House of Representatives seized on the business dealings of Hunter Biden to open an impeachment inquiry into his father, which is all but dead. No solid evidence has turned up showing that President Biden benefited from his son’s misdeeds or connecting political activities of the father to the son’s business dealings.

Still, the cases against Hunter Biden, after a plea deal collapsed, will hang over Joe Biden’s reelection campaign this year. His likely opponent, former President Donald Trump, was found guilty on May 30 of falsifying business records to conceal hush money payments to a porn star. Trump faces three other criminal prosecutions.

1. What were the gun charges against Hunter Biden? 

After a week-long trial, a federal jury in Delaware found Hunter Biden guilty of three counts relating to his October 2018 purchase of a Colt Cobra .38 caliber revolver while he was an active drug user. When buying the gun, he had answered “no” to a question on a federal handgun purchase form about whether he was “an unlawful user of, or addicted to, marijuana or any depressant, stimulant, narcotic drug, or any other controlled substance.”

2. What tax charges does he face? 

Prosecutors say that between 2016 and 2019 — when Hunter Biden earned more than $7 million as a lawyer, lobbyist and consultant — he willfully failed to pay at least $1.4 million in taxes he owed on time. The nine-count indictment accuses him of three felonies and six misdemeanors. Rather than pay taxes he knew he owed, prosecutors say, he spent his money on “drugs, escorts and girlfriends, luxury hotels and rental properties, exotic cars, clothing” and other personal items. He also falsely identified personal expenses as business deductions, misled his accountants and knowingly signed false tax returns, they say. 

3. What happened to his plea deal? 

Hunter Biden entered court in July 2023 prepared to plead guilty to two misdemeanor tax charges, have the gun case set aside and receive no jail time. But the deal fell apart after a federal judge questioned the extent to which it granted him immunity from further prosecution. Republicans had complained that the proposed punishment was too light and was evidence of a two-tiered justice system, especially when contrasted with the criminal charges against Trump. After the deal collapsed, US Attorney General Merrick Garland made the prosecutor in both cases, US Attorney David Weiss in Delaware, a special counsel, removing him from direct Justice Department oversight. Hunter Biden has sued the Internal Revenue Service, alleging that some employees illegally disclosed information about his taxes as they urged Congress and the public to object to his plea deal.

4. What prison time is he facing on the tax and gun charges?

Two of the gun counts carry maximum prison time of 10 years; the third is punishable by up to five years. However, judges rarely impose maximum sentences. Hunter Biden faces as many as 17 years in prison if convicted of all the tax charges but would likely face far less time.

5. What is the stalled Joe Biden impeachment investigation about?

In September, Republican Kevin McCarthy, then the House speaker, launched an impeachment probe into Joe Biden for what he called a “culture of corruption.” House Oversight Committee Chairman James Comer has gathered evidence that from 2014 to 2019, Hunter Biden and associates received some $24 million from individuals or companies based in China, Russia, Ukraine, Romania and Kazakhstan. Comer said they “sold access for profit around the world to the detriment of American interests.” The investigation began with an examination of documents and emails recovered from an abandoned laptop that belonged to Hunter Biden, which was turned over to Trump’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, in 2020. Democrats dismiss the inquiry as political payback for Trump’s two impeachments. The effort to impeach Biden lost steam in February 2024 after an FBI informant was charged with lying to the agency about Hunter Biden and his father’s connection to Ukrainian energy company Burisma Holdings.

6. Why did foreign companies pay Hunter Biden?

Hunter Biden, who worked with a global law firm, ostensibly provided consulting services and legal advice to clients. Starting in 2017, he tried to help Chinese nationals engage in overseas investments and deal-making. From 2014 to 2019, he was a director of Burisma Holdings. It’s unclear what expertise he brought, other than that his father was vice president until early 2017. Congressional Republicans allege, without providing evidence, that Joe Biden sold favors as vice president. A frequent claim is that he engineered the 2016 removal of Ukrainian prosecutor Viktor Shokin to shut down a corruption probe of Burisma. That story gained traction in right-wing circles after Trump was accused of using a 2019 call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy to “look into” the Bidens. The call triggered Trump’s first impeachment by House Democrats. 

7. What evidence is there against Joe Biden?

Some evidence exists that Hunter Biden landed lucrative deals because of the perception that his father’s influence in Washington could help him get things done. On multiple occasions, Hunter Biden put his father on speakerphone during business meetings, or arranged for his father to join him and his associates for coffee. Comer has pointed to checks written to Joe Biden from Hunter Biden as evidence that the president profited from their exploits. But Comer’s committee has yet to identify a clear example of Biden subverting US interests to help his son. A September 2020 report released by Republican members of the Senate Homeland Security committee concluded that Hunter Biden’s foreign work created a potential conflict of interest for his father — especially as it related to US policy toward Ukraine — but didn’t allege that any laws had been broken.

8. What do the Bidens say about all this?

President Biden has said he’ll respect the jury’s verdict in the case and ruled out a pardon for his son.

Joe Biden has denied knowledge or involvement in his son’s business dealings and said he is proud of his son’s recovery from addiction. “I love him and he’s on the straight and narrow, and he has been for a couple of years now,” Biden told CNN in October. He’s also denied ever discussing his son’s case with Attorney General Garland, whom he appointed. Hunter Biden’s attorney, Abbe Lowell, has said his client is the victim of selective prosecution. “If Hunter’s last name was anything other than Biden, the charges in Delaware, and now California, would not have been brought,” Lowell said.

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