- Hunter Biden has been indicted on charges over his purchase of a firearm in 2018.
- The indictment comes after Biden’s plea deal with the feds related to two tax charges fell through in late July.
- The indictment alleges Biden lied about not using narcotics when he bought the gun.
A federal grand jury in Delaware indicted Hunter Biden Thursday on three gun charges.
Two charges in the indictment allege that Biden — President Joe Biden’s son — lied when he said he didn’t use narcotics before buying the gun, a Colt Cobra revolver. The third alleges he illegally owned the firearm when he shouldn’t have.
Two of the charges carry a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison, according to a document prosecutors filed to court. The less serious charge carries a maximum of 5 years of incarceration.
With no criminal record, Biden is likely to get closer to a maximum of one year in jail if convicted of all charges, speculated Neama Rahmani, a former federal prosecutor.
The indictment comes after Biden’s plea deal with federal prosecutors on misdemeanor tax charges fell apart in court in late July.
In the original plea deal, the younger Biden would have pleaded guilty to two tax crimes, while prosecutors would have dropped potential gun charges if he sought treatment for substance abuse. He wouldn’t have to spend any time in jail unless he broke the terms of the agreement.
But the deal collapsed after prodding from the federal judge overseeing the case, Maryellen Noreika, prodded attorneys over whether it would shield Biden from additional charges. Prosecutors had reportedly also investigated Biden’s foreign business dealings, and Republicans have publicly denounced David Weiss, the Donald Trump-appointed federal prosecutor who led the case, for not bringing harsher charges. Noreika, also an appointee of Trump, additionally expressed concern about a provision in the agreement that would give her oversight of future prosecutions, which she said might violate the Constitution’s separation of powers.
During the hearing, Noreika asked Leo Wise, a top prosecutor in the case, whether the deal would mean Biden would get immunity for other possible crimes. Wise said the plea deal wouldn’t. At that point, Biden’s lawyer said the plea agreement was “null and void.”
Prosecutors previously signaled they would bring the gun and tax charges against Biden through the ordinary process, with a grand jury. While Thursday’s indictment includes three gun charges, it does not include the tax charges.
Biden’s lawyers ‘got greedy,’ one expert says
Rahmani said it was unusual for prosecutors to bring gun possession charges that aren’t part of a larger case. By Biden’s own admission, he owned the gun for only 11 days and never used it on anyone. But that doesn’t mean a judge will allow the charges to go away.
“It’s usually charged with respect to or in connection with the crime of violence or drug trafficking — but that’s not a legal defense,” Rahmani, now the president of West Coast Trial Lawyers, told Insider. “The kind of example I give is usually most people aren’t cited with driving without insurance unless they’re caught speeding or running a red light or something else. But it’s not legal.”
Biden’s own attorneys got themselves into this position, Rahmani said. A plea deal with no time behind bars was an unusually good bargain, he said. By trying to expand it to business dealings and concocting a constitutionally questionable judicial oversight, they “got greedy,” he told Insider.
“When you have a deal, and someone reneges on the deal, then you throw the book at the person,” Rahmani said. “That’s what happens. If we have a deal and you try to get out of the deal, guess what? You’re going to get hammered.”
Republican Rep. James Comer, who leads the House Oversight Committee, told reporters that the alleged gun crime was at the bottom of the list of things he feels the president’s son should be charged with.
“If you look at all the crimes that Hunter Biden has committed, somewhere around a dozen, this is the one crime that you can’t tie to Joe Biden,” Comer told reporters outside the House chamber not long after the news broke.
Comer has helped lead the House Republicans’ sprawling investigation into what he has deemed the “Biden crime family.” But thus far, Republicans have yet to present evidence that directly ties to the president. Earlier this week, House Speaker Kevin McCarthy declared the probes an “impeachment inquiry,” backtracking on his previous vow to hold a formal House vote on taking a major step towards impeaching Biden.
Republicans are deeply skeptical of Weiss, who was recently named a special counsel, given his handling of the other allegations around Hunter Biden’s conduct.
They have also requested highly sensitive information related to Weiss’ investigation, arguing it is the only way they can be sure that prosecutors didn’t try to give him a sweetheart deal. Weiss previously offered to testify before Congress but that was before he became a special counsel.
House Republicans have questioned IRS and FBI agents involved in the Hunter Biden investigation. But their work, Rahmani said, should have no bearing on what prosecutors ultimately do.
“The legislature can’t get involved in a decision of prosecutor,” he said. “They have to stay in their lane.”
In the meantime, Republicans have vowed to plow ahead with their impeachment investigation. The White House has dismissed the inquiry as nothing more than a sideshow that has yet to prove the president did anything wrong.
This story has been updated.