The federal investigation of Hunter Biden’s shady business practices and alleged influence peddling is reaching a critical turning point, refusing to let President Biden shake the scandal as his White House term approaches the halfway mark.
Multiple reports have surfaced that David Weiss, the U.S. attorney in Delaware who is leading the Hunter Biden inquiry, is nearing a decision on bringing charges against the president’s son. Prosecutors in his office are reportedly in discussions with officials at the Department of Justice‘s headquarters on how to proceed with the investigation, which dates to 2018.
Prosecutors’ conversations are said to center on the possibility of charging Hunter Biden with tax crimes and making a false statement when he purchased a firearm. At the time he bought the weapon, he would have been prohibited because of his struggles with drug addiction. Those talks are likely focused on whether there is enough evidence of a crime to convict Hunter Biden at a trial.
Chris Clark, an attorney for Hunter Biden, refused to address whether his client would be charged, but told The Washington Times that Americans should be patient while prosecutors deliberate.
“As is proper and legally required, we believe the prosecutors in this case are diligently and thoroughly weighing not just evidence provided by agents, but also all the other witnesses in this case, including witnesses for the defense,” Mr. Clark said in a statement to The Times. “That is the job for prosecutors. They should not be pressured, rushed, or criticized for doing this job.”
Federal agents investigating Hunter Biden say there is enough evidence to charge him with tax crimes and a false statement related to the gun purchase, according to a report in The Washington Post.
That means that Mr. Weiss, who was appointed by President Trump, will have to soon decide whether to move the case forward.
A spokesperson for Mr. Weiss’ office declined to comment.
“Weiss is under tremendous pressure to get this right. He needs to look people in the eye who want him to do something for a nonjudicial reason and say, ‘no,’” said Robert Sanders, a former federal prosecutor who teaches at the University of New Haven.
Complicating matters is an unwritten DOJ guideline that strongly discourages actions such as a criminal indictment that could influence voters within 60 days of an election, and the midterms are roughly a month away. That would delay any potential indictment.
It’s unclear if the guideline would apply in this case because neither Hunter Biden nor his father is on the ballot in November.
“I think it does apply because the reality is the president is always on the ballot,” Mr. Sanders said. “The president and his son are not on the written ballot, but their shadow looms over midterms and that doesn’t go away.”
One way Mr. Weiss could turn down the heat would be by offering Hunter Biden a plea deal. It would avoid an indictment or criminal trial that could unearth accusations that would embarrass Hunter Biden or his father.
A guilty plea would also provide political cover for Attorney General Merrick Garland, who could point to it as evidence that Mr. Biden didn’t put his thumb on the scales of justice.
Another way Mr. Garland and Mr. Weiss can avoid a messy outcome is by accepting whether or not the grand jury recommended criminal charges as the final outcome.
For Hunter Biden’s critics, the tax and gun allegations are the tip of the iceberg that includes alleged influence peddling to score top-dollar deals in China and Ukraine when his father was vice president in the Obama administration. They will likely not accept a guilty plea or grand jury decision as the final outcome.
Regardless of what happens in the Justice Department investigation, the outcome is guaranteed to exacerbate headaches for the president.
White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre sidestepped the issue Friday when reporters asked about potential charges against Hunter Biden. She referred all questions to the Justice Department.
The looming Nov. 8 midterm elections are putting pressure on prosecutors to resolve the case. Republicans are expected to take one or both houses of Congress and have already promised to conduct rigorous investigations into Hunter Biden’s business dealings and the Justice Department’s handling of the case.
Jimmy Keady, a Republican strategist, predicts the Hunter Biden situation will hurt Democrats at the ballot box.
“This isn’t the court of law, this is public opinion,” he said. “It reminds the American public why they despise the children of politicians because the Biden children are held to a different standard and a different set of rules.”
During the presidential campaign, Mr. Biden took a shot at Mr. Trump’s children, pledging that his own children would not have offices in the White House.
Mr. Keady said even if Mr. Biden can sweep some of the allegations under the rug with a guilty plea, it won’t be enough to avert Republican investigations if they win the House in November. Hunter Biden’s Ukraine business dealings, drug abuse, gun purchase and even conflict of interest allegations arising from his brief art career could all be fodder for eager Republicans.
“It’s a treasure trove that won’t go away,” he said.
Critics are already griping that Hunter Biden facing tax charges and a minor gun offense would be a slap on the wrist, pointing to allegations of his shady business practices.
“Charging Hunter Biden for tax crimes and a false gun statement is like charging Alec Baldwin with a misdemeanor for murdering Halyna Hutchins,” wrote James Bradley, a Republican who is running in California for the Senate. Mr. Baldwin has not been charged in the fatal shooting.
Others lampooned the Post for initially dismissing stories about Hunter Biden’s laptop as “Russian disinformation” during the elder Mr. Biden’s 2020 presidential campaign.
“But wapo told me this was Russian disinformation,” wrote Jon Gabriel, editor of Ricochet, a conservative commentary site.
Adding another wrinkle to the Hunter Biden saga is the possibility that an agent involved in the case could be under investigation for talking to the Post.
Mr. Clark railed against the newspaper’s sources for the report, urging the Justice Department to file charges for leaking grand jury information.
“It is regrettable that law enforcement agents appear to be violating the law to prejudice a case against a person who is a target simply because of his family name,” Mr. Clark said, calling the story “biased, one-sided, and inaccurate.”
Mr. Sanders said the unnamed agent could face criminal prosecution for his activities, saying it further inflamed an already politically toxic investigation.
“Grand jury activities are secret and by leaking it you could smear someone for no good reason,” he said.
• Jeff Mordock can be reached at email@example.com.
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