Hunter Biden is indicted on felony gun charges
AILSA CHANG, HOST:
President Biden's son Hunter Biden has been indicted on felony gun charges. This comes weeks after a plea deal with prosecutors fell apart. The charges possibly set the stage for yet another high-profile criminal trial in the middle of the 2024 election. Joining us now to discuss these developments is NPR reporter Ximena Bustillo. Hey, Ximena.
XIMENA BUSTILLO, BYLINE: Hey there.
CHANG: OK. First, what exactly is Hunter Biden being charged with today?
BUSTILLO: Well, he's being charged with making knowingly false written claims that he was not an unlawful user or addicted to any stimulant, narcotic drug or other controlled substance and lying to federal - to a federally licensed gun dealer when purchasing a firearm. There's another charge for illegal possession of a firearm. And this is connected with a gun he purchased in 2018. Earlier this summer, Biden had agreed to enter a plea deal that would have allowed him to avoid prosecution on these gun charges. Separately, as a part of the plea deal, he agreed to plead guilty to two misdemeanor offenses related to his filing of federal income taxes.
CHANG: OK. And then remind us what happened to that plea deal.
BUSTILLO: Well, the plea deal fell apart, which is how we got here today. Last month a federal judge in Delaware questioned the terms of the deal, specifically whether it conveyed a kind of broad immunity to Hunter Biden over his business dealings and foreign lobbying. So prosecutors said no, and lawyers for Hunter Biden said yes. And there was no meeting of the minds. Prosecutors then said that the two sides remained at an impasse and that there was no plea deal.
David Weiss, the special counsel in this case, has been investigating the president's son since 2019, when he was appointed by then-President Trump as U.S. attorney from Delaware. Merrick Garland, the current attorney general, named him special counsel in August. The difference now is that as special counsel, he will write a report explaining his decisions about charging people or declining to charge people. And he's going to operate outside of the day-to-day supervision from the Justice Department leaders. But they can override his decision if they think that they're inappropriate.
CHANG: Right. OK. So what kind of reaction are you seeing so far to all of this?
BUSTILLO: Well, so far, a little bit. The White House is declining to comment. They referred reporters to the Justice Department and Hunter Biden's personal legal representatives and noted that this is an independent investigation. Abbe Lowell, Hunter Biden's attorney, accused Weiss of, quote, "bending to political pressure" from Republicans. "We believe these charges are barred by the agreement the prosecutors made with Mr. Biden and recent rulings by several federal courts that the statute is unconstitutional and the facts that he did not violate that law. And we plan to demonstrate all of that in court." Lowell said that in a statement. Meanwhile, former President Trump took to his social media platform, Truth Social, to argue Democrats opened what he called a proverbial Pandora's box, though he himself notes that these charges don't implicate the sitting president.
CHANG: Well, let me ask you this, Ximena, because all of this is coming the same week that House Speaker Kevin McCarthy announced an impeachment inquiry into President Biden. How much are these two things connected?
BUSTILLO: Well, they're not directly connected. House Republicans have long maintained that Hunter Biden benefited from foreign companies because of his father. They alleged this week in that impeachment inquiry that the president lied to, quote, "the American people" about his own knowledge of his family's foreign business dealings. But Republicans have not proven any connection between Hunter Biden's business dealings and President Biden.
Devon Archer, a former business associate of Hunter Biden's, did tell a House committee recently that then-Vice President Biden sent greetings when Hunter hosted conference calls with clients and stopped by briefly at business dinners. But Archer conceded that he did not have any evidence that then-Vice President Biden received any direct financial benefit as a result of these interactions. Although unrelated, these charges do have political implications. Any Hunter Biden trial is likely to be in the middle of an election campaign where his father is hoping to get reelected. And they give Republicans something to point to as their own likely standard-bearer, Donald Trump, is facing his own legal troubles and trials during the campaign.
CHANG: That is NPR's Ximena Bustillo. Thank you, Ximena.
BUSTILLO: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.
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