Hunter Biden to plead guilty to federal tax crimes on Wednesday
Jul 26, 2023, 8:51 AM | Updated: 11:29 am
(Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images)
Wilmington, Delaware (CNN) — President Joe Biden’s son Hunter Biden has arrived at a federal courthouse to plead guilty to two federal misdemeanors for not paying taxes on time, a major step toward concluding the highly scrutinized Justice Department investigation into his troubled finances.
The hearing is slated to begin at 10 a.m. ET at the federal courthouse in Wilmington, Delaware.
Previous court filings indicate that Hunter Biden will admit to two misdemeanors for not paying federal taxes on time in 2017 and 2018, and he will also enter into a deal with prosecutors that would resolve a felony gun charge.
As part of the plea agreement, Justice Department prosecutors are expected to recommend a sentence of probation for the president’s son. District Judge Maryellen Noreika – a Donald Trump appointee who was confirmed unanimously by the Senate – will preside over Wednesday’s hearing and has the sole authority to decide Hunter Biden’s punishment.
A sentencing date will likely be scheduled during the plea hearing.
While the investigation was ongoing, Hunter Biden fully paid his federal tax bill, along with interest and penalties, his lawyers have previously said. A person familiar with the matter told CNN the total bill was approximately $2 million.
This is an unprecedented moment in American history: Never before has the son of the sitting US president walked into a federal courthouse and pleaded guilty to a crime. (There is no public indication that Joe Biden or the White House ever tried to intervene in the probe.)
The Trump-era Justice Department started investigating Hunter Biden in 2018, and the probe steadily expanded to examine whether he violated money laundering and foreign lobbying laws with his multimillion-dollar overseas business dealings. Federal investigators also looked into Hunter Biden’s unpaid taxes and lavish spending, which came amid a struggle with addiction.
US attorney David Weiss has led the investigation. He was appointed by Trump, and Joe Biden kept him at his post so he could continue handling the probe.
A bizarre legal clash between a top Republican lawmaker and Hunter Biden’s lawyers, which erupted on the eve of his court appearance, will also likely come up at Wednesday’s hearing.
The dispute revolves around whether a member of Hunter Biden’s legal team lied to the court about her identity so they would remove a Tuesday filing from GOP Rep. Jason Smith, the House Ways and Means Committee chair, about alleged political interference in the probe.
In a late twist, the judge threatened to sanction Hunter Biden’s lawyers over the matter. They denied the claims and called the incident an “unintentional miscommunication” by court staff.
Questions about the probe
Hanging over the plea hearing are recent claims from two IRS whistleblowers who helped lead the investigation that the Justice Department gave preferential treatment to Hunter Biden beginning when Trump was president in 2020.
Their claims dovetail with the GOP-fueled narrative that Hunter Biden got a “sweetheart deal,” even though it’s fairly common for first-time offenders to avoid incarceration in a misdemeanor-only case.
The career IRS agents told Congress that Justice Department officials undercut their attempts to further scrutinize Biden family members, slow-walked requests for subpoenas and search warrants and blocked Weiss from filing the felony tax evasion charges that they had recommended.
The relevant parties – including Weiss, Attorney General Merrick Garland and other senior Justice Department officials – have publicly refuted the whistleblowers’ claims of politicization.
In letters to Congress, Weiss has maintained that he has “been granted ultimate authority over this matter, including responsibility for deciding where, when and whether to file charges.” And earlier this week, he offered to testify at a public House Oversight Committee hearing, likely sometime this fall.
House Republicans have zeroed in on Hunter Biden’s finances as part of their broader oversight probes into the Biden family. They are seeking testimony from Weiss about the criminal probe, and the House GOP’s right-wing flank is already clamoring for a possible Garland impeachment.
Hunter Biden’s lawyers called the IRS whistleblowers “disgruntled agents” with “an axe to grind.”
They’ve also said their client is pleading guilty because he believes “it is important to take responsibility for these mistakes he made during a period of turmoil and addiction in his life.”
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