By Kenneth Tiven
This has been three and half years of a Republican campaign to equate Joe Biden family behaviour as just as criminally questionable as the Donald Trump family. Hunter Biden left court when the judge refused a plea deal. Now his lawyers, federal persecutors and the judge will discuss issues the judge brought up. Politics does not stop at the courthouse steps.
This week, ex-president Trump issued a short statement on social media. “People are going wild over the Hunter Biden Scam with the DOJ!” he said.
The “scam” refers to the hard-drive contents of Hunter Biden’s laptop which were used as a sketchy effort during the presidential campaign to highlight the Biden son’s drug problems and questionable consulting deals. The Republican-appointed federal attorney for Delaware, David Weiss, was left in office to finish the Hunter Biden probe that started while Trump was the president. However, no evidence has substantiated claims that Hunter Biden had leveraged his father’s political power for financial gain in dealings in Ukraine and China.
The plea bargain the federal prosecutors had offered was a fine for tax matters and a guilty plea in a separate case for unlawfully owning a firearm while addicted to a controlled substance. US Federal District Court Judge Maryellen Noreika, a Trump appointee, said: “I cannot accept the plea agreement today,” asking the parties to brief her on why she should accept it. Among her objections were provisions relating to immunity from future prosecution. Biden’s lawyers and prosecutors will try to persuade Noreika to approve the deal as it was first negotiated or to alter it to a form she can accept.
Judge Noreika’s concerns focused on a provision that would have offered Biden broad insulation against further prosecution on matters scrutinized by federal prosecutors during the five-year inquiry, providing him with some protection against the possibility any Republican president might seek to reopen the case. Judge Noreika said she was not trying to sink the agreement, but to strengthen it by ironing out ambiguities and inconsistencies. “The judge appropriately wanted to make sure that the parties were clear on whether Hunter Biden could be prosecuted for additional crimes in the future,” said Barbara L McQuade, a former federal prosecutor with hundreds of hours commenting on television about the national justice system.
This also means the saga will drag on as President Joe Biden campaigns for re-election in 2024, which is what Trump wants as he seeks nomination and a rematch.
On Wednesday, Hunter Biden told Judge Noreika he first sought treatment for alcohol addiction in 2003 and eventually sought treatment for drug addiction, too. He had not been in treatment since late 2018, he said. Such struggles have been painful for the Biden family.
At the White House, the press secretary, Karine Jean-Pierre, said the president supported his son, adding: “Hunter Biden is a private citizen, and this was a personal matter for him.” Fifty years ago, Joe Biden’s wife and mother of three children died in a car crash. A baby daughter died. Hunter and his brother Beau were youngsters and survived. Beau died in 2015 from cancer after serving in Iraq as a US National Guard officer.
—The writer has worked in senior positions at The Washington Post, NBC, ABCand CNN and also consults for several Indian channels