Hunter Biden’s indictment on gun charges may be just the start of legal troubles that could become an increasing threat to President Biden’s reelection bid.
Federal prosecutors indicted the president’s son Thursday on three felony charges tied to possessing a firearm while using narcotics.
The charges carry a combined maximum prison sentence of 25 years, but the president’s son could face even more jail time for tax fraud and foreign lobbying charges linked to the elder Mr. Biden’s time as vice president.
The gun charges and threat of further prosecution have sprung from a plea deal that fell apart in court this summer.
Special Counsel David Weiss said in a court filing last month that “a trial is now in order” on charges Hunter Biden failed to pay more than $200,000 in taxes in 2017 and 2018. Mr. Weiss said he could bring the charges in California or the nation’s capital, but didn’t provide a timeline.
Prosecutors in a July hearing signaled they could expand their investigation further to determine if the president’s son should be prosecuted for violating the Foreign Agents Registration Act or FARA.
Hunter Biden raked in millions of dollars in foreign business deals, in part, ex-business associates said, by leveraging his father’s clout as vice president. Those actions may open him to prosecution for failure to register as a foreign agent — a law that has landed multiple Trump associates in prison.
“That seems like a slam dunk. He took money on behalf of foreign actors and advocated for them and didn’t register,” said Mike Davis, a former counsel to the Senate Judiciary Committee and president of the Article III Project, which advocates for constitutionalist judges and the rule of law.
Hunter Biden’s growing legal problems add to the hurdles his father faces in his bid for a second term.
Former President Trump, the likely Republican nominee in 2024, surpasses or ties Mr. Biden in general election polls, and many voters, including Democrats and critical independents, say Mr. Biden, 80, is too old to run for president again.
An Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research poll released on Thursday found half of voters lack confidence in the Justice Department’s handling of the Hunter Biden investigation following IRS whistleblower allegations of bias and favoritism shown to the president’s son by the Biden Justice Department.
The whistleblowers disclosed, among other things, that Mr. Weiss allowed the statute of limitations to expire on tax fraud charges involving Hunter Biden dating back to 2014 and 2015. The charges involved evading taxes and making false statements regarding his $1 million annual salary for serving on the board of directors at Burisma Holdings, a Ukrainian energy firm.
The president is facing an impeachment inquiry, launched Sept. 12 by House Republicans who say they have evidence he used the power of the vice presidency to help his family rake in millions of dollars from foreign entities, including Burisma.
House investigators have scoured financial records to uncover more than $20 million that poured into the bank accounts of Biden family members and their associates from deals with China, Ukraine, Russia and other countries. Biden family ex-business associates have testified to Congress and in an FBI interview that Mr. Biden phoned in or stopped by Hunter Biden’s business meetings and that the then-vice president “brought the most value” to the “brand” that Hunter Biden and his business partners were selling to secure the lucrative deals.
On Thursday, one of the nation’s most prominent liberal pundits declared Mr. Biden should not run for another term.
Mr. Biden had hoped his son’s legal troubles would be fully settled by now, but they have only grown more serious and more likely to implicate Mr. Biden after the plea deal on the tax and gun charges fell apart in federal court this summer.
The deal would have spared Hunter Biden from gun charges or any jail time for tax fraud, and it would have foreclosed on further prosecution related to his past actions, including violations of the FARA Act.
But when U.S. District Judge Maryellen Noreika forced prosecutors to admit in open court they were providing Hunter Biden with broad immunity, prosecutors backtracked and said the Justice Department could prosecute Hunter Biden for other charges, including some related to FARA violations.
Hunter Biden cut hugely profitable deals with Ukraine, China and other countries where his politically powerful father held sway. His actions could violate the 1938 FARA law, which requires special registration with the Justice Department by anyone who works on behalf of a foreign country to influence U.S. policy or public opinion.
FARA prosecutions were rarely used before 2016. Federal authorities used the once-obscure law to charge several associates of President Trump, including his former national security adviser, Michael T. Flynn, campaign manager Paul Manafort and inaugural committee chairman, Tom Barrack. Both Mr. Manafort and Mr. Barrack were jailed on the charges.
Republicans want Mr. Weiss to pursue similar charges against Hunter Biden related to foreign lobbying, as well as money laundering and other crimes that dovetail with their impeachment inquiry.
House Oversight and Accountability Committee Chairman James Comer, a Kentucky Republican who is leading the impeachment probe, said unless Mr. Weiss investigates “everyone involved in the fraud schemes and influence peddling,” it will show the Justice Department is protecting both Hunter Biden and President Biden.
Hunter Biden’s lawyer, Abbe Lowell, did not immediately respond to a request for comment for this report.
In a statement after the indictment was announced Thursday, Mr. Lowell said that prosecutors had determined the gun charges were not warranted and the plea deal only collapsed due to “MAGA Republicans’ improper and partisan interference.”
Mr. Trump, posting on his social media site, said the move to charge Hunter Biden with gun offenses is meant to protect Mr. Biden from being connected to his son on other crimes.
“This, the gun charge, is the only crime that Hunter Biden committed that does not implicate Crooked Joe Biden,” Trump said.