Why Republicans Ignore The Facts Behind Hunter Biden's 'Sweetheart Deal'

Hunter Biden
Hunter Biden

The Republicans fretting over Hunter Biden's supposed "sweetheart deal" on federal tax and weapons charges can't honestly blame President Joe Biden or Attorney General Merrick Garland. The culprit in the Biden case — if there is one, which remains doubtful — happens to be a Republican prosecutor, appointed by a Republican president, and confirmed by a Republican Senate.

Those facts are not in dispute — and yet for some reason, the politicians who have complained so loudly about the Hunter Biden plea agreement, notably House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, always neglect to mention those highly relevant details.

By the time President Biden took office in January 2021, his son had been the subject of a federal investigation for more than two years, led by the United States Attorney in Delaware — a lifelong Republican named David Weiss. An experienced prosecutor, Weiss had served in an acting role overseeing that office until President Donald Trump officially appointed him as the U.S. Attorney in 2018. The Senate confirmed Weiss by voice vote with no dissent.

Although incoming presidents customarily replace the U.S. attorney in every federal jurisdiction, President Biden announced early on that he would retain Weiss to avoid the appearance of interfering in the probe of his son, which Hunter Biden had made public after the 2020 election. Garland pledged that Weiss would have full authority to make decisions about any charges brought against Hunter Biden. Garland's predecessor William Barr had decided against appointing a special counsel in the case, but Weiss had essentially the same powers.

Two weeks before he announced the plea deal, Weiss reassured congressional Republicans that the Biden administration had fulfilled its promise to empower him and respect his independence. In a June 7 letter to Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH), the House Judiciary Committee chair, he wrote:

"I have been granted ultimate authority over this matter, including responsibility for deciding where, when, and whether to file charges and for making decisions necessary to preserve the integrity of the prosecution, consistent with federal law, the Principles of Federal Prosecution, and Departmental regulations...

"In February 2021, I was asked to remain as United States Attorney for the District of Delaware to continue my oversight of the (Hunter Biden) matter. Since that time, I have fulfilled my responsibilities, consistent with Department practices and procedures, and will continue to do so. Throughout my tenure as U.S. Attorney my decisions have been made — and with respect to the matter must be made — without reference to political considerations."

When Weiss disclosed that Hunter Biden had pled guilty to a misdemeanor tax charge and a gun felony, with fines and probation but no prison sentence, Republicans reacted indignantly. Several noted that actor Wesley Snipes had served three years in prison for tax evasion, but his case was entirely different: Hunter Biden paid his overdue taxes long before the investigation was finished, while Snipes refused; and Hunter Biden owed taxes on $1.2 million, while Snipes had tried to hide at least $25 million.

The Biden case was also considerably less egregious than the long-running tax fraud perpetrated by Trump crony and convicted felon Roger Stone, who was finally forced to pay $2.1 million in a 2022 plea agreement — and still received no prison time.

As for Biden's gun offense, veteran prosecutors agree that any jail time would have been unusual, since he had only possessed that weapon briefly and had not used it to commit any crime. He violated a law that most of his Republican critics would probably deem unconstitutional.

The latest Republican gambit in the Hunter Biden fiasco is to spotlight a disgruntled "whistleblower." Former federal investigator Gary Shapley claims that the Justice Department and the IRS "slow-walked" and softened the probe from the beginning.

Democrats have questioned Shapley's story and his motives because he's a Republican who has received support from a right-wing activist organization. But even if we assume that Shapley is telling the whole truth, his complaints date back to the period when the Biden investigation was under the supervision of the Trump Justice Department. The misconduct he has alleged mainly implicates his fellow Republicans, in particular Barr and Weiss.

Indeed, all the available evidence indicates that President Biden and Attorney General Garland have behaved with untarnished integrity in this matter. The lingering question, as Republicans continue to vent their unsupported accusations of corruption, is what they think Biden and Garland should have done differently.

That they have no honest answer is hardly a surprise.

To find out more about Joe Conason and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.

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