President Joe Biden’s son Hunter Biden has been indicted by special counsel David Weiss in connection with a gun he purchased in 2018, the first time in U.S. history that the Justice Department has charged the son of a president. in excercise.
The three charges include making false statements on a federal firearms form and possession of a firearm as a prohibited person.
It is an extraordinary turn of events after his original plea deal collapsed and potentially sets up a dramatic trial in the midst of his father’s 2024 re-election bid.
The White House thought the Hunter Biden legal drama would end this summer, but a plea deal reached with Weiss to resolve the matter without charges collapsed over the summer amid scrutiny from a federal judge. House Republicans have also announced an impeachment inquiry into the president in connection with Hunter Biden’s business dealings.
Court documents show that a summons was issued Thursday for him to appear in court for an initial appearance on the charges, although it is unclear when and where the initial appearance would take place.
Hunter Biden is currently in California, a source familiar with the matter told CNN, adding that any plans for a self-delivery or initial appearance, including a date and location, have yet to be worked out.
In an exclusive interview with CNN Thursday night, Hunter Biden’s attorney, Abbe Lowell, claimed the accusation was the result of political pressure.
Republican politicians, Lowell told CNN’s Erin Burnett on “OutFront,” “have been pressuring this US attorney to do something to vindicate his political position.”
“And guess what? They did it,” he added.
Lowell defended his client in a statement that same day, saying: “Hunter Biden’s possession of an unloaded gun for 11 days was not a threat to public safety, but a prosecutor, with all the power imaginable, would bow to the Political pressure presents a serious threat. to our justice system.”
Former President Donald Trump, a front-runner for the 2024 Republican nomination who has been impeached four times, described Hunter Biden’s impeachment as a “sad situation.”
“It’s a sad situation, I mean, no one should be happy about this,” Trump told NBC News in his first public comments on the event.
Hunter Biden’s gun-related legal troubles involve a firearm he purchased in October 2018. While purchasing a revolver at a Delaware gun store, he lied on a federal form when he swore he was not using or addicted to any illegal drugs. . even though he was battling crack addiction at the time of purchase.
Hunter Biden “provided a written statement on Form 4473 certifying that he was not an unlawful user or addict of any stimulant, narcotic, or any other controlled substance, when in fact, as he knew, that statement was false and fictitious. ”according to the indictment.
It is a federal crime to lie on the ATF form or possess a firearm as a drug user. (Hunter Biden possessed the gun for about 11 days in 2018.) Prosecutors have previously said the statute of limitations for some of these crimes will expire in October.
Lowell said Thursday that the previous agreement means gun charges should not be allowed.
“We believe these charges are precluded by the agreement prosecutors made with Mr. Biden,” Lowell said in his statement, “the recent rulings by several federal courts that this statute is unconstitutional, and the facts that he did not violate that law.” . and we plan to prove all that in court.”
Prosecutors say that agreement never went into effect.
Weiss has been leading the Hunter Biden investigation since late 2018. Over the years, his team investigated potential serious tax evasion, illegal foreign lobbying, money laundering and other matters, largely related to the businesses of Hunter Biden abroad.
The investigation appeared to be coming to an end in June, when Weiss announced a two-pronged agreement in which Hunter Biden would plead guilty to two misdemeanor federal tax offenses and enter into a “diversion agreement” in which the weapons charge would be dropped. in two years if Hunter Biden passed regular drug tests and stayed out of legal trouble.
But in a surprising court hearing in July, the agreements collapsed under the scrutiny of the federal judge overseeing the case. The two sides attempted to renegotiate a deal, but talks reached an impasse and Attorney General Merrick Garland elevated Weiss to special prosecutor status in August, marking a major escalation in the investigation.
In addition to the gun case, Weiss is still weighing whether to charge Hunter Biden with tax crimes. He said in a court filing last month that “a trial is now in order” over the tax crimes and that he “may file tax charges” possibly in California or Washington, DC.
If convicted on all charges, Hunter Biden could, in theory, face up to 25 years in prison and fines of up to $750,000, according to court documents.
However, defendants rarely receive the maximum sentence, especially in cases like these, which involve nonviolent crimes and an alleged first-time offender.
The three-count indictment was returned Thursday by a federal grand jury in Delaware, according to court documents.
- The first charge accuses Hunter Biden of lying on an ATF form when he purchased the gun, falsely swearing that he was not addicted to illegal drugs or using illegal drugs.
- The second count accuses Hunter Biden of lying to the federally licensed gun dealer in Wilmington where he purchased the gun. The alleged lie was related to the same affidavit on the ATF form.
- The third count charges Hunter Biden with unlawful possession of the weapon while using drugs or addicted to drugs, which is a federal crime. He possessed the gun for 11 days in 2018.
The gun law Hunter Biden is charged with is already on shaky legal ground after an August ruling by an appeals court covering three Southern states that declared the statute unconstitutional.
Last month, a New Orleans-based federal appeals court struck down the decades-old law, saying it violated the Second Amendment in a case involving a man who was convicted under it in 2022.
“In short, our history and tradition may support some limits on an intoxicated person’s right to bear a weapon, but it does not justify disarming a sober citizen based solely on his past drug use,” said Circuit Judge Jerry Smith , appointed by Ronald Reagan, wrote for the three-judge panel. “Wider traditions of disarming dangerous people also do not support this restriction on nonviolent drug users.”
The ruling by the Fifth Circuit, which oversees Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas, means other defendants convicted under the law in those states could try to bring new challenges to their convictions, but it has no legal impact on Biden’s case, which Delaware was presented.
This story has been updated with additional news.