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Judge Puts Hunter Biden Plea Deal on Hold for Now

Yesterday, U.S. District Court Judge Maryellen Noreika, an appointee of Donald Trump, balked at accepting a plea deal in which Hunter Biden agreed with prosecutors to plead guilty to two misdemeanor tax offenses to avoid punishment on a gun charge. It was a tumultuous 3-hour hearing. In the end, Biden switched stories and pleaded not guilty to all three charges. The surprised judge then postponed further proceedings for at least a month, though Biden would still have the option of going back to the original plea deal if the judge is convinced that they are within normal bounds.

Biden didn't file or pay income taxes in 2017 and 2018, although he later rectified the problem. He also owned a gun at a time when he was a drug user, something federal law prohibits. The deal was reached after a 5-year investigation by U.S. Attorney David Weiss, who was appointed by Donald Trump. AG Merrick Garland played no part in the investigation, so it will be a little bit difficult for Republicans to complain that a 5-year investigation run by a Trump appointee let Biden off the hook too easily. Also, it would be a bit unusual for Republicans to be saying that tax evasion is a really serious crime and anyone doing it should rot in prison for the rest of their lives. Similarly, saying that some people shouldn't be allowed to own guns would be something new for Republicans. Still, there are political points to be scored here, so who cares about consistency?

The reason that the judge didn't automatically accept the deal is that it is somewhat unusual. The tax part was pretty standard, but the gun part was not. The agreement there was the feds promising not to pursue Biden for other charges, like foreign lobbying, in return for his admitting that he shouldn't have bought a gun while he was a drug user. That doesn't happen very often and the judge wanted the parties to have time to present arguments explaining why she should accept it. So, Biden is not off the hook yet and this will be continued at some point in the future.

What really ticks off the Republicans, of course, is that they can't find anything in the whole business that can be used against Joe Biden in the campaign. What they are praying their hearts out for is a charge like: "The Chinese government gave Biden junior a bunch of valuable trademarks in hopes of currying favor with the father." Oh wait, no. That was Ivanka. Sorry. (V)

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