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Hunter Biden Strikes Plea Deal

Well, there went a Republican cudgel—potentially. Yesterday, First Son Hunter Biden agreed to a plea deal with the Department of Justice that might (or might not) resolve his legal issues. It still has to be approved by a judge, but if that happens, Biden will not serve prison time.

The plea deal covers two legal issues in general. First, during the out-of-his-mind-on-drugs phase of his life, Biden purchased a gun illegally. That's a felony; you can't buy a gun if you're a user of illegal drugs. He also failed to pay approximately $100,000 in taxes in 2018 and 2019 in a timely manner. By the terms of the plea deal, Biden will enter into a pretrial diversion agreement for the felony and plead guilty to two misdemeanor accounts of tax evasion and will be given 2 years' probation. Note that he already settled his tax bill, including penalties, so he doesn't get to keep the previously unpaid funds. He also attended a gun safety program.

The White House quickly issued a statement that was short and sweet:

The President and First Lady love their son and support him as he continues to rebuild his life. We will have no further comment.

Based on the response of Joe and Jill Biden, our impression is that they are relieved about two things: (1) that their son looks like he will avoid prison time and then, way, way down the list, (2) that this issue won't be hanging over the President's head during the campaign. Our further impression is that if we were speaking of the previous president, that list would be reversed. Readers will reach their own conclusions, of course.

And speaking of the former president (and his enablers), they were all furious at the news. Trump took to his fringe social media platform to declare "The corrupt Biden DOJ just cleared up hundreds of years of criminal liability by giving Hunter Biden a mere 'traffic ticket.' Our system is BROKEN!" Other right-wing politicians and commentators adopted the same basic line of complaint, maintaining their general position that the DoJ treats Democrats with kid gloves but brings the hammer when dealing with Republicans.

At this point, it's worth noting that this particular bit of "legal analysis," from Trump, et al., is just... terrible. The gun law that Hunter Biden violated is an obscure one, put on the books more for show than to solve any real problem, and is rarely charged. As to the tax charges, they are misdemeanors and restitution has already been made. When we're talking about a first time offender, and about prisons that are already jam-packed with more serious offenders, well, a couple years' probation is par for the course.

There's another problem with the "two different justice systems" argument: The U.S. Attorney who handled this case is David Weiss, a Trump appointee who has affirmed that he had "ultimate authority" over the case, and that there was no interference from the White House or from the Department of Justice leadership. Either Weiss is not in bag for the Democrats or, if he is, his appointment does not speak well of Trump's ability to clean up "corruption" if he's reelected president.

We'll also note one last thing when it comes to the Republican response. At the same time that Trumpers, from the former president on down, are claiming the Department of Justice is cooking the books for Democrats, they are also latching onto a single sentence from the DoJ press release about the plea deal. That release ends with: "David C. Weiss, U.S. Attorney for the District of Delaware, made the announcement. The investigation is ongoing." Those last four words give Trumpers hope that more dirt and more charges are coming, and many of them made a point of highlighting that detail. They did not apparently notice or care that this puts them in the position of arguing simultaneously that: (1) DoJ is corrupt and incompetent, and (2) but there could still be juicy stuff coming.

House Republicans have promised that the plea agreement isn't going to stop their investigations of Hunter Biden, and in fact is just going to make them redouble their efforts. Whether this will work for them, politically, is an open question. Sure, the red-meat-eating base would like to see 10, 50, 100 investigations of the Bidens. But the swing voters essential to winning the presidential, and many other, elections? They might just take note of the fact that the DoJ conducted an extensive investigation and reached what it considered to be a satisfactory conclusion. Those same voters might also notice that congressional Republicans keep claiming they have evidence of great nefariousness, but just never seem to be able to produce that evidence. Some of these folks might even conclude that there is indeed a witch hunt going on in Washington, but that Donald Trump isn't its target and Joe Biden isn't its perpetrator. (Z)

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