Press "Enter" to skip to content

The Memo: Hunter Biden agreement deals wild card in 2024 race

The agreement announced Tuesday that will see Hunter Biden plead guilty to two tax charges has scrambled the picture for the 2024 election — a contest that, right now, looks odds-on to be fought between President Biden and former President Trump.

Republicans argue the president’s son got a soft deal. Democrats contend that misdemeanor offenses committed by a private citizen — one who was struggling with addiction at the time — should not have their importance exaggerated.

Outside of those predictable responses, the announcement of the deal first and foremost puts Hunter Biden’s name back in the headlines — a scenario that is never good for his father’s political fortunes.

The president has kept his comments to a minimum. 

Asked by a reporter Tuesday while in California whether he had spoken to his son earlier in the day, Biden replied, “I’m very proud of my son.” He did not answer a shouted question about whether he had encouraged Hunter to take the guilty plea.

Earlier, a White House statement had emphasized that the president and first lady “love their son and support him as he continues to rebuild his life” but would have no further comment.

In addition to pleading guilty to the tax charges, Hunter Biden will also enter into a pretrial diversion agreement over the allegation that he lied on paperwork— by denying that he was a drug user — to obtain a gun in 2018.

The agreement still has to be approved by a judge but, assuming that happens, the younger Biden is unlikely to serve any jail time and the gun matter will probably be stricken from his record.

The matter will inevitably be intertwined in the political narrative with Trump’s recent indictment — even though Trump’s matter is far more serious, and Hunter Biden is not a candidate for any office.

Trump was charged with 37 criminal counts over sensitive documents discovered at his Florida Mar-a-Lago resort — including related charges of obstruction and concealment. Trump could face significant prison time if convicted. 

The former president was also indicted in New York in April in a separate case revolving around a hush-money payment made to the adult film actress Stormy Daniels.

Trump wasted no time in using the Hunter Biden case to advance his argument that he is being unfairly treated by the justice system. 

“Wow! 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!,” Trump wrote on Truth Social soon after details of the deal emerged.

A few hours later, Trump contended that “the Hunter/Joe Biden settlement “is a massive COVERUP & FULL SCALE ELECTION INTERFERENCE ‘SCAM’ THE LIKES OF WHICH HAS NEVER BEEN SEEN IN OUR COUNTRY BEFORE.”

One problem with this line of argument is that it is not at all clear that either Trump or the younger Biden are being treated in ways incongruous with what would happen if other, non-famous Americans engaged in similar conduct.

Referring to the indictment of Trump on the Mar-a-Lago matter, former federal prosecutor Mary McCord told the Washington Post on Monday: “There’s no question in my mind that anyone else — if found guilty of the offenses charged in this indictment, even if not found guilty of all of them, even just a handful of them — would serve time in prison.” 

In Hunter Biden’s case, experts say that the kind of gun offense he apparently committed rarely results in severe sanctions unless it is linked to a more serious crime. Lying on the documentation required to obtain a firearm is more often prosecuted aggressively if it is, for example, part of an effort to make a “straw purchase” on behalf of a violent felon.

Still, the tax offenses — pertaining to an initial failure to pay around $100,000 in taxes on over $1 million in income — will sit uneasily with taxpaying voters who wonder how they would fare if they engaged in the same conduct.

Politically speaking, the Biden matter appears to have further solidified Trump’s hold on the GOP. It has — so far at least — had the effect of further coalescing the party around claims about the “weaponization” of the Justice Department — claims that aid Trump far more than anyone else.

Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) referred to the agreement as a “sweetheart deal” and contended that it “continues to show the two-tier system in America.”

Several of Trump’s rivals for the 2024 GOP nomination sounded similar notes.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) used the same phrase — “sweetheart deal” — and argued that “if Hunter were a Republican he would have been in jail years ago.” 

Former United Nations ambassador Nikki Haley contended that the agreement “only raise further questions about Hunter Biden’s crimes and the double standard of justice in our federal government.”

Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) contended that the deal was “another reason Americans have lost faith in Biden’s Justice Department.”

But perhaps the most important voice in the medium-term came from Capitol Hill. House Oversight Committee Chairman James Comer (R-Ky.) has asserted that his panel’s probing of Hunter Biden’s business dealings will go on.

That means the president’s son is going to continue to be a political issue for months to come — even as election season heats up.

The Memo is a reported column by Niall Stanage

Source: The Hill

Be First to Comment

    Leave a Reply

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *