What Is Hunter Biden on Trial for Again?

WASHINGTON, DC - DECEMBER 13: Hunter Biden gives a statement to

Photo: Craig Hudson/The Washington Post via Getty Im

Twelve jurors and 4 alternates were selected in Hunter Biden’s federal case in Delaware on Monday, marking the opening of the first-ever criminal trial of a sitting U.S. president’s child. (This has understandably been overshadowed by a certain other milestone from last week.) The government alleges that Hunter illegally purchased and possessed a firearm while being an active drug user, and he faces three felony counts overall, which prosecutors pursued after a planned plea deal focused on separate tax charges fell apart in spectacular fashion. Hunter, who has been open about his struggles with addiction, has also long been at the center of Republican investigations that have unsuccessfully attempted to draw a link between him, President Joe Biden, and alleged illicit foreign business dealings. With Hunter’s trial underway, here is a refresher on the case.

In September 2023, a federal grand jury indicted Biden on three federal firearm charges, including making false statements while purchasing a weapon and possession of a firearm by a drug user or addict. Two of the counts are connected to paperwork that Biden filled out while purchasing a Colt Cobra 38SPL revolver at a Wilmington, Delaware, gun store in 2018. The indictment alleges that Biden knowingly lied on the forms about his drug use, asserting that he “was not an unlawful user of, or addicted to, any stimulant, narcotic drug, or any other controlled substance.” The final count pertains to Biden possessing a firearm as a drug user, which is forbidden under federal law. During his arraignment in early January, Biden entered a not-guilty plea. He faces a maximum sentence of 25 years in prison.

In June 2023, Biden struck a deal with federal prosecutors in which he would plead guilty to two misdemeanor tax charges, stemming from his failure to pay more than a million dollars in income tax on time. In exchange, he would avoid a felony gun charge related to the 2018 gun-store purchase. But the deal collapsed in dramatic fashion during a July 2023 hearing when Judge Maryellen Noreika, a Trump appointee, raised questions about the details, particularly regarding Hunter’s future immunity status. With both sides unable to align on the deal’s particulars, it fell apart.

In August 2023, Attorney General Merrick Garland then appointed David Weiss, the U.S. Attorney for Delaware who had been overseeing the investigation into Biden, as special counsel in the matter. Some congressional Republicans, many of whom called for a special-counsel inquiry into Biden, were quick to denounce Weiss’s appointment. “David Weiss can’t be trusted and this is just a new way to whitewash the Biden family’s corruption,” read a social-media post from the House Judiciary Committee Republicans.

After he took over, two federal grand juries returned charges against the younger Biden in the following months. In addition to the firearm counts, Biden was indicted on multiple tax charges in December 2023 with prosecutors alleging he “engaged in a four-year scheme” in which he didn’t pay at least $1.4 million in federal taxes he owed from 2016 to 2019 and filed false returns on his 2018 taxes. Biden has pleaded not guilty to those charges and is set to go on trial for them in California in September.

President Biden has remained strongly supportive of Hunter, though he has largely refrained from commenting on the particulars of his son’s legal issues. In a statement issued Monday morning, Biden said, “As the President, I don’t and won’t comment on pending federal cases, but as a Dad, I have boundless love for my son, confidence in him, and respect for his strength. Our family has been through a lot together, and Jill and I are going to continue to be there for Hunter and our family with our love and support.”

Biden and First Lady Jill Biden traveled to Wilmington the night before the trial was set to begin. Mrs. Biden was in attendance at court on Monday, which was also her 73rd birthday.

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