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Hunter Biden indicted on federal gun charges

Thursday’s indictment comes as congressional Republicans pursue an impeachment inquiry into the Democratic president, partly over his son’s business dealings

President Joe Biden, and his son Hunter Biden
U.S. President Joe Biden with his son, Hunter Biden, in June in Washington.Andrew Harnik (AP)
Miguel Jiménez

Hunter Biden, son of U.S. President Joe Biden, has been indicted by a grand jury on federal firearms charges, according to the indictment filed in federal court in Delaware by David Weiss, the special counsel overseeing the case. Hunter Biden is accused of lying about his drug use when he bought a .38-caliber Colt Cobra in October 2018, a period when he has acknowledged struggling with addiction to crack cocaine. The indictment includes three counts. The trial may take place next year, in the midst of Biden’s race for reelection in the Nov. 5, 2024 presidential election.

The indictment notes that on or about October 12, 2018, the defendant, Hunter Biden, submitted a written statement “certifying that he was not an unlawful user or, or addicted to, any stimulant, narcotic drug, and any other controlled substance, when in fact, as he knew, that statement was false and fictitious.” In total, he’s charged with two counts of making false statements by checking a box falsely saying he was not a user of or addicted to drugs and a third count for possessing the gun as a drug user.

Two counts are punishable by up to 10 years in prison, while the third carries up to five years in prison, upon conviction. Prosecutors rarely prosecute these types of offenses.

The indictment comes two days after House Speaker Kevin McCarthy ordered the opening of an impeachment investigation into Joe Biden to determine whether he committed any wrongdoing in connection with his son’s business dealings. Although the charges filed by Weiss have nothing to do with that investigation — but rather with Hunter’s descent into a spiral of drugs, alcohol and self-destruction after the death of his brother Beau — there is no doubt that they are a blow to the president.

Joe Biden has always been supportive of his son and has repeatedly appeared in public with him despite the investigations against him. The president, in fact, has praised Hunter for overcoming his addictions and straightening out his life.

The trial against Hunter Biden may overlap with the open cases that Donald Trump, the president’s possible rival in the 2024 presidential election, faces, stemming from four indictments for a total of 91 charges.

The president’s son initially admitted to the illegal purchase and possession of the gun as part of a plea deal that also included guilty pleas to misdemeanor tax charges. The deal would have spared him formal prosecution on the gun charge if he stayed out of trouble for two years and renounced owning a firearm in the future — a common agreement in these types of cases.

However, the parties had a different interpretation of the agreement. While Hunter Biden’s lawyers believed that it put an end to all federal investigations into him, the prosecution felt it was free to bring charges on other possible crimes stemming from the ongoing investigation into his business dealings. In addition, the judge in charge of the case, appointed by Donald Trump, was reluctant to approve the deal.

Under pressure from Republican protests that the Justice Department was giving favored treatment to the president’s son, the deal fell through. Attorney General Merrick Garland appointed Weiss as special counsel for the case, giving him added independence and broad authority to investigate and report his findings. Weiss had been investigating Hunter Biden as a Delaware federal prosecutor since Trump’s tenure. Ongoing investigations since 2018 have so far found no evidence of other possible crimes.

Paradoxically, Hunter Biden could center his defense on a Supreme Court ruling that his father criticized: the one that enshrined the constitutional right to carry firearms in public for self-defense, which struck down a New York gun law. Recently, a federal appeals court in New Orleans, Louisiana, overturned a conviction for illegal possession of a gun by saying that the state law requiring a drug-free period ran counter to that right as interpreted by the Supreme Court. “Our history and tradition may support some limits on an intoxicated person’s right to carry a weapon, but it does not justify disarming a sober citizen based exclusively on his past drug usage,” that ruling said.

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