Live: Hunter Biden set to plead guilty to tax charges; GOP urges judge to reject plea deal

  • The two counts of tax evasion are for 2017 and 2018, when Hunter Biden earned more than $1.5 million each year.
  • A gun charge, which is being handled through a pretrial diversion program likely resulting in no jail time, is being handled in a separate case.
  • Republicans criticized the investigation as a ‘slap on the wrist’ and the result of political favoritism despite the prosecutor being appointed by former President Donald Trump.

A federal judge recessed Hunter Biden’s hearing Wednesday when he was expected to plead guilty to two misdemeanor tax charges, at least temporarily upending the resolution to the five-year federal investigation.

Biden was expected to admit he failed to pay his taxes in 2017 and 2018, when he received more than $1.5 million each year. Biden has already paid the taxes, an unnamed source told The Associated Press.

Biden was also expected to enter a diversion program for a gun charge that could eventually wipe the charge off the record.

But prosecutors and defense lawyers disagreed about the terms of the plea agreement, with Biden insisting any guilty plea encompass immunity from any other criminal charges.

U.S. District Judge Maryellen Noreika pressed both sides to come to an agreement and called for a 10-minute recess.

Her suggestion came after Rep. Jason Smith, R-Mo., the chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, urged Noreika to reject the plea deal based on the allegations from two Internal Revenue Service investigators of political favoritism in the case.

The plea agreement aimed to resolve a five-year investigation into Hunter Biden. The case remains a flashpoint for Republican investigations into Hunter Biden and his father, President Joe Biden.

Republicans have questioned the sources of Hunter Biden’s income and accused him of peddling influence with his father for foreign companies. The White House has dismissed the allegations as baseless innuendo.

Hunter Biden case: What to know

Hunter Biden is set to plead guilty Wednesday to two misdemeanor counts of failing to pay income tax, in a case that congressional Republicans contend wasn’t investigated aggressively enough and that could politically hurt his father, President Joe Biden.

The resolution of the tax charges and a gun charge handled in a separate case could result in Hunter Biden receiving no jail time. But Republican lawmakers criticized the plea deal and urged the federal judge to reject it.

A flurry of last-minute legal filings aimed to derail the plea bargain and could lead to sanctions against a Biden lawyer. A House GOP chairman suggested Biden benefited from political interference in the case. In trying to remove sensitive information the lawmaker filed about Biden from the public court record, a lawyer from the firm representing Biden allegedly said she worked for the lawmaker’s firm, according to court records.

U.S. District Judge Maryellen Noreika asked why she shouldn’t consider sanctions for the Biden team lawyer.

FILE - President Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden leave Holy Spirit Catholic Church in Johns Island, S.C., after attending a Mass on Aug. 13, 2022. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta, File) ORG XMIT: WX204

Karine Jean-Pierre, the White House press secretary, declined Tuesday to say whether anyone from the Biden family could accompany him to the court appearance.

“I’m just not going to get into anything that involves Hunter Biden,” she said. “The president will be here, working on behalf of the American people.”

Here is what we know:

How to watch Hunter Biden press conference

Hunter Biden will hold a press conference at noon Wednesday after his court appearance in Delaware, marking his first public reaction to federal tax charges and an anticipated plea deal.

The president’s son is expected to avoid jail time, but is facing mounting pressure from President Joe Biden’s political enemies in the House GOP, which tried to intervene in the case and asked the judge to reject the plea deal.

You can watch the press conference here when it begins:

What is Hunter Biden accused of?

Biden is set to plead guilty to receiving $1.5 million in taxable income each year in 2017 and 2018 and failing to pay more than $100,000 in taxes each of those years, according to a prosecution letter that announced the charges.

Each charge carries a maximum 12 months in prison, but prosecutors are expected to recommend probation, according to The Associated Press.

The judge, Noreika, will determine the sentence.

Hunter Biden arrives for a hearing regarding his criminal tax case at the J. Caleb Boggs Federal Building in Wilmington on Wednesday, July 26, 2023.

Gun charge still pending

The gun charge, which carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison, alleges Biden made a false statement on a federal form when he bought a gun in 2018.

The Gun Control Act prohibits drug users from possessing firearms. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives ruled the ban applies to “a conviction for use or possession of a controlled substance within the past year.”

Biden filled out a federal form when he bought a handgun in October 2018 in which he replied “no” to a question of whether he was “an unlawful user of, or addicted to, marijuana or any depressant, stimulant, narcotic drug, or any other controlled substance,” according to the Washington Post.

Hunter Biden’s legal team arrives for a hearing regarding his criminal tax case at the J. Caleb Boggs Federal Building in Wilmington, Wednesday, July 26, 2023.

Hunter Biden drug addiction

By his own account in his memoir “Beautiful Things,” Biden battled drug addiction and for periods during 2018 smoked crack “every 15 minutes.”

“I know Hunter believes it is important to take responsibility for these mistakes he made during a period of turmoil and addiction in his life,” said Clark, Biden’s lawyer. “He looks forward to continuing his recovery and moving forward.”

Hunter Biden arrives in court

Hunter Biden arrived in a motorcade outside the federal courthouse in downtown Wilmington wearing a dark blue suit flanked by his attorneys, and entered without much ado.

He looked straight ahead and walked quickly toward the front door while several men holding briefcases and security walked behind him.

‘I don’t think that it was a good deal for the American public’

As Hunter Biden made his appearance in the federal courthouse in Delaware, Republican lawmakers on Capitol Hill continued to accuse Hunter Biden of benefitting from political favoritism Wednesday.

“I don’t think that it was a good deal for the American public. I think it was clear he was getting favored treatment because he’s the president’s son and they’re trying to close down and shut down the investigations into the Biden (family),” Rep. Harriet Hageman, R-Wyo., a member of the House Judiciary Committee, told USA TODAY Wednesday.

Rep. Mike Lawler, R-N.Y., pointed to last week’s high-profile hearings in the House with two whistleblowers from the Internal Revenue Service who alleged the Department of Justice interfered with the federal investigation into Hunter Biden. Lawler said Congress is yet to be done investigating Hunter Biden’s case.

“You have numerous whistleblowers right now coming forward and saying (interference) occurred. These are not Republican whistleblowers by the way, these are Democrats. These are registered Democrats coming forward and saying this is a problem,” Lawler told reporters Wednesday.

What is a plea deal?

A plea deal is a negotiation between a defendant and a prosecutor in which a defendant agrees to plead guilty to one or several offenses in exchange for a lenient punishment from the prosecutor, according to the Cornell Legal Information Institute.

The prosecutor can agree to reduce the number or severity of a charge, thus allowing them to “to focus their time and resources on other cases,” according to the institute. But ultimately it is the judge’s decision on how to punish a defendant.

Scholars estimate that about 90% to 95% of federal and state court cases are resolved through plea deals, according to the Department of Justice.

Who is Maryellen, Noreika, the judge overseeing the Hunter Biden case?

U.S. District Judge Maryellen Noreika, who is overseeing Hunter Biden’s tax and gun cases, was appointed by former President Donald Trump and confirmed with bipartisan support in the Senate.

The Senate confirmed her appointment in August 2018 by voice vote, suggesting her nomination wasn’t controversial. Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del., has cited her appointment as an example of bipartisanship and how the system should work.

Noreika has a bachelor’s degree from Lehigh University, her master’s is from Columbia University and her law degree is from the University of Pittsburgh. She was a lawyer in private practice in Wilmington for 25 years before Trump appointed her to the bench.

Hunter Biden’s artwork

Republican lawmakers on the House Oversight and Accountability Committee are investigating who bought Hunter Biden’s paintings and how much they paid as part of a wide-ranging inquiry into Biden’s business dealings and bank records. 

The art was initially listed as $500,000 a piece and now range from $50,000 to $25,000. Rep. James Comer, the chairman of the committee, called the figures “exorbitant” and questioned whether Biden was using the art to influence foreign adversaries.

The questions about the art sales grew in 2021 and the White House announced then that all sales would be handled through a dealer without the president or his son knowing. 

Hunter Biden’s lawyers: Latham and Watkins, and more

Jessica Bengels is the lawyer at Latham and Watkins in New York City who contacted the U.S. District Court clerk’s office to ask about how to seal filings in Hunter Biden’s tax case, according to a court filing.

Bengels, a lawyer who worked 18 years at the firm, provided a statement saying she hadn’t worked on the case other than to research on the docket how to file electronically. She said she called the clerk’s office Tuesday to ask how to restrict confidential material from the court file and that there may have been some confusion in dealing with two clerks.

“I am completely confident that I never indicated I was calling from Mr. Kittila’s firm or that I worked with him in any way,” Bengels said.

Hunter Biden has a number of lawyers representing him in criminal cases, congressional investigations and a recently settled child-support case.

Lawyers representing Biden in the tax case are Christopher Clark of Clark Smith Villazor in New York, Richard Jones of Berger Harris in Wilmington and Matthew Salerno of Latham and Watkins in New York. Bengels was helping Salerno with her calls.

Other lawyers working on the gun case are Brian McManus and Timothy McCarten of Latham and Watkins in Boston and Washington, respectively.

Hunter Biden’s education

Hunter Biden graduated high school in 1988 from Archmere Academy, a private Catholic prep school in Delaware and the alma mater of his father.

He graduated from Georgetown University in 1992 with a bachelors of arts degree in history.

He spent a year as a member of the Jesuit Volunteer Corps, where he met his first wife, and later received his law degree from Yale University in 1996.

Hunter Biden’s age, wife and 5 kids

Hunter Biden, 53, is the youngest and only living son of President Joe Biden and Neilia Hunter, who died in a car crash in 1972.

He married Melissa Cohen, a 37-year-old South African filmmaker, in 2019 after a 24-year-long marriage with Kathleen Buhle, whom he divorced in 2017.

Biden has five children, ranging in age from 29 to 3. He has three daughters with Buhle: Naomi Biden, 29; Finnegan Biden, 23; and Maisy Biden, 21. He has a 4-year-old daughter with Lunden Roberts and a 3-year-old son with Cohen.

President Joe Biden attends his granddaughter Maisy Biden's commencement ceremony with first lady Jill Biden and children Hunter Biden and Ashley Biden at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, Monday, May 15, 2023.

IRS whistleblowers: DOJ ‘hamstrung’ investigation

Two Internal Revenue Service investigators – Greg Shapley and Joseph Ziegler – told Congress last week that Justice Department officials hamstrung the inquiry.

“It appeared to me, based on what I experienced, that the U.S. attorney in Delaware in our investigation was constantly hamstrung, limited and marginalized by (Justice Department) officials as well as other U.S. attorneys,” Ziegler told three committees that held a joint hearing.

Shapley said he was prevented from following certain leads that could have potentially led investigators to the president.

IRS Supervisory Special Agent Gary Shapley, left, and IRS Criminal Investigator Joseph Ziegler, are sworn in at a House Oversight Committee meeting on July 19, 2023 in Washington. Shapley alleges that the Justice Department interfered in the IRS investigation of Hunter Biden.

House GOP: Biden ‘appears to have benefited from political interference’

The chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, the panel that oversees the IRS and participated in the hearing, argued Tuesday the judge should reject the plea deal because of political interference in the investigation.

The filing from Rep. Jason Smith, R-Mo., said Biden “appears to have benefited from political interference which calls into question the propriety of the investigation of the U.S. Attorney’s Office.” Smith’s lawyer, Theodore Kittila, asked the judge to consider witness testimony and other exhibits he submitted.

Biden’s lawyers argued the exhibits posted with excerpts of the IRS testimony contained personal information about Biden that should be refiled and remain confidential. But Kittila said the information was already publicly available through records at the congressional committee.

Judge considers sanctions for lawyer at Biden firm for ‘misrepresentations to the court’

At some point Tuesday, a lawyer at the firm representing Biden called the court, allegedly identified herself as working with Kittila and asked to seal the records, according to a narrative of events the judge outlined in the court docket.

The contested documents were taken down from public view while the judge considers the arguments.

“It appears that the caller misrepresented her identity and who she worked for in an attempt to improperly convince the Clerk’s Office to remove the amicus materials from the docket,” the order stated, commanding Biden’s attorneys explain why the court shouldn’t consider sanctions for “misrepresentations to the court.” 

In another filing, a lawyer from Biden’s legal team, Matthew Salerno, wrote that another attorney from his office was responsible for the phone call, that the attorney in question properly identified herself and the situation “stems from an unfortunate and unintentional miscommunication between a staff member at our firm and employees of the court.”

WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 08: House Oversight Committee Chairman James Comer, R-Ky., questions witnesses during the first public hearing of the House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Pandemic in the Rayburn House Office Building on Capitol Hill on March 08, 2023 in Washington, DC.

Republicans contend Biden treated preferentially with ‘slap on the wrist’

House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., called the plea agreement a “sweetheart deal” and Rep. James Comer, R-Ky., called it a “slap on the wrist.” Both men have said the charges will continue to fuel congressional investigations of the Biden family alleged foreign influence peddling before the 2024 election.

“Hunter Biden is getting away with a slap on the wrist when growing evidence uncovered by the House Oversight Committee reveals the Bidens engaged in a pattern of corruption, influence peddling, and possibly bribery,” Comer, chair of the House Oversight and Accountability Committee, said in a tweet.

Donald Trump, who has been indicted on federal charges alleging he mishandled classified documents and New York state charges alleging his falsified business records, argued the judicial system is broken.

“Wow!” Trump posted on Truth Social. “The corrupt Biden DOJ just cleared up hundreds of years of criminal liability by giving Hunter Biden a mere ‘traffic ticket.'”

The White House has dismissed the inquiries as “made up stunt ‘investigations.'” Biden’s lawyer, Christopher Clark, has said his understanding is that the agreements resolve the government’s five-year investigation of Hunter Biden.

Biden’s lawyers target Trump, Marjorie Taylor Greene

Hunter Biden’s legal team clashed with prominent Republican political leaders over the past several weeks in response to Republican attacks on the character of the president’s son. 

Hunter Biden’s lawyer Abbe Lowell sent former President Donald Trump, the leading 2024 Republican presidential candidate, a cease and desist letter after Trump criticized Biden’s plea deal in a post on Truth Social.

Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., was also targeted by Biden’s lawyers last week after she displayed sexually explicit photos of Biden during a congressional hearing. Lowell requested that a congressional ethics panel take action against Greene in a letter sent to the Office of Congressional Ethics. 

Biden’s lawyer sent a similar letter about Greene to the Office of Congressional Ethics in April, accusing Greene of spreading “unhinged rhetoric” about Biden. 

Prosecutor denies favoritism

David Weiss, the U.S. attorney for Delaware who was appointed by Trump, denied the Justice Department retaliated against IRS investigators on the case. Weiss also said he was allowed to pursue the investigation unhindered.

“I have been granted ultimate authority over this matter, including responsibility for deciding where, when and whether to file charges and for making decisions necessary to preserve the integrity of the prosecution, consistent with federal law, the Principles of Federal Prosecution, and Departmental regulations,” Weiss wrote to lawmakers.

The Justice Department offered to make Weiss available for a House Judiciary Committee hearing after Congress’ August break, to answer questions about how the investigation was handled.

“The Department believes it is strongly in the public interest for the American people and for Congress to hear directly from U.S. Attorney Weiss on these assertions and questions about his authority at a public hearing,” Assistant Attorney General Carlos Uriarte wrote to the chairman, Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio.

President Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden arrive at Fort McNair, Sunday, June 25, 2023, in Washington. The Bidens are returning from Camp David.

Criminal cases follow Biden settling child-support case

The criminal cases come after Hunter Biden settled a child support case in Arkansas last month with the mother of one of his daughters.

Biden had sought to reduce the $20,000 per month in child support he was paying for the girl born Aug. 28, 2018, to Lunden Roberts. The amount of child support agreed upon was redacted from the court filing.

Biden will continue reimbursing Roberts for the cost of the girl’s health insurance and the girl multiple paintings. His paintings have been listed with sale prices as high as $500,000.


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