Hunter Biden Indicted on Gun Charges in Blow to President

(Bloomberg) -- President Joe Biden’s son Hunter was indicted on federal charges that he purchased a firearm without disclosing that he was unlawfully using drugs, thrusting his legal problems further into the spotlight as the president ramps up his re-election campaign.

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The charges Thursday by Special Counsel David Weiss follow the collapse of a deal under which Hunter Biden agreed to plead guilty to two misdemeanor tax crimes and to acknowledge a firearms violation without a conviction. But the deal, which involved no jail time, imploded in July when a federal judge questioned its terms and refused to sign off on it.

The gun charges represent the least of Biden’s legal jeopardy, as Weiss has signaled he is considering bringing charges for the president’s son’s alleged failure to report millions of dollars in income, including from China and Ukraine. A person familiar with the matter said the investigation into Biden is ongoing and additional charges are possible. House Republicans have also launched an impeachment inquiry of Joe Biden based on suspicions that the president somehow benefited from his son’s overseas business activities.

No date has yet been set for Hunter Biden to appear in court.

Abbe Lowell, a lawyer for Hunter Biden, said in a statement that he believed the gun law under which his client was being charged was unconstitutional. Recent federal appeals court rulings have held that drug users can’t be barred from owning firearms. Lowell accused Weiss of bowing to Republican demands.

“Hunter Biden possessing an unloaded gun for 11 days was not a threat to public safety, but a prosecutor, with all the power imaginable, bending to political pressure presents a grave threat to our system of justice,” Lowell said.

Read More: Hunter Biden Plea Deal in Limbo After Judge Questions Terms

Prosecutors faced a deadline to file charges related to the firearm offenses because they occurred five years ago, meaning the statute of limitations was about to expire. The gun case, which was filed in federal court in Delaware, will be overseen by US District Judge Maryellen Noreika, whose questioning of the terms of the earlier plea deal led to its collapse in July. Tax charges would likely be brought in Washington or California.

Biden is charged with three counts related to his purchase of a Colt Cobra snub-nosed .38 caliber revolver in October 2018, while allegedly falsely stating on a form he was “not an unlawful user of, and addicted to, any stimulant, narcotic drug, and any other controlled substance.” Biden has said that, during that period, he was in the grip of a “well-documented and long-standing struggle” with substance abuse.

Two of the counts carry maximum sentences of 10 years in prison. The third count is punishable by up to five years in prison. But it’s rare for judges to hand down maximum sentences, and convicted defendants are often allowed to serve prison terms for different counts concurrently.

The indictment means Biden could go on trial in the heat of next year’s presidential race, though he may also try to negotiate a fresh plea agreement.

Read More: McCarthy Launches Biden Impeachment Probe, Alleging Corruption

Any charges against Biden are almost certain to be used as a weapon by Donald Trump and conservatives in his bid to regain the White House. House Republicans have opened an impeachment inquiry against Joe Biden based in large part on Hunter’s business dealings.

Under his previous plea deal, Biden would have admitted to not paying income tax for 2017 and 2018, but he wouldn’t have been charged with a gun offense at all. In an exhibit attached to the plea agreement, Biden said he made more than $4 million in those two years from sources including a Ukrainian energy company and a Chinese private equity firm.

Republicans, who attacked that agreement as a sweetheart deal, have seized upon Biden’s millions to argue his father must have benefited as well. The White House and leading Democrats have denied wrongdoing by the president.

Read More: Hunter Biden Made Over $4 Million Amid ‘Nonstop Debauchery’

The indictment follows Weiss’s appointment as a special counsel in August, a move intended to remove him from day-to-day oversight by Biden administration officials. Attorney General Merrick Garland had said the “extraordinary circumstances” of the investigation warranted the move.

The Department of Justice and the White House both declined to comment on Thursday.

Trump, the front-runner for the Republican nomination, has been indicted on 91 counts in four criminal cases, including for allegedly conspiring to overturn the 2020 election and mishandling classified documents.

--With assistance from Patricia Hurtado and Erik Larson.

(Updates with more details about the ongoing investigation.)

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