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Hunter Biden agrees to plead guilty to federal tax charges

A MARTÍNEZ, HOST:

Court papers indicate that President Biden's son, Hunter Biden, has reached a tentative plea deal with federal prosecutors. Under the agreement, the president's surviving son will plead guilty to two tax crimes and admit he lied on his application to obtain a gun. Joining us now to discuss all this is NPR justice correspondent Carrie Johnson. Carrie, how did this all come down?

CARRIE JOHNSON, BYLINE: The U.S. attorney in Delaware, David Weiss, has been investigating Hunter Biden since 2018, and court papers say Hunter Biden has tentatively agreed to plead guilty to two misdemeanor tax charges - a failure to file or pay taxes in 2017 and 2018. His representatives have said before that he paid back the IRS what he owed. And separately in the gun matter, Biden will admit he bought a gun in 2018 while addicted to drugs, which is a federal crime. His lawyer, Chris Clark, said in a statement this morning it's his understanding the five-year investigation into Hunter Biden is resolved. And the lawyer added, I know Hunter believes it's important to take responsibility for these mistakes he made during a period of turmoil and addiction in his life, and he looks forward to continuing his recovery and moving forward.

MARTÍNEZ: So does Hunter Biden's plea deal involve jail time?

JOHNSON: A, in the tax case, Biden faces fines of not more than $25,000 and can't be in prison for more than a year. We think, according to a source familiar with this deal, the DOJ will ask for probation, but the judge isn't obligated to follow that recommendation. In the gun case, Biden agreed to enter what's known as pretrial diversion, which means he will admit to the facts of the case. And under this kind of a program, Biden will agree to stay clean for 24 months, perhaps submit to drug tests, to check in with a probation office. And if he abides by those conditions for a couple years, the gun charge will be dropped. If Biden fails to follow those rules, prosecutors could use his admission against him in court.

MARTÍNEZ: Hey, Hunter's a member of the Biden family. So what's the reaction been so far?

JOHNSON: Oh, this is such a big legal story and a political story. Hunter Biden's father, the president, seeking reelection, and Joe Biden's biggest rival is his Republican predecessor, Donald Trump, who's facing his own legal challenges. Trump responded today on his social media platform by saying the corrupt Biden DOJ just cleared up hundreds of years of criminal liability by giving Hunter Biden a mere traffic ticket. And a White House spokesman for Joe Biden says the president and first lady love their son, and they support him as he continues to rebuild his life. They don't want to say any more than that.

MARTÍNEZ: All right. Now, Republicans in Congress have been intensifying their investigations into President Biden's family. How will this case affect what's happening on Capitol Hill?

JOHNSON: You know, the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, Jim Jordan, and the leader of the House Oversight Committee, James Comer, had been leveling all kinds of accusations against the Biden family. Comer says today these charges against Hunter Biden and the sweetheart plea deal have no impact on his investigation and they're going to keep looking. It's also not clear the Justice Department is done investigating Hunter Biden. Right now, all we have is a statement from Biden's lawyer saying we believe this ends the investigation. But David Weiss, the U.S. attorney in Delaware, who's a holdover from the Trump administration, says in his own news release that the investigation is ongoing.

MARTÍNEZ: NPR's Carrie Johnson. Carrie, thanks for moving fast on this.

JOHNSON: My pleasure. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Carrie Johnson is a justice correspondent for the Washington Desk.
A Martínez
A Martínez is one of the hosts of Morning Edition and Up First. He came to NPR in 2021 and is based out of NPR West.