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Hunter Biden reaches deal to plead guilty to tax charges following federal investigation

Hunter Biden agrees to plead guilty to tax charges
Hunter Biden agrees to plead guilty to tax charges 02:54

Hunter Biden, President Biden's son, has reached a tentative deal with the U.S. attorney in Delaware, agreeing to enter guilty pleas to two misdemeanor tax charges and admitting to felony gun possession, according to a Justice Department filing. 

Hunter Biden's plea will include an acknowledgement that drug use was a contributing factor in his gun crime and is entering into a pretrial diversion agreement, according to the filing. A source with knowledge of the agreement said it is expected to mean that for two years, Hunter Biden must remain drug-free and can't commit additional crimes. If Hunter Biden fulfills this successfully, the gun count would be dismissed. This does not amount to a guilty plea.

At an event in California on Tuesday afternoon, President Biden responded to questions about Hunter Biden by saying, "I am very proud of my son." An earlier statement from a White House spokesman said, "The President and First Lady love their son and support him as he continues to rebuild his life. We will have no further comment."

A federal judge in Delaware must approve the deal. Hunter Biden is expected to enter a plea to the charges specified in the agreement at a hearing in U.S. District Court in Wilmington. A hearing has not yet been scheduled. 

Chris Clark, an attorney for Hunter Biden, said during a Tuesday afternoon appearance on MSNBC that his "expectation, at least with regard to after that proceeding, is that he'll be released without conditions."

"I think the judge is going to do what's fair, and I think what's fair is, you know, my client gets on with his life," Clark said.

The two misdemeanor tax charges relate to his willful failure to pay taxes for 2017 and 2018. A filing indicates Hunter Biden had more than $1.5 million in income each year. He has since fully repaid back taxes and fines, including $2 million reportedly paid to the federal government last year, with the help of a loan from his personal attorney. The felony gun charge relates to his possession of a handgun by a drug user in 2018. The filing identifies Biden's handgun as a Colt Cobra 38SPL, and Delaware U.S. Attorney David Weiss said in a statement that Hunter Biden had it for 11 days in October 2018.

Weiss' office said in the statement Tuesday morning that the investigation is ongoing. Earlier in the day, Clark said in a statement to CBS News, "it is my understanding that the five-year investigation into Hunter is resolved."

"Hunter will take responsibility for two instances of misdemeanor failure to file tax payments when due pursuant to a plea agreement.  A firearm charge, which will be subject to a pretrial diversion agreement and will not be the subject of the plea agreement, will also be filed by the Government," Clark said. "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.  He looks forward to continuing his recovery and moving forward."

Clark was asked during his MSNBC appearance if he would have agreed to a plea agreement if he believed future charges were possible.

"Would I make a deal? No, I wouldn't," Clark said.

White House responds to Hunter Biden plea deal 05:01

Sources close to the president's son said the decision to enter into a plea agreement stemmed from Hunter Biden's acknowledgment that there were consequences for his drug abuse — which was extensive during the period his taxes went unpaid.

The investigation was led by Weiss, who was appointed by then-President Donald Trump in 2018. 

President Biden kept Weiss in the position, apparently to avoid even the appearance of interference in the ongoing investigation into the president's son. The Justice Department has gone to great lengths to protect Weiss's independence, even as it was sharply criticized by Republican lawmakers and others about why the probe had dragged on for so long.

The tentative plea agreement comes at a time when Republican candidates for president and members of Congress have been taking aim at a Justice Department that they say has been "weaponized" by the Biden administration against Republican opponents. And it comes a week after a special counsel appointed by U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland obtained a federal grand jury indictment against Trump on felony charges stemming in part from his alleged "willful retention" of classified documents. The White House has denied any political interference. 

Republican Rep. James Comer, the chairman of the House Oversight and Accountability Committee, tells CBS News he expects Weiss to testify to either his committee or the House Judiciary Committee.

"He needs to explain whether or not his investigation is concluded," Comer said of Weiss. "He needs to be transparent with congressional investigators as to what exactly he's investigating moving forward."

Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley accused the Justice Department on June 12 in a Senate floor speech of using "every resource to investigate candidate Trump, President Trump and former President Trump," but "haven't nearly had the same laser focus on the Biden family."

A spokesperson for a political action committee associated with Trump said Trump would appoint a "truly independent special prosecutor" if he's elected in 2024.

"As President Trump predicted, Biden's Justice Department is cutting a sweetheart deal with Hunter Biden in order to make their bogus case to 'get Trump' appear fair," said Karoline Leavitt, a spokeswoman for Make America Great Again Inc. "Meanwhile, Biden's DOJ continues to turn a blind eye to the Biden family's extensive corruption and bribery scheme."

Republicans respond to Hunter Biden plea deal in federal tax investigation 05:59

The investigation into Hunter Biden dates back to at least 2018. Sources told CBS News in October 2022 that the FBI believed it had forwarded sufficient evidence to federal prosecutors to warrant charges. Earlier this year, a whistleblower IRS supervisory agent told CBS News that prosecutors were taking unusual steps to slow-walk a high-profile political case, which sources identified as the one against the president's son. 

Testimony from the whistleblower, 14-year IRS veteran Gary Shapley, in the form of a transcript and some other documents he provided to the House Ways and Means Committee, will be made public as early as this week, according to a source familiar with the committee's discussions.

For a time, it appeared the investigation had broader scope, ranging across Hunter Biden's many international business dealings. But the source familiar with the terms of agreement with prosecutors said Hunter Biden's legal team is anticipating the deal will stipulate that those matters are now closed.

A 2019 federal subpoena obtained by CBS News sought banking records for Hunter and the president's brother, James, as well as two business partners. The subpoena demanded they turn over records for transactions with the Bank of China dating back to 2014, when Joe Biden was vice president. A December 2020 subpoena requested documents as far back as January 2017, "regarding (Hunter) Biden's income, assets, debts, obligations, and financial transactions ... and all personal and business expenditures."

The subpoena also requested "all federal, state, local and foreign tax documentation related to (Hunter) Biden."

Prosecutors investigating Hunter Biden also subpoenaed documents from a paternity lawsuit that included his tax records, according to documents and an attorney involved in the matter.

"They wanted every record relating to Hunter Biden we had," lawyer Clint Lancaster told CBS News in April 2022. Lancaster represented Lunden Roberts, a woman who sued Hunter Biden in 2019 alleging he was the father of her child. A DNA test confirmed he is the father and he agreed to pay child support.

Throughout, Hunter Biden appeared as a frequent guest at his father's White House events, and President Biden has defended his son, telling MSNBC recently: "My son has done nothing wrong. … I trust him. I have faith in him, and it impacts my presidency by making me feel proud of him."

Mr. Biden has also said he was never involved in his son's business dealings.

"I have not taken a penny from any foreign source, ever, in my life," Mr. Biden said in October 2020 at a presidential debate.

From the start, the effort to dissect the business dealings of a man whose father served as a senior U.S. senator, vice president, and candidate for the presidency, faced unusual challenges. The investigation unfolded as Hunter Biden became the subject of repeated political attacks from the right, including  the leaking of his laptop computer into the public sphere, and continued as Hunter Biden waged a counter-offensive, filing civil lawsuits against his political critics. 

In recent months, questions about the pace of the federal criminal probe were raised by whistleblowers. In October 2022, sources inside the FBI told CBS News and other news outlets that agents in the bureau believed they had months earlier provided Weiss with sufficient evidence to charge Hunter Biden

Six months later, in April 2023, allegations of undue interference from the Justice Department surfaced when the attorney for an IRS criminal supervisory special agent asked Congress for whistleblower protections to speak out about allegations that a sensitive political investigation had been hindered by "preferential treatment and politics," according to a letter obtained by CBS News. Sources later confirmed the critique pertained to the Hunter Biden probe.

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