Hunter Biden’s lawyers said in a court filing Sunday that they believe their deal with the Justice Department to resolve a felony gun charge is still “valid and binding,” though it’s unclear if the newly appointed special counsel agrees with their interpretation.
The filing comes two days after David Weiss, the Trump-appointed US attorney investigating the president’s son, was granted special counsel status following a breakdown in plea talks to resolve tax and gun charges. By naming Weiss as a special counsel, Attorney General Merrick Garland gave him more powers than a typical US attorney and further independence from the Justice Department as he embarks on an unprecedented potential trial against the son of the sitting president, and as Republicans claim the department is politicized.
The parties had previously struck two deals amid a sprawling Justice Department investigation: A “plea agreement” where Biden would plead guilty to two federal tax misdemeanors, and a “diversion agreement” where prosecutors would drop a felony gun charge in two years if he passed drug tests and stayed out of legal trouble.
The probe had appeared to reach its conclusion when a plea deal was announced in June. But the deal dramatically unraveled in court last month under scrutiny from the federal judge overseeing the case, and the resumed negotiations collapsed last week.
Lawyers for Biden argued in the filing Sunday that Weiss decided “on Friday to renege on the previously agreed-upon Plea Agreement,” referring to the tax deal, after negotiations fell apart earlier in the week.
But in their view, the gun deal was fully “executed” when it was signed by both parties and presented to a federal judge at a court hearing last month in Delaware. A copy of the deal that was previously posted to the docket was signed by Biden, his attorney Chris Clark and federal prosecutor Leo Wise – but the line for a signature from a probation officer is blank.
“The parties have a valid and binding bilateral Diversion Agreement,” Hunter Biden’s lawyers wrote to the judge, referring to the gun deal, and adding that their client “intends to abide by the terms of the Diversion Agreement.”
They also said that it was the prosecutors – not them – who crafted the two intertwining agreements that District Judge Maryellen Noreika balked at last month’s court hearing, which ended after she said she wasn’t ready to accept the deals.
Earlier Sunday, a lawyer for Biden said a trial is “not inevitable,” days after the Trump-appointed US attorney investigating the president’s son was granted special counsel status following a breakdown in plea talks to resolve tax and gun charges.
“We were trying to avoid one all along and so were the prosecutors who came forward to us and we’re the ones to say: ‘Can there be a resolution short of a prosecution?’ So they wanted it and maybe they still do want it,” Abbe Lowell, Biden’s attorney, told CBS’ “Face the Nation” on Sunday.
Lowell defended Hunter Biden’s defense attorneys, placing the blame on federal prosecutors for the deal falling through. “What group of experienced defense lawyers would allow their client to plead guilty to a misdemeanor on a Monday, keeping in mind that they knew that there could be a felony charge on a Wednesday? That wouldn’t happen,” he said.
Lowell described President Joe Biden as “nothing other than a loving father,” and said the evidence to indict the president in his son’s potential crimes “doesn’t exist.”
The gun charge revolves around a firearm that Hunter Biden purchased in 2018 – he lied on a federal form when he swore that he was not using, and was not addicted to, illegal drugs. The tax offenses stem from Hunter Biden repeatedly missing IRS deadlines to pay his taxes on time, though he eventually paid roughly $2 million to settle his debts, along with penalties and interest.
House Speaker Kevin McCarthy and top Republicans on Capitol Hill were swift to criticize Garland’s decision to grant Weiss special counsel status and vowed to continue their own investigations.
New York Rep. Dan Goldman, a member of the Democratic Oversight Committee, told CNN’s Jake Tapper on “State of the Union” Sunday that “if Hunter Biden has committed crimes, he should be charged with them. I’m a Democrat saying that.”
“You don’t hear any currently elected Republican saying that, if Donald Trump committed crimes, he should be charged with them and held accountable. And that’s a critical distinction that the public needs to understand,” he added.
“And this is just another reflection of the true independence of this Department of Justice. A Trump-appointed U.S. attorney is investigating the president’s son. That is pretty remarkable. And you don’t hear from the other side a respect for the fact that Joe Biden has stayed out of this investigation,” Goldman said.
Republican presidential candidate Will Hurd, a former Texas congressman, told Tapper in a separate interview on “State of the Union” that “the immediate family of a president should not be allowed to be lobbyists or consultants when their father or their husband is the president of the United States.”
This story has been updated with additional information.