What was Hunter Biden's plea deal and why are Republicans after him?

US President's son faces charges over taxes and possibly gun possession

Hunter Biden leaves after a court appearance in Wilmington, Delaware, on July 26. AP
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US President Joe Biden's son Hunter pleaded guilty to tax charges on Wednesday, after a plea agreement was put into disarray when the judge questioned the discarding of a gun charge.

The National takes a look at the continuing case, and why Republicans are seen as interfering with it.

What was Hunter Biden charged with?

Mr Biden was charged with two misdemeanour crimes of failure to pay more than $100,000 in taxes from more than $1.5 million in income in both 2017 and 2018.

What was his plea deal?

Mr Biden was expected to plead guilty after he made an agreement that his defence team reached with prosecutors, who were planning to recommend two years of probation, AP reported.

It also reportedly included an agreement on a separate gun charge, since Mr Biden had been accused of possessing a firearm in 2018 as a drug user, which is a felony charge that carries 10 years in prison.

The agreement would have wiped the gun case from his record, AP reported.

What happened to the plea deal?

US District Court Judge Maryellen Noreika, who was appointed by former president Donald Trump, raised concerns about the specifics of the deal and her role in the proceedings, Bloomberg reported.

Ms Noreika questioned why the gun charge was included in a tax case, and whether the plea agreement protected Mr Biden from charges that might arise from a wider continuing investigation of his business dealings.

The judge said she could not accept the plea deal as it is.

What does President Joe Biden say?

The President has not publicly said much about his son and his legal dealings, other than giving his continued support.

“Hunter Biden is a private citizen, and this was a personal matter for him,” White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said on Wednesday.

“As we have said, the President, the first lady, they love their son and they support him as he continues to rebuild his life.”

“This case was handled independently, as all of you know, by the Justice Department under the leadership of a prosecutor appointed" by Mr Trump."

Why are Republicans after him?

The case and the reported plea agreement became a lightning rod for conservatives.

They claim the Justice Department failed to fully investigate the business dealings of the Biden family, including the President, and gave the younger Biden politically favourable treatment.

The Hunter Biden investigation has been seen by conservatives as representing a double standard in how the Justice Department handles such cases, especially compared to the investigations of Mr Trump.

What are Republicans doing in response?

On the eve of the plea hearing, House Republicans asked the judge to throw out the agreement reached with prosecutors, an unusual step of seeking to intervene in the case.

Jason Smith, chairman of the House ways and means committee, filed a brief urging the judge to consider the testimony of two IRS workers who, during a panel, claimed that Hunter Biden received preferential treatment from the Justice Department, according to the filing.

House Republicans have also launched a series of investigations into the business dealings of Biden family members.

Representatives released an FBI raw intelligence report last week as part of their latest attempt to push unverified claims that Joe and Hunter Biden engaged in corruption in Ukraine.

The contents of Hunter Biden's laptop have also been the subject of intense Republican scrutiny.

He left it in a repair shop and its contents eventually ended up on the internet, including pictures of him apparently taking drugs and in sexual encounters.

Updated: July 26, 2023, 9:24 PM