Hunter Biden’s Legal Saga Enters Fraught New Chapter

FILE PHOTO: U.S. President Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden (REUTERS)
FILE PHOTO: U.S. President Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden (REUTERS)


A scheduled court appearance Tuesday underscores the heightened legal peril President Biden’s son faces on several fronts.

WILMINGTON, Del.—Hunter Biden walked into a federal courthouse in Delaware one morning in late July set on admitting to misdemeanor tax charges, in hopes that a plea deal with prosecutors would end years of legal scrutiny. It turned out not to be so simple for President Biden’s son.

More than two months later, the younger Biden is set to return Tuesday to that same federal courthouse in Wilmington with his legal woes far from resolved. He is expected to plead not guilty to felony charges related to his 2018 purchase of a handgun, during a court hearing that will open a new stage in a long-running legal saga that is coming to a head as his father campaigns for re-election.

The court appearance underscores the heightened legal peril the younger Biden, 53, faces on several fronts.

After months of scrutiny from House Republicans, he now figures prominently in an impeachment inquiry focused on his business dealings and those of other members of the Biden family. He has brought civil lawsuits alleging the invasion of his privacy, including one against the Internal Revenue Service over disclosures two agents made while voicing concerns about the investigation into his taxes.

His most immediate problem is the criminal indictment on charges to which he plans to plead not guilty Tuesday. In July, Hunter Biden was set to admit to failing to pay his taxes in 2017 and 2018, as part of a plea deal that would allow him to avoid prosecution on a gun charge. The deal dissolved during the hearing, as federal prosecutors and Biden’s legal team disagreed in open court about the immunity it granted the president’s son from potential additional charges.

In the fallout of that dramatic court hearing, Biden was charged last month with lying about his drug use when he purchased a handgun in 2018 and with illegally possessing the weapon. Biden’s indictment centered on a federal government form he was required to fill when he purchased a .38-caliber handgun from a Delaware gun store.

Prosecutors have alleged that, when asked on that form about whether he was using drugs, Hunter Biden answered that he wasn’t. He has publicly said he struggled with addiction to crack cocaine and alcohol around the time of the gun purchase.

Hunter Biden was also charged with possessing an illegally obtained gun for 11 days, from Oct. 12 to Oct. 23, 2018.

His lawyers and other legal experts have argued that the Justice Department rarely prosecutes gun charges such as those brought against the president’s son, particularly against nonviolent offenders, unless they can be connected to more serious conduct. His defense may benefit from a recent Supreme Court decision that bolstered gun ownership rights and came under harsh criticism from his father.

Prosecutors didn’t bring tax charges against him last month, but they could still do so.

In the face of a federal indictment and House Republicans, Hunter Biden has mounted a legal counteroffensive of sorts. His lawsuit against the IRS alleges that the two agents, in airing concerns about the handling of the tax investigation, disclosed information that federal law deems secret.

“Mr. Biden has no fewer or lesser rights than any other American citizen," his legal team argued in the 27-page lawsuit, adding that no agency or government official has a right to “violate his rights simply because of who he is."

Meanwhile, in his criminal case, the younger Biden tried to stay physically out of court. Ahead of Tuesday’s scheduled hearing, his lawyer asked a judge to allow his client to appear via videoconference rather than have him “travel across the country for what should be a rather short proceeding."

Magistrate Judge Christopher Burke denied the request, saying Biden “should not receive special treatment in this matter."

Write to C. Ryan Barber at and Sadie Gurman at

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