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For Biden, Son's Indictments Create One More Political Burden

FILE — Hunter Biden, the son of U.S. President Joe Biden, leaves after a court appearance in Wilmington, Delaware, July 26, 2023. This week, he was named in a nine-count indictment charging him with tax crimes.
FILE — Hunter Biden, the son of U.S. President Joe Biden, leaves after a court appearance in Wilmington, Delaware, July 26, 2023. This week, he was named in a nine-count indictment charging him with tax crimes.

Hunter Biden, the son of U.S. President Joe Biden, was named in a nine-count indictment charging him with various tax crimes this week, raising the possibility that he could be on trial in two separate federal jurisdictions during his father's reelection campaign next year.

The indictment, filed in federal court in California, alleges that Biden committed three felonies and six misdemeanors as part of an effort to avoid paying federal taxes between 2016 and 2020. During that time period, according to the 56-page indictment, Biden took in more than $7 million, and should have paid some $1.4 million in federal taxes.

However, the indictment alleges, Biden instead "spent this money on drugs, escorts and girlfriends, luxury hotels and rental properties, exotic cars, clothing, and other items of a personal nature, in short, everything but his taxes."

The indictment is the product of a long-running investigation headed by special counsel David Weiss, the former U.S. attorney for the District of Delaware, which began during the Trump administration. When President Biden entered the White House, he asked that Weiss stay on.

Political burden

Charlie Cook, a political analyst and founder of the Cook Political Report, told VOA that the indictments of his son add yet another burden to the Democratic president, whose reelection campaign is facing many obstacles.

"The president is already facing a lot of headwinds, and this is just one more that makes the challenge of reelection just that much harder," Cook told VOA. "Concerns about his age and health — either now or five years from now — poor poll numbers in terms of his handling of the economy and just about every other issue area. All these things are drags on his reelection campaign.

"Then, you throw in a nine-count indictment and trials next year, and it's hard to see how this doesn't hurt."

Distraction for president

Larry Sabato, director of the University of Virginia's Center for Politics, agreed that the indictment and potential trials of his son will be a political headache for Biden, though he said he doubted that the indictment itself would actually cost Biden many votes in 2024.

"It isn't helpful to President Biden, obviously, if for no other reason than he's going to be distracted by at least one trial and possibly two, during the election year," Sabato told VOA.

However, Hunter Biden's legal troubles have been very public for years, and Sabato said public trials are, at this point, unlikely to change many voters' attitude toward his father.

"The only votes that are affected by this are already committed to the eventual Republican nominee," he said. "People who base their vote on what a president's very adult son has done — without any real proof that the president himself has had some kind of illegal role in it — are few and far between. It's just not going to happen with independents, Democrats and even moderate anti-Trump Republicans."

Financial details

The indictment goes into detail about the sources of the younger Biden's income, noting that during the time frame in question, he made about $2.3 million from his association with the Ukrainian industrial conglomerate Burisma Holdings, and several million more from other business ventures, including a Chinese energy firm called CEFC China Energy.

Hunter Biden also received a total of $1.2 million in financial support from a personal friend, including $200,000 used to rent what the indictment refers to as a "lavish house on a canal in Venice, California" and $11,000 in payments related to a Porsche.

The indictment also charges that Biden used a line of credit obtained by his company, Owasco, to illicitly pay for a wide array of personal expenses. Among other things, the document lists payments to luxury hotels, a high-fashion clothing manufacturer, a strip club, a pornographic website, apartment rent for one of his daughters, and other services. It alleges that he then attempted to classify those payments as deductible business expenses on his tax filings.

Plea deal fell apart

The indictment, sometimes scathing in its description of Biden's behavior, is all the more remarkable because, only a few months ago, the special counsel appeared ready to allow the president's son to evade prosecution.

Court papers filed in June revealed that Biden had struck a preliminary agreement with Weiss to plead guilty to two minor tax misdemeanors and to admit that he was illegally in possession of a handgun in 2018.

However, in August the deal collapsed after Biden's attorneys and the prosecutor's team were unable to agree on whether the guilty plea would immunize Biden against prosecution on different tax charges.

With the deal off the table, Weiss requested that Attorney General Merrick Garland grant him the status of special counsel, which allowed him to file charges in federal courts outside his jurisdiction of Delaware.

The gun-related charges were brought in an indictment in Delaware in September, which charged Biden with both illegal possession of a firearm and with falsifying a document that he submitted to the federal government in connection with the purchase of the weapon.

In statements to the news media, Abbe Lowell, Biden's attorney, said that his client has refiled amended tax returns for the years in question, and has paid what he owed the government in full. Lowell suggested that another American, under the same set of circumstances, would not have been indicted.

"Based on the facts and the law, if Hunter's last name was anything other than Biden, the charges in Delaware, and now California, would not have been brought," he said.