The Hunter Biden indictment *is* the product of weaponized justice
But not in the way Republicans say it is.
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Special Counsel David Weiss walloped the president’s son with an additional nine charges (including three felonies) related to tax evasion in California. This follows the collapse of a plea deal in Delaware earlier this year, where Hunter would have been able to plead to misdemeanor tax charges and avoid a felony charge for his illegal possession of a gun.
Despite this, Republicans remain convinced the Department of Justice is in the tank for President Biden and somehow Weiss’s efforts to put Hunter in jail for a very long time is actually a coverup to protect the “Biden crime family.”
This indictment isn’t enough for Republicans because nothing is enough. To hear them tell it, if Hunter is indicted, it’s a coverup. And if Hunter isn’t indicted, it’s a coverup.
There’s no action the DOJ could take short of arresting President Biden and throwing him in prison while somehow simultaneously installing Trump in office again that would satisfy the right. Indeed, after howling their demands for a special counsel to look into Hunter, they got what they wanted when Weiss, a US attorney appointed by Trump who had already been investigating Hunter for five years, got the nod. Republicans then shifted to complaining that because a plea deal was initially reached, Weiss was “compromised” and helping to “whitewash the Biden family’s corruption.”
This is why GOP Rep. James Comer, chair of the House Committee on Oversight and Accountability — a committee that seems only to exist to investigate the Biden family — immediately released a statement after the new indictment claiming that this is actually the DOJ “trying to stonewall congressional oversight as we have presented evidence to the American people about the Biden family’s corruption.” Similarly, House Ways and Means Chair Jason Smith declared that “Americans deserve more answers” — as if the 56-page indictment doesn’t explain the younger Biden’s alleged missteps in excruciating detail. Smith also said that the charges show that Congress needs to move forward with impeaching President Biden, despite the fact the indictment does not reference Joe Biden at all.
What the indictment does show is the aggressiveness of the special counsel to find something, anything, to hang on Hunter Biden to placate the right. It shows Weiss going as hard as possible on tax charges, made all the more absurd because Hunter already paid the back taxes that form the basis for the indictment. Most of all, it shows the tawdriness of digging through the life of someone who was struggling with addiction and burning down his own world.
This is not a normal indictment
The basics of the charges: From 2016 to 2019, Hunter Biden failed to pay $1.4 million in taxes, filed false business deductions in 2018, and filed false tax returns in February 2020. That sounds explosive until one remembers the Trump family tax history.
At the beginning of this year, the Trump family real estate business had to pay $1.6 million in penalties after a conviction on felony tax fraud. In 2018, the New York Times detailed the myriad ways the Trump family dodged taxes. The Trump siblings set up a fake corporation to hide millions coming from their parents, and Trump helped his father take tax deductions he wasn’t entitled to, ultimately resulting in Trump’s father passing along over $400 million to the former president.
In a bit of foreshadowing, the Times also reported that Trump “helped formulate a strategy to undervalue his parents’ real estate holdings by hundreds of millions of dollars on tax returns, sharply reducing the tax bill when those properties were transferred to him and his siblings.” In 2019, a ProPublica review of Trump's tax documents found that Trump would inflate the value of his properties to get money from lenders and deflate those values when it came time to pay taxes. Today, Trump is on trial in a civil case in New York for overvaluing his real estate holdings so he could defraud banks and investors.
It’s also worth remembering that the IRS routinely audited President Obama and then-Vice President Biden during their terms, but failed to do so during Trump’s first two years in office, even though the agency must annually audit tax returns for presidents and vice presidents. Much was made during the Trump era about how the IRS lacked the resources to go after the wealthy, instead auditing low-income workers at a far higher rate. Apparently, that resource problem got solved at least as far as Hunter Biden is concerned, as prosecutors have been investigating his tax issues since 2018.
Back to the indictment. In detailing where Hunter earned his money, of course it starts with the ultimate red meat offering for the right by discussing his work with the Ukrainian energy company Burisma. (You might recall that allegations about Hunter’s work for Burisma were at the heart of Trump’s first impeachment and were widely debunked in 2019.) It moves on to covering Hunter’s business dealings with China, which will also no doubt be delightful to a GOP deeply committed to blaming the CPP for any and all problems. Hunter also received money from a personal friend to rent what the indictment calls a “lavish house” and to cover his Porsche payments. Finally, the indictment dings Hunter for spending 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 president’s son is also on the hook for claiming business travel on his 2018 taxes when he was not conducting any business. However, rather than just detailing that Hunter didn’t undertake the business travel he claims he did, the indictment quotes at length from Hunter’s autobiography, where he described his life as a crack addict, surrounding himself with “strippers, con artists, and assorted hangers-on, who then invited their friends and associates and most recent hookups. They latched on to me and didn't let go, all with my approval. I never slept. There was no clock. Day bled into night and night into day.” The indictment goes on to quote Hunter talking about bouncing around expensive hotels in California at this time: “I stayed in one place until I tired of it, or it tired of me, and then moved on, my merry band of crooks, creeps, and outcasts soon to follow.”
This is not a man who is describing having a good time. This is a man explaining that his life was out of control, his spending was out of control, his drug use was out of control, and he was surrounding himself with people who were actively harmful for him. But the indictment uses Hunter’s raw honesty against him, sneering that “notably, the Defendant did not write that he conducted any business in any of these luxury hotels nor did he describe any of the individuals who visited him there as doing so for any business purpose.”
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Much of the indictment is repetitive, but it has to be, as the criminal complaint has to detail Hunter’s earnings each year, his failure to pay taxes each year, his knowledge that he knew he was required to pay taxes, that his accountants informed him taxes were due, and that he had the funds to pay the taxes. Those elements are necessary to show he was evading taxes, not that he wasn’t aware of what he owed or didn’t have money.
The complaint also has to detail how Hunter tried to pass personal expenses off as business ones to impermissibly lower his taxable income, improperly claiming everything from payments to exotic dancers to putting girlfriends on payroll to covering his daughter’s law school tuition to payments for hotels at the height of his addiction. In another bizarre shot at Hunter for his addiction issues, the indictment notes those hotels “were the very same hotels that the Defendant identified, by name, in his memoir as the locations of his months-long drug and alcohol binge.”
RELATED FROM PN: The right's shameless Hunter Biden obsession
It’s hard not to read this indictment as something designed to personally attack Hunter Biden for the choices he made. Contrast this with the complaint filed by New York Attorney General Letitia James in Trump’s civil fraud trial or Special Counsel Jack Smith’s criminal indictment of Trump in the January 6 case, both of which lack the weird shaming tone that pervades this indictment.
None of this is intended to say Hunter shouldn’t be in trouble for tax evasion or to insinuate that there’s some sort of conspiracy afoot and that he didn’t really skip out on his taxes. Rather, it’s that the aggressiveness with which Hunter is being pursued stands in stark contrast to Trump’s lifetime of tax malfeasance, for which he has suffered no consequences. (The $1.6 million tax evasion penalty from earlier this year was for the Trump Organization, not Trump himself.) It also stands in stark contrast to a DOJ that did not rush to address Trump’s role in a literal insurrection or in his other efforts to subvert the 2020 election.
Bottom line: Hunter’s sad tale has nothing to do with POTUS
The indictment does not mention President Biden nor provide any information that would lend credence to the notion that the president was involved in some sort of criminal enterprise with his son. Indeed, much of it focuses on Hunter’s business earnings in 2017, 2018, and 2019, when Joe Biden was a private citizen rather than vice president. But that doesn’t matter to Republicans, who are already using this as grist to bolster their impeachment inquiry, with Ways and Means Chair Smith telling the New York Times that Hunter’s indictment confirms “the need for Congress to move forward with an impeachment inquiry of Joe Biden in order to uncover all the facts for the American people to judge.”
By any measure, Hunter Biden has had a difficult life despite being the son of a president. The car accident that killed his mother, Joe Biden’s first wife, also left two-year-old Hunter with a traumatic brain injury and a fractured skull. His older brother, Beau, died in 2015 at 46 from a brain tumor that may have been linked to his exposure to toxic burn pits while serving in Iraq. His struggles with addiction have, thanks to the fact he’s the president’s son, been well-publicized rather than simply a private battle. And finally, his status as Biden’s child has made him a target for a GOP that thrives on being vicious and conspiracy-driven.
As his defense attorney, Abbe Lowell, said after the new charges were issued, “if Hunter’s last name was anything other than Biden, the charges in Delaware, and now California, would not have been brought.” Reading this indictment, it’s tough to disagree.
That’s it for today
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