The Trump-appointed U.S. Attorney for Delaware has reached a plea agreement with Hunter Biden, in which he is expected to plead guilty to two federal misdemeanor counts of failing to pay his taxes. Biden also faces a separate felony gun possession charge that will likely be dismissed if he meets certain conditions, according to court documents filed on Tuesday.
Two sources familiar with the agreement told NBC News that it includes a provision in which the U.S. attorney has agreed to recommend probation for Biden for his tax violations. Legal experts also said that the tax and gun charges will most likely not result in any jail time for President Joe Biden’s son.
It’s the first time the Justice Department — part of the executive branch, headed by the president — has brought charges against a child of a sitting president.
The decision by U.S. Attorney David Weiss, who was nominated by President Donald Trump in 2018, indicates an end to the sweeping, five-year investigation by federal prosecutors, FBI agents and IRS officials into Hunter Biden’s conduct. The Biden administration has kept Weiss in place in order to avoid having a U.S. attorney appointed by the president oversee his son’s criminal case.
Weiss’s office said in a statement, “Hunter Biden received taxable income in excess of $1,500,000 annually in calendar years 2017 and 2018. Despite owing in excess of $100,000 in federal income taxes each year, he did not pay the income tax due for either year.” Regarding the gun charge, the statement said, “from on or about October 12, 2018 through October 23, 2018, Hunter Biden possessed a firearm despite knowing he was an unlawful user of and addicted to a controlled substance.” Weiss’s office also said that its investigation of Biden is ongoing.
Chris Clark, attorney for Hunter Biden, told NBC News in a statement: “With the announcement of two agreements between my client, Hunter Biden, and the Unites States Attorney’s Office for the District of Delaware, it is my understanding that the five-year investigation into Hunter is resolved.”
“Hunter will take responsibility for two instances of misdemeanor failure to file tax payments when due pursuant to a plea agreement. A firearm charge, which will be subject to a pretrial diversion agreement and will not be the subject of the plea agreement, will also be filed by the Government. I know Hunter believes it is important to take responsibility for these mistakes he made during a period of turmoil and addiction in his life. He looks forward to continuing his recovery and moving forward.”
A White House spokesperson said, “The President and First Lady love their son and support him as he continues to rebuild his life. We will have no further comment.”
Former President Donald Trump, who faces criminal charges for his alleged mishandling of classified documents, criticized the agreement in a post on his website Truth Social.
“The corrupt Biden DOJ just cleared up hundreds of years of criminal liability by giving Hunter Biden a mere ‘traffic ticket.’ Our system is BROKEN,” Trump wrote.
The resolution suggests that prosecutors did not find cause to file charges related to Hunter Biden’s dealings with foreign entities or other wrongdoing. Trump and several Republican-led congressional inquiries have long alleged that Biden engaged in years of criminal conduct with individuals tied to the Chinese government and with companies in Ukraine and elsewhere.
In 2021, Biden paid all of the outstanding taxes that he owed for 2017 and 2018, the years named in the charges. Biden was not charged with failure to file returns for those years. He filed returns but agreed to plead guilty to not paying enough in both years, which was over $100,000.
The felony gun possession charge will be resolved in what is known as pre-trial diversion agreement, where charges are dropped if certain conditions are met by the defendant, such as not committing a crime in a given time period. The specific conditions in Biden’s gun case were not disclosed in the court documents.
In a statement, the Justice Department said Biden “faces a maximum penalty of 12 months in prison on each of the tax charges and a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison on the firearm charge,” but noted that “sentences for federal crimes are typically less than the maximum penalties. A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after taking into account the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.”
In cases where there’s an agreement with prosecutors like this one, judges typically abide by the terms of the deal, which in this case would be a sentence of probation, but not always.
A judge will schedule a date for an arraignment within the next several weeks. Hunter Biden is expected to surrender to Delaware authorities and will be processed by U.S. Marshals there.
In April, NBC reported that federal prosecutors were considering four charges against Biden. The charges filed Tuesday do not include a previously discussed felony count of tax evasion related to a business expense for one year of taxes in 2018.
The criminal probe was overseen by Weiss, whose lengthy deliberations, which have dragged on for months, provoked frustration and bewilderment from other law enforcement officials including inside the FBI and IRS, as both agencies finished their respective investigations in 2022, according to three senior law enforcement officials. One additional senior US official said that the bulk of the IRS investigation was complete in 2020.
Biden’s drug purchasing initially came to the attention of local police in Delaware in 2018, and the FBI was brought in to assist shortly afterward, according to a senior law enforcement official.
The federal investigation of Hunter Biden began in 2018 under the Trump administration as a broad inquiry of his international business relationships with an emphasis on potential national security implications. Over time, it narrowed into an examination of his personal taxes and purchase of a pistol. A grand jury was convened in Delaware and continued to hear testimony from witnesses throughout 2022, according to two sources familiar.
Biden has acknowledged that business partners sought him out because of his last name, and that he made millions from deals related to foreign countries but has repeatedly denied wrongdoing. In his memoir, Biden said that he used the money for his drug addiction and to maintain his lifestyle. Biden has previously acknowledged his extensive use of cocaine during this period.
At times, tensions among investigating U.S. attorney’s offices and agencies ran high and there were disagreements about potential courses of action, two former senior law enforcement officials told NBC News.
In early 2020, the U.S. attorney’s office in Pittsburgh joined the investigation at the request of then-Attorney General Bill Barr, who was tasked with assessing information provided by Trump’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani about alleged corruption in Ukraine that included allegations about Hunter Biden, according to three senior law enforcement officials.
Investigators looked into whether Biden acted as an agent or lobbyist for a foreign government— a potential violation of the Foreign Agents Registration Act. Investigators ultimately determined there was no basis for charges beyond Biden’s gun application and his failure to pay his estimated taxes on time.
In April, an IRS special agent involved in the Hunter Biden probe wrote to members of Congress claiming he could provide information that would reveal failures to handle “clear conflicts of interest” in the case and detail instances of “preferential treatment and politics improperly infecting decisions and protocols.” The IRS has declined to comment on the allegations.
But law enforcement officials familiar with the matter described it as a thorough investigation involving criminal investigators, FBI agents and counterintelligence agents in Baltimore and Wilmington, white-collar crime and financial analysts from FBI Headquarters in Washington, as well as multiple prosecutors in the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Delaware.
House Republicans have been investigating Hunter Biden’s finances and have alleged that he was involved in a bribery scheme.
House Oversight Committee chair Rep. James Comer, R-Ky., said his committee would continue investigating Biden.
“These charges against Hunter Biden and sweetheart plea deal have no impact on the Oversight Committee’s investigation. We will not rest until the full extent of President Biden’s involvement in the family’s schemes are revealed,” Comer said.
House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., suggested Weiss only claimed the federal investigation is still ongoing in a bid to keep evidence from their probe out of Congress’s hands.
“How can Hunter Biden plead guilty, no jail time, and the DOJ say there’s still an investigation, trying to withhold information to the House? That’s unacceptable and will not stand,” McCarthy said.
Asked about McCarthy’s comments in an interview on MSNBC on Tuesday afternoon, Biden’s lawyer Clark said, “This was a five-year, very diligent investigation pursued by incredibly professional prosecutors,” and “this is the resolution that was come to.”
He also reiterated his belief that the agreement is the end of the investigation. Asked if he would’ve signed off on the deal if he thought more charges were coming, Clark said, “No I wouldn’t.”
The Justice Department would not comment on whether U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland was consulted on the charges or played any role in signing off on the charges prior to Monday’s filing.
Garland had repeatedly vowed not to bend to any political pressure in the case, telling a Senate panel in April of last year that “there will not be interference of any political or improper kind.”
Asked then how the public could have confidence in the investigation, Garland said, “Because we put the investigation in the hands of a Trump appointee from the previous administration. And because you have me as the attorney general, who is committed to the independence of the Justice Department from any influence from the White House in criminal matters.”