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CNN  — 

In a remarkable, six-month turn of events, Hunter Biden, the president’s son, has gone from the cusp of a no-jail-time plea deal to looming trials in Delaware on gun charges and in California on tax charges.

The tax charges filed Thursday build on an uncomfortable narrative about the president’s son – that he was a drug addict who spent large amounts of money on a lavish lifestyle and that he did not pay all of his taxes on time. That he traded on his father’s name was already clear.

While he was able to use his last name to make money, his lawyers now argue he is facing trials that any other American would not. Hunter Biden’s legal battle now seems likely to crescendo with a political campaign in which President Joe Biden is already struggling to convince Americans he should be reelected.

Here’s an overview of the legal jeopardy faced by Hunter Biden and what it could mean for his father:

How many cases is Hunter Biden facing?


Most recent are the tax charges. These include nine counts – three felonies and six misdemeanors – of alleged tax crimes for the tax years 2016 to 2019.

They were filed Thursday in federal court in Southern California by special counsel David Weiss with a scathing indictment handed down by a federal grand jury. Biden is accused of engaging in a scheme to avoid paying at least $1.4 million in taxes on income and instead funding a lavish lifestyle of drugs and escorts. Read the full report from Evan Perez, Paula Reid, Marshall Cohen, Hannah Rabinowitz and Holmes Lybrand, the CNN team that has been covering this story.

Then there are the three gun-related charges. These were filed in September in Delaware. Biden is accused of making false statements on a federal firearms form and obtaining a handgun and possessing it for 11 days in 2018 at a time when he was addicted to drugs.

What did we learn in the new charges?

Weiss argues that Biden continued to evade taxes into 2020, and in the indictment, he includes a chart of nearly $5 million in spending between 2016 and 2019 – including $683,212 in payments to “various women” and $188,960 on “adult entertainment.”

The 56-page indictment is detailed and complicated and documents millions in income and expenses, some of which Biden is accused of siphoning away from his companies.

A useful summarizing quote from the indictment is this: “Between 2016 and October 15, 2020, the Defendant 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.”

What are the max penalties he is facing?

If convicted of all charges in the tax case, Hunter Biden could face up to 17 years in prison.

If convicted of all charges in the gun case, Biden could face up to 25 years in prison, but as CNN reported back in September when the charges were filed, “defendants very rarely get the maximum penalty, especially in cases like these, involving non-violent crimes and an alleged first-time offender.”

What happened to the plea deal?

It fell apart in court.

Back in June, Hunter Biden agreed to a plea deal in which he would have avoided all jail time; admitted guilt to two tax misdemeanors, for which his lawyers argued he already paid back taxes; and agreed to a diversion program on the gun charge.

But a federal judge in Delaware refused in July to accept the deal, in part because it was unclear if the deal would resolve the tax case.

There was also criticism of the deal from Republicans, who said Biden was getting special treatment. Plus, two IRS whistleblowers came forward to argue there had been political pressure to reach a plea deal. Other witnesses in congressional hearings have disputed the claims of the whistleblowers.

Will these new charges satisfy Republican critics?

They will not. The charges make it difficult to argue that Hunter Biden is getting special treatment or that the justice system is targeted only at Republicans, which are both claims Republicans have tried to make.

But Republicans in the House are pushing the idea that President Biden was enriched by his son’s overseas income, including from the Ukrainian energy company Burisma and a Chinese private equity fund. There is no evidence to support that claim.

In a statement after the tax evasion indictment, Rep. James Comer of Kentucky, who is spearheading House investigations into the president, called on Weiss to further expand his investigation.

“Unless U.S. Attorney Weiss investigates everyone involved in the Bidens’ fraud schemes and influence peddling, it will be clear President Biden’s DOJ is protecting Hunter Biden and the big guy,” Comer wrote, referencing the president as “the big guy.”

Is President Biden implicated in the new charges?

No. While Republicans on Capitol Hill have worked hard to try to tie the president to his son’s foreign income, Weiss, who has been investigating Hunter Biden for five years, does not mention Joe Biden in the indictment against his son.

However, Hunter Biden’s income fell when his father’s position changed. It’s long been known that Hunter Biden was paid to sit on the board of Burisma. His annual salary from the Ukrainian company was around $1 million per year, according to the indictment, until March 2017, when it was cut in half to around $500,000 per year. His father left the vice presidency in January 2017.

How will these charges against his son affect Republicans’ impeachment effort against President Biden?

They are related. Republicans in the House have been working toward an official impeachment inquiry against Joe Biden, but it is based on largely disproven conspiracy theories that feature Burisma and Hunter Biden.

Republicans like House Judiciary Chairman Jim Jordan have argued, although there is no evidence to support it, that Hunter Biden’s position on Burisma’s board was tied to Joe Biden’s effort to have a prosecutor in Ukraine fired in 2014.

However, as CNN has reported, Jordan’s allegation does not make sense, since the US wanted the prosecutor fired for being soft on corruption and his removal was likely to increase scrutiny of Burisma and Hunter Biden.

Republicans are also considering impeaching Joe Biden for obstruction for lying about his own ties to his son’s business career, although no such ties have ever been shown.

The new indictment, written by the special counsel Weiss, who first started investigating Hunter Biden while Donald Trump was in office, will likely not help that claim since it does not mention the current president.

What does Hunter Biden say?

In a statement after the tax indictment, Hunter Biden’s attorney Abbe Lowell said these charges would never have been brought if his client’s last name was not Biden. He added:

“First, U.S. Attorney Weiss bowed to Republican pressure to file unprecedented and unconstitutional gun charges to renege on a non-prosecution resolution. Now, after five years of investigating with no new evidence – and two years after Hunter paid his taxes in full – the U.S. Attorney has piled on nine new charges when he had agreed just months ago to resolve this matter with a pair of misdemeanors.”

In a podcast interview with the musician Moby (they apparently met in their addiction-recovery journey) recorded before the tax indictment, Hunter Biden said House Republicans, with their impeachment inquiry and investigations, are trying to “kill” him in an effort to damage his father.

“They are trying to, in their most illegitimate way, but rational way, they’re trying to destroy a presidency,” Hunter Biden said in the podcast released Friday. “And so, it’s not about me, and [in] their most base way, what they’re trying to do is they’re trying to kill me, knowing that it will be a pain greater than my father could be able to handle and so therefore destroying a presidency in that way.”