President Biden’s son Hunter has reached a tentative agreement with federal prosecutors to plead guilty to two minor tax crimes and admit to the facts of a gun charge under terms that would probably keep him out of jail, according to court papers filed Tuesday.

Any proposed plea deal would have to be approved by a federal judge. Both the prosecutors and the defense counsel have requested a court hearing at which Hunter Biden, 53, can enter his plea.

The younger Biden’s attorney said the deal means the long-running criminal investigation involving the president’s son “is resolved.” But Delaware U.S. Attorney David Weiss, the lead prosecutor in the case, said the investigation “is ongoing,” suggesting that matters beyond the tax and gun issues are still under scrutiny.

The probe was opened in 2018, during the administration of President Donald Trump. Since 2020, Republican politicians have repeatedly accused Hunter Biden of broad wrongdoing in his overseas business deals and predicted that the Biden administration would be reluctant to pursue the case. The terms of the proposed deal — negotiated with Weiss, a holdover from Trump’s administration — were quickly dismissed Tuesday by congressional Republicans, who vowed to continue investigating the Biden family.

Papers filed in federal court in Wilmington, Del., on Tuesday indicate that Hunter Biden has tentatively agreed to plead guilty to two misdemeanor tax charges of failure to pay in 2017 and 2018. A court document says that in both those years, Biden was a resident of Washington and received taxable income of more than $1.5 million, for which he owed more than $100,000 in income tax that he did not pay on time. Prosecutors plan to recommend a sentence of probation for those counts, according to people familiar with the negotiations who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe elements of the case that are not yet public. Biden’s representatives have previously said that he eventually paid the IRS what he owed.

The second court filing is about the gun charge. In that case, the letter says, “the defendant has agreed to enter a Pretrial Diversion Agreement with respect to the firearm Information.” Handling the gun charge as a diversion case means Biden would not technically be pleading guilty to that crime. Diversion is an option typically applied to nonviolent offenders with substance abuse problems.

In all, prosecutors will recommend two years of probation and diversion conditions, the people familiar with the plea deal said. If Biden successfully meets the conditions of the diversion program, the gun charge will be removed from his record at the end of that period, these people said.

“Hunter will take responsibility for two instances of failure to file tax payments when due,” one of his lawyers, Chris Clark, said in a written statement. “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.”

The gun purchase that led to the criminal charge happened in late 2018, at a time when, by his own telling in his autobiography, Hunter Biden was regularly abusing crack cocaine. When he filled out paperwork to buy the gun, however, he denied using drugs or having a drug problem, exposing him to a potential charge of making a false statement on the document, as well as illegal gun possession once he acquired the weapon. Biden owned the gun for less than two weeks because his then-girlfriend threw it away, according to public accounts of that time period.

White House spokesperson Ian Sams declined to comment Tuesday other than to say that the president and first lady “love their son and support him as he continues to rebuild his life.”

Biden’s defenders have argued that Hunter Biden is a recovering addict accused of relatively minor offenses — the type of case that would not typically be prosecuted by federal authorities, barring some additional aggravating factors that are not present in this case. They suggest that the investigation would have been dropped long ago if he wasn’t the president’s son.

Republicans seeking to win back the White House have sought to tie Hunter Biden’s legal woes directly to his father, focusing in particular on the younger Biden’s deal with the Chinese firm CEFC and his membership on the board of the Ukrainian energy firm Burisma. Critics of the Bidens have claimed that the alleged wrongdoing goes far beyond a simple tax and gun case, and have accused the Justice Department of trying to avoid prosecuting more serious matters.

Attorney General Merrick Garland has said he gave full authority over the investigation to Weiss, a Trump appointee, and would not interfere in any charging decision.

Still, the plea deal is likely to become grist for the 2024 presidential race, as the nation’s two main parties once again debate the influence of politics on law enforcement and the effects of law enforcement investigations on political campaigns.

Trump, who is the early front-runner for the 2024 Republican nomination, was indicted this month on 37 federal charges of withholding highly sensitive national security information at his Florida home and private club and trying to prevent the federal government from regaining possession of that material. He has denied wrongdoing.

The 45th president frequently tries to contrast the Justice Department’s treatment of Hunter Biden with his own legal jeopardy, and Tuesday was no exception. Less than an hour after Biden’s plea agreement was filed in court, Trump took to social media to criticize the deal, saying that the Justice Department had “just cleared up hundreds of years of criminal liability by giving Hunter Biden a mere ‘traffic ticket.’ Our system is BROKEN!”

Congressional Republicans also quickly issued statements insisting they would keep digging into Hunter Biden’s finances. House Oversight and Accountability Committee Chairman James Comer (R-Ky.) called the deal “a slap on the wrist” and “a sweetheart plea deal,” adding, “We will not rest until the full extent of President Biden’s involvement in the family’s schemes are revealed.”

Federal authorities began investigating Hunter Biden’s finances in 2018. Much of that work has centered on whether he evaded paying taxes on money he collected from overseas business clients. Last year, witnesses were called before a grand jury in Wilmington to answer questions about what they knew about Biden’s spending and work. Over time, the inquiry expanded to look at whether Biden’s gun purchase amounted to a crime.

People familiar with the situation, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss an ongoing case, told The Washington Post in October that federal agents had determined there was enough evidence to file tax and gun charges. Last month, The Post reported that prosecutors in the case were nearing a decision.

Lying on the government forms needed to purchase a firearm represents a small percentage of the nation’s overall firearm-related prosecutions. Between October 2022 and March 2023, federal prosecutors filed 3,863 cases in which the unlawful possession of a firearm was the lead charge, according to Syracuse University’s TRAC database, which gathers federal data. In 130 of those cases, or about 3 percent, the lead unlawful-possession charge was related to making a false statement to acquire the weapon.

During that same six-month period, federal prosecutors in Delaware filed nine cases in which unlawful gun possession was the lead charge, according to the TRAC data. One of the nine involved making a false statement to acquire the weapon.

Adam Winkler, a UCLA law professor whose research focuses on gun policy, said prosecutors typically would not charge lying on a gun form as a stand-alone crime, instead filing it as a secondary charge when someone also may have committed a violent crime with the weapon.

In the months leading up to the plea agreement, Hunter Biden took a more public and publicly combative stance in the face of the Republican allegations against him. His revamped legal team filed countersuits, issued criminal referral letters and sent cease-and-desist letters to some of those who have publicly argued that he committed crimes.

In April, he also was part of a high-profile visit to Ireland with his father, who introduced him enthusiastically to crowds, along with the president’s sister.

Hunter Biden’s finances became a subject of heated debate during the 2020 presidential campaign, in part because of reports in the New York Post about a laptop computer that he purportedly dropped off at a Wilmington repair shop in 2019 and never came back to collect.

The laptop was turned over to the FBI in December 2019, according to documents reviewed by The Post, and a copy of the drive was obtained by Rudy Giuliani and other advisers to then-President Trump a few months before the 2020 election.

As the election drew closer, Republicans pressed the FBI and the Justice Department to explain the status of the Biden investigation and the relevance of the laptop to that investigation. The bureau declined to do so, citing the intense criticism directed at the FBI in 2016 for publicly reopening an investigation of Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton just weeks before Trump’s victory at the polls.

In December 2020, after Joe Biden was elected, FBI agents approached Hunter Biden, seeking to question him about his finances, and he publicly confirmed he was under investigation.

At the time, a spokesman for Joe Biden said the president-elect had “never even considered being involved in business with his family, nor in any overseas business whatsoever.”

Tyler Pager contributed to this report.

This post appeared first on The Washington Post

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