Federal prosecutors and Hunter Biden have agreed on a revised plea agreement that will cover only certain conduct over a five-year period, CNN reports.
The changes came after the court hearing intended to resolve the long-running investigations of the president’s son was unexpectedly recessed after the judge questioned the deal’s terms.
Here are more details, from CNN:
Elsewhere in Washington DC today, a House subcommittee is holding a hearing that seems like it could resolve one of the most enduring myths about the US government: has it made contact with aliens or recovered crashed spacecraft?
No definitive answers have emerged yet from the hearing, which centers on testimony from a whistleblower who has alleged a government cover-up. The Guardian’s Leonie Chao-Fong is covering it live, and you can follow along here:
Today’s court hearing – which appears to have gone awry – was expected to bring an end to a long-running investigation into Hunter Biden’s conduct, which Republicans have seized on to argue Joe Biden and his family are corrupt. Here’s an explainer from last month by the Guardian’s Nick Robins-Early that looks into the agreement reached with federal prosecutors:
Hunter Biden, the son of Joe Biden, will plead guilty to two counts of misdemeanor tax crimes and accept a deal with prosecutors related to a separate illegal firearm possession charge. The charges and plea deal, which authorities announced in a court filing on Tuesday, will end a five-year criminal investigation into Biden.
The case has already resulted in a political uproar as Republicans, fresh off Donald Trump’s second criminal indictment, express outrage over the plea deal and appear eager to redirect public attention to Hunter Biden. The agreement between 53-year-old Biden and authorities will likely mean he avoids any jail time, as well as set up a frequent talking point for the 2024 presidential election.
Here is a breakdown of the charges against Hunter Biden:
What is the Hunter Biden investigation?
The justice department has been looking into Hunter Biden’s personal and business dealings for years, launching an investigation into him as far back as 2018. Hunter Biden issued a statement in 2020 acknowledging that the US attorney’s office in Delaware informed his legal counsel that investigators were looking into his tax affairs, while stating he was confident he handled his affairs “legally and appropriately”.
The investigation, which was led by Trump-appointed US attorney for Delaware David Weiss, looked into a range of Biden’s activities that included his role in foreign businesses – such as his seat on the board of Ukrainian energy company Burisma, a frequent source of rightwing criticism. Investigators interviewed witnesses and looked through financial documents, with the probe looming in the background for years.
Ultimately the investigation narrowed down to two main issues: Biden’s failure to pay income taxes on time and a charge related to lying on a firearm application form. Prosecutors charged Biden on 20 June, while simultaneously announcing that he would enter a plea deal that will likely not result in jail time.
Hunter Biden is in federal court in Delaware to plead guilty to tax charges as part of a deal to avoid jail time, but the Washington Post reports that the hearing has unexpectedly paused after a judge questioned the terms of the agreement Joe Biden’s son reached with prosecutors.
From the Post’s report:
The hearing hit a snag when U.S. District Court Judge Maryellen Noreika pressed Biden about whether he would still plead guilty if it was possible additional charges might be filed against him in the future.
When Biden answered no, he would not, the judge ordered a break in the proceeding for the two sides to sort out whether his guilty plea would essentially immunize him from potential future tax or gun charges. At every plea deal hearing, a judge is responsible for ensuring a defendant understands both what they are admitting and what they are agreeing to as part of a guilty plea. It wasn’t immediately clear how significant a stumbling block the immunity question may pose to the plea.
Democratic representative Hank Johnson of Georgia asked Mayorkas about the kind of impact that white nationalist rhetoric of invasion and replacement has on minority communities, citing various attacks including the Tree of Life massacre and El Paso Walmart shooting.
“When an act of hate occurs, it’s not just the community that is impacted. The adverse impact is felt across of this nation, One of the most prominent terrorism-related threats that we face in [DHS] is what we term ‘domestic violent extremism,’” Mayorkas said.
“It’s white nationalist extremism, is it not?” Johnson interjected.
In response, Mayorkas said:
“There are diverse ideologies that underlie the acts of violence. White nationalism is one of them but we do not focus on the ideology itself. We focus on its connectivity to violence and our effort to prevent that violence. We see a diverse range of ideologies of hate, anti-government sentiments, personal grievances, false narratives [that] fuel acts of violence in this country. It is the connectivity to violence.”
Johnson went on to ask: “When elected officials repeat great replacement rhetoric, including the language of invasion, are they putting a target on the backs of immigrants and people of color?”
It certainly fuels the threat landscape that we encountered.”
“I’m not sure exactly what you do at the DHS other than great harm on your watch,” Louisiana Republican representative Mike Johnson told Mayorkas, before going on to ask him to define what misinformation is within the context of online censorship.
Johnson criticized DHS and the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, saying that it was censoring American conservative speech online.
“What is disinformation? Who determines what’s inaccurate? Who determines what’s false? Do you understand the problem here? The reason the framers of our constitution did not create an exception for ‘false information’ from the first amendment is because they didn’t trust the government to determine what it is. And you have whole committees of people in your agency trying to determine what they… define as false or misinformation.”
Mayorkas pushed back and replied:
“That is not true. That is not what we do. We disclose the tactics that adverse nation states are utilizing to weaponize information.”
“No sir, no sir. That is not true,” responded Johnson, referring to a Louisiana federal court opinion on the Missouri vs Biden case which accused the Biden administration of censoring conservative free speech online.
“The court found specifically, it’s a finding of fact that is not disputed by the government defendants, the Biden administration, your agency, the FBI, or DHS, not in the litigation. They determined you and all of your cohorts made no distinction between domestic speech and foreign speech.
So don’t stand there and tell me under oath that you only focused on adversaries around the world and foreign actors,” Johnson added, his voice rising.
Texas’s Democratic representative Sheila Jackson Lee went on to ask Mayorkas on how the DHS is responding to reports of inhumane treatment at the southwest border, as well as the role that states have been playing in transporting migrants to other states.
In response, Mayorkas replied:
“The safety and security of the American people is our highest priority. Law enforcement is most effective when it is executed collaboratively with cooperation.”
“What is your department doing to protect the Jewish community and within the new US national strategy to counter antisemitism,” said Texas’s Democratic representative Sheila Jackson Lee to Mayorkas.
“Our responsibility as the DHS is when there is a connectivity between an ideology, whatever that ideology might be and violence. It is the prevention of violence that really prompts our engagement with local communities around the country,” Mayorkas replied.
Ken Buck, a Republican representative of Colorado asked Mayorkas about the the China-Mexico fentanyl pipeline that has been entering the country and the rising fentanyl overdose deaths currently plaguing the US.
“The fentanyl killing thousands of Americans every year as a direct result of your dereliction when people die of fentanyl poisoning. It is your fault,” said Buck as he went on to ask Mayorkas what his response would be to the families of fentanyl victims in the US.
“We grieve the loss of any life as a result of the toxicity, the devastation… The challenge of fentanyl is not new. It has been escalating for more than five years…. This is a scourge and all of us have to work together to combat…
I stand by my statement…that China does bear responsibility because many of the precursor chemicals and the pill press equipment that is used to manufacture fentanyl does originate from there. This is a complex problem. We are taking it to the criminals…”
Democratic representative Zoe Lofgren of California asked Mayorkas: “Do you agree that it would be better to have a legal framework wherein people could enter the US with visas and alike instead of a mishmash of asylum claims at the border?”
“I see other countries with systems that are more advanced than ours that can match the need for labor with the supply for labor… It is proven that lawful labor pathways cause a reduction in the number of irregular arrivals at our border…”
In response to a question from Lofgren on whether the Biden administration’s use of immigration parole is any different from former administrations, Mayorkas said:
“We have used our parole authority consistent with the law and consistent with past practices of different administration.”
Republican representative of California Darrell Issa has asked Mayorkas, “Isn’t one of the problems that there is no real penalty for human trafficking? And there certainly is virtually no penalty for coming here illegally?”
In response, Mayorkas said, “There are penalties for immigration violations… Individuals who present a national or public security threat are detained.”
Mayorkas defended the Biden administration’s immigration program, saying:
“Our program has at least three significant benefits. Number one is driving down the number of encounters at the southwest border. Number two, it allows us to screen and vet individuals before they arrive at the southwest border. And three, and very importantly, we are cutting out the smuggling operations that wreck such tragedy and trauma on the lives of vulnerable individuals.”
“We must fix our broken immigration system, fund continuing protection of local communities, disrupt and dismantle transnational criminal organizations,” Mayorkas said.
In response to a question on what the limit on allowing illegal migrants entering the country is, Mayorkas said:
“Our approach of expanding lawful pathways for people to reach the border and delivering consequences for those who arrive at our border is working…”
Department of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas has begun his testimony in front of the House judiciary committee.
We will bring you the latest updates.
Viewers of last year’s January 6 committee hearings may remember Ruby Freeman and her mother Wandrea “Shaye” Moss, two Georgia election workers who gave emotional testimony about how lies told by Donald Trump’s allies essentially ruined their lives.
Moss and Freeman have sued Rudy Giuliani, one of the former president’s most boisterous lawyers, over the damage done by the false statements, and as the Guardian’s Michael Sainato reports, Giuliani just admitted that none of what was said about the election workers was true:
A court filing by Rudy Giuliani in response to a lawsuit filed against him by two Georgia election workers, Ruby Freeman and her daughter Wandrea “Shaye” Moss, included a concession: Giuliani admitted to making defamatory statements against the workers.
The workers complained in court that Giuliani has failed to produce records of the exchange between then president Donald Trump and Giuliani, who served as Trump’s attorney at the time in the wake of his 2020 presidential election loss. The election workers were cited by Giuliani and then Trump as an example of election fraud in Georgia where they were accused of manipulating ballots – despite the claims being repeatedly debunked by Georgia election officials and federal investigators.
Hunter Biden has arrived at the federal courthouse in Wilmington, Delaware to enter his guilty plea to tax charges, the Associated Press reports, as part of a deal that will resolve a long-running investigation against him and avoid jail time.
Republicans have decried the agreement reached with the US attorney in Delaware as a “sweetheart deal” for the president’s son, and continue their campaign to prove that he and Joe Biden are corrupt. In an unusual move, the New York Times reports that a top House Republican lawmaker filed a brief in the case that asks the judge to refuse the deal, arguing it is “tainted”.
Here’s more from their story:
On the eve of Hunter Biden’s court appearance to enter into a plea deal for misdemeanor tax crimes that would allow him to avoid prison time, House Republicans and conservative groups sought to intervene in the case, urging a judge to throw out the agreement he reached with prosecutors.
The highly unusual legal maneuvering — which experts said was unlikely to succeed — illustrated the lengths that House Republicans and their allied groups have been willing to go to as they have tried to use Mr. Biden’s legal and personal troubles to inflict political damage on his father, President Biden.
Representative Jason Smith of Missouri, the chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, filed a brief in Federal District Court in Wilmington, Del., where Hunter Biden’s plea deal is to be considered by a judge on Wednesday.
The committee has heard testimony from two Internal Revenue Service investigators who claim to be whistle-blowers and have told the panel that the younger Mr. Biden received preferential treatment from the Justice Department. Mr. Smith’s brief asked the judge to consider the testimony in deciding whether to approve the agreement.
Another brief was filed by the Heritage Foundation, the conservative research group, which has started an operation dedicated to aiding the Republican investigations into President Biden.
Hunter Biden’s lawyers tried to stop Mr. Smith from filing his brief, saying that he had no standing and that the materials included in the filing should be filed under seal because they contain confidential taxpayer information.
The judge overseeing the case, Maryellen Noreika, agreed to seal the filing, but not before The New York Times was able to obtain a copy. The brief argued that the plea deal was “tainted,” citing the testimony of the two I.R.S. officials.
“The situation here is not that the Justice Department exercised charging or plea negotiation discretion, but the presence of credible allegations that the investigation, charging decisions and plea negotiations were tainted by improper conduct at various levels of the government,” wrote Theodore A. Kittila, a lawyer who filed the brief on behalf of Mr. Smith.
It will not be a friendly crowd that greets homeland security secretary Alejandro Mayorkas when he appears before the House judiciary committee at 10am. The panel is dominated by Republicans who have made promises to improve border security and stop irregular migration a major part of their platform, and with the party openly mulling impeaching Mayorkas, expect the hearing to amount to a full-bore attack on his leadership by the GOP.
Punchbowl News obtained part of Mayorkas’s opening statement, which indicates he’ll defend the Biden administration’s border policies in his appearance.
Here’s what he’ll say:
Our approach to managing the border securely and humanely, even within our fundamentally broken immigration system, is working. Unlawful entries between ports of entry along the southwest border have consistently decreased by more than half compared to the peak before the end of Title 42.
Under President Biden’s leadership, we have led the largest expansion of lawful, safe, and orderly pathways for people to seek humanitarian relief under our laws, at the same time imposing tougher consequences on those who instead resort to the ruthless smuggling organizations that prey on the most vulnerable.
We secured the first increase in Border Patrol Agent hiring in more than a decade and our campaign to disrupt and dismantle human smuggling networks has resulted in the arrest of nearly 14,000 smugglers.
Good mornings, US politics blog readers. It’s become clear that Republicans controlling the House of Representatives want to impeach someone. The question is: who? While they may ultimately decide to bring charges against Joe Biden, another prime target is Alejandro Mayorkas, the homeland security secretary, who has been in the party’s crosshairs practically since he started the job over the situation at the US southern border. There has been an influx of irregular migrants ever since Biden took office for a variety of reasons, but Republicans have sought to pin the blame on Mayorkas, and gone as far as to threaten the rare step of impeaching the cabinet secretary.
At 10am eastern time, Mayorkas will sit for what is expected to be a pretty rough hearing in front of the House judiciary committee. Expect the GOP to continue making its impeachment case, but you may also hear some Democrats express frustration with Mayorkas over the Biden’s administration’s hardline efforts to deter migration.
Here’s what else is happening today:
Hunter Biden will appear in federal court in Wilmington, Delaware to plead guilty to tax-related charges as part of a deal with prosecutors to end a long-running investigation into his finances and conduct. Republicans have attacked the agreement as a “sweetheart deal”, and continue to try to prove that he and his father are corrupt.
UFOs or as the government calls them, UAPS, will be the subject of a House oversight subcommittee hearing beginning at 10 am eastern time.
The Federal Reserve is expected to later today decide to again increase interest rates, the latest sign that America’s battle against inflation is not over, despite substantial progress in recent months.