As late as Tuesday afternoon it seemed that Hunter Biden’s court appearance in a Delaware federal courtroom Wednesday morning to enter a “sweetheart” plea deal on tax and gun charges would go off without a hitch. Then controversy erupted Tuesday night when attorneys for House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Rep. Jason Smith alleged that a staffer at Latham & Watkins, one law firm representing Hunter Biden, called the courthouse saying she worked with the firm representing Smith and managed to get Smith’s filing removed from the docket. That resulted in a demand from the presiding judge for Biden’s attorneys to show cause as to why they should not face sanctions for that action. Biden’s attorneys claimed it was a misunderstanding, not a misrepresentation, and we all waited to see if the judge would buy that explanation or not.
The hearing in Hunter Biden’s case began at 10 AM Wednesday morning, and after about 90 minutes it was clear that something might not be going well for Hunter. As we reported, the first news out of the courtroom was that the plea deal was not going to happen because there was a difference of opinion between the parties as to exactly what the deal covered and whether additional charges, potentially related to FARA violations, were covered in the agreement or not. Then we heard that a revised deal might be on.
It has now been learned that no plea deal was entered during the hearing on those charges, and that Biden pled not guilty to the charges. According to CNN Judge Maryellen Noreika “said she could not accept the plea agreement as it was structured as it just had her as a rubber stamp.” The original deal was for Hunter Biden to plead guilty to two tax misdemeanors, receiving no jail time, and diversion on a felony gun charge. Apparently Hunter’s attorneys believed that the plea agreement would provide their client with blanket immunity on other criminal charges, but after prosecutors told the Court that some of the matters were still under investigation, Judge Noreika questioned that.
Fox News contributor Sol Wisenberg posits that the DOJ, Hunter Biden, and his attorneys were all banking on Judge Noreika not asking questions before accepting the plea and noted that it is essentially unheard of for the parties to not have an extremely specific and mutually-agreed-upon understanding of what the plea agreement encompassed before showing up in court.
Wisenberg also revealed that part of the originally-proposed plea agreement was that Hunter would not have to cooperate with the government’s ongoing investigation. He tweeted:
This just in: The judge won’t accept the proposed plea deal at least for now.
Some thoughts: Now we know why DOJ didn’t show us the plea agreement terms. What didn’t they want us to know ahead of time? A) a global immunity deal for Hunter; B) A binding plea (that is, the judge must accept the specific terms if she accepts the agreement); C) Misdemeanor probation; D) Other unusual plea terms.
- A global immunity deal for Hunter while the overall investigation is “ongoing”, is stunning—a super-sweetheart deal.
- A binding plea is extremely unusual in the vast majority of federal jurisdictions. It means for example, that if the agreement calls for probation the judge must give Hunter probation. It is binding.
- That the prosecution and defense would disagree about the terms of the agreement in open court is a joke. Ambiguous terms in a plea agreements are construed against the government! There should be no room for disagreement on the key terms of the agreement. So, this was either astounding incompetence or corruption on DOJ’s part. I think it is corruption. This looks like a wink and a nod deal (as @shipwreckedcrew has noted) where DOJ would have plausible deniability if the judge asked no questions and accepted the deal. The scope of immunity is the most important feature of a plea deal. It is inconceivable that the prosecutors were incompetent here. Leo Wise has an excellent reputation for competence.
- Think about this. DOJ was about to sanction a plea deal where Hunter would get misdemeanor probation on serious tax charges plus pretrial diversion (no time served or criminal record) on the felony gun charge. Hunter would also get complete immunity on all other charges. And he would not have to cooperate with the government’s ongoing investigation. Totally disgraceful. Merrick Garland and David Weiss should be ashamed. And where is Lisa Monaco? Why hasn’t she been called to testify?
Another question is, when the plea agreement was originally conceived, did U.S. Attorney Weiss and Hunter Biden’s attorneys believe that they would simply be able to say that all investigations were completed by the time they arrived at this hearing? That seems like a logical belief on their part, but the events of the past month, with a steady drip, drip, drip of information related to corruption and compromised people inside the U.S. Attorney’s office, and of course the IRS whistleblowers’ public testimony before Congress, might have changed that calculus.
There is sure to be an avalanche of new information related to all of this as the day goes on, which we will bring to you as it’s available.