All of a sudden, Hunter Biden's plea deal is coming apart at the seams.
A proposed plea deal for Hunter Biden was on the brink of falling apart Wednesday, when the two sides could not agree on whether admitting to two tax crimes would immunize the president’s son from possible additional charges.
U.S. District Court Judge Maryellen Noreika pressed federal prosecutors and Biden’s lawyers to come to some “meeting of the minds.” But that appeared unlikely, as the two sides said they did not see eye to eye about the precise terms of their own plea agreement.
At one point in the hearing, Biden’s lawyer declared there was no deal — meaning that a long-running criminal investigation that Republicans have used to accuse both the president and his son of corruption might lead to a trial after all.
“As far as I’m concerned, the plea agreement is null and void,” Biden lawyer Chris Clark said.
The confusion over what, exactly, Biden would get or not get by pleading guilty stems in part from the unusual way his plea deal was structured — with a guilty plea to two tax misdemeanors and a diversion program, not a guilty plea, for an illegal gun possession charge.
That arrangement allowed Biden to admit the facts of the gun case without technically pleading guilty to the charge. It also created a bifurcated deal in which the assurances Biden wants that he won’t be pursued for other tax or foreign lobbying charges were not part of the tax case, but part of the gun diversion agreement, lawyers said in court.
Deals to plead guilty can sometimes fall apart under closer scrutiny from a federal judge, but even when that happens, the two sides often find a way to eventually resolve the issue and enter a deal acceptable to the court.
On Wednesday, the judge urged the prosecutors and defense lawyers to spend some more time talking, in the hopes that the guilty plea hearing might be salvaged. As the two sides spoke to each other, it became more clear how far apart they were.
“I don’t know what you’re trying to accomplish by blowing this up,” Clark told prosecutors. One of those prosecutors, Leo Wise, pointed to papers related to the case and said he was bound by the terms in them.
Clark shot back: “Then we misunderstood, we’re ripping it up.”
At the start of Wednesday’s hearing, Biden said he was prepared to enter the plea, which according to the deal he struck in June meant he would likely stay out of jail if he stays drug-free for two years.
Then Noreika asked whether he would still enter the plea 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.