The judge presiding over the trial of Hunter Biden, son of the President, ended proceedings Wednesday saying she was was not ready to accept the plea deal, while Biden pleaded not guilty for the time being.
About an hour into the trial in federal court in Delaware, the initial plea deal between federal prosecutors and Biden hit a snag.
The the impasse occurred amid questions by U.S. District Judge Maryellen Noreika, over whether a felony gun charge was tied to the plea deal. While both prosecutors said it was not, the judge asked if the investigation was ongoing to which the prosecution said it was.
However, Biden’s team stated that they would not move forward with the plea deal if the felony gun possession plea was not linked to to the tax evasion charges.
Lawyers huddled to see if a delay until early September would be needed, after which the judge asked the sides to file additional briefs explaining the plea deal’s legal structuring.
Biden is expected to reverse his not guilty plea if the two sides redo their agreement to the judge’s satisfaction.
Biden’s lawyers estimated making changes to the plea deal would take about two weeks.
Biden had entered the federal courthouse in Wilmington, Delaware Wednesday morning planning to plead guilty to two misdemeanor counts of failure to pay taxes.
The terms of a plea agreement had been reached last month with federal prosecutor David Weiss, also a Trump appointee who remained on the case under the Biden Administration.
Despite Weiss’ appointment, House Republicans have blasted Biden’s plea agreement as a “sweetheart deal,” and have pointed to allegations by an IRS whistleblower as evidence of a criminal justice system that’s weighted unfairly in favor of the President’s son.
Weiss defended his lengthy investigation in a two-page letter to House Republicans earlier this month, insisting that the Department of Justice “did not retaliate” against whistleblower Gary Shapley after the IRS employee had reached out to Congressional investigators about the Biden case.
In his letter, Weiss also pushed back against allegations that the DOJ blocked him from pursuing criminal charges in Los Angeles and Washington, saying that on the contrary, he was assured by the DOJ that if he sought to bring charges in a venue other than Delaware, he would be granted special status to do so. That’s U.S. attorneys generally being limited to their own jurisdictions to bring criminal charges.
In outlining the charges ahead of Wednesday’s, Weiss’ office said in a statement, “Hunter Biden received taxable income in excess of $1,500,000 annually in calendar years 2017 and 2018. Despite owing in excess of $100,000 in federal income taxes each year, he did not pay the income tax due for either year.”
Biden had also pleaded guilty a separate felony gun possession charge after he’d lied on his gun application about his struggles with drug addiction.
However, during Wednesday’s trial confusion about the gun charge prompted the judge to pause the proceedings so a resolution could be reached.
“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,” his lawyer Christopher Clark said last month. “He looks forward to continuing his recovery and moving forward.”