By Tom Ozimek and The Epoch Times Staff
After a surprise development in a Delaware court Wednesday in which President Joe Biden’s son, Hunter Biden, entered a not guilty plea after an earlier plea deal was rejected by a judge, the White House issued a statement, calling it a “personal matter” that’s being handled “independently” by the Justice Department.
White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters at a briefing as the court hearing was wrapping up that the president supports his son as he faces federal charges on alleged tax and gun crimes.
“The president, the first lady, they love their son, and they support him as he continues to rebuild his life,” Ms. Jean-Pierre said.
The press secretary said that Hunter Biden is a private citizen and the charges he’s facing are a “personal matter for him” while insisting that the case “was handled independently, as all of you know, by the Justice Department under the leadership of a prosecutor appointed by the former president, President Trump.”
“So for anything further, as you know,and we’ve been very consistent from here, I’d refer you to the Department of Justice and to Hunter’s representatives who is his legal team obviously, who can address any of your questions,” she added.
Hunter Biden Pleads Not Guilty
Ms. Jean-Pierre’s remarks came as Hunter Biden pleaded not guilty on July 26 to federal tax and gun charges after the presiding judge objected to a plea agreement that had linked the two alleged crimes.
The deal would have seen the president’s son enter guilty pleas to two misdemeanor tax charges and enter a diversion program instead of pleading guilty to a felony gun possession charge.
At the July 26 hearing, U.S. District Judge Maryellen Noreika expressed “concerns” that Mr. Biden’s plea agreement linked tax crimes to resolving felony gun charges, according to CNN.
Judge Noreika, an appointee of former President Donald Trump, said she couldn’t accept the deal in its current form.
Following in-court discussions between prosecutors and the defense team about the structure of the agreement, Mr. Biden entered a plea of not guilty.
The judge gave the parties two weeks to brief her on the status of a potential new deal, according to CBS.
Earlier, on June 20, prosecutors said that Mr. Biden had agreed to plead guilty to intentionally failing to pay federal income taxes and that he would admit to a felony gun charge as part of a diversion agreement.
Pretrial diversion programs enable defendants to get charges dismissed if they meet certain criteria.
Under the plea deal, Mr. Biden was widely expected to avoid prison time, which raised the ire of Republicans, who alleged that the president’s son was being treated with kid gloves.
Ted Kittila, an attorney for the Republican-led House Ways and Means Committee, reacted to the judge’s objections to the plea deal.
“The court’s going to take some time to review the plea agreement,” he told reporters outside the courtroom in Delaware. The judge “did a very good job making sure this was a knowing and intelligible plea.”
The president’s son received more than $1.5 million in taxable income in 2017 and more than $1.5 million more in 2018, according to an indictment.
He was required by law to pay more than $100,000 in income tax for his earnings each of those years. But he “did willfully fail” to pay the tax.
The counts are misdemeanors. Each carries up to one year in prison.
Hunter Biden said in late 2020 that authorities were investigating his “tax affairs.” He said, “[I am] confident that a professional and objective review of these matters will demonstrate that I handled my affairs legally and appropriately.”
A subpoena, made public in 2022, showed that the U.S. attorney for the District of Delaware, David Weiss, was compelling JPMorgan Chase Bank to release Hunter Biden’s bank records. IRS agents later came forward to claim that the investigation wasn’t being handled properly.
Mr. Biden is charged in a separate case with unlawfully owning a firearm while addicted to and using a controlled substance, which is a felony.
The president’s son, in 2018, “knowing that he was an unlawful user of and addicted to a controlled substance … did knowingly possess a firearm, that is, a Colt Cobra 38SPL revolver with serial number RA 551363, said firearm having been shipped and transported in interstate commerce,” an indictment states.
The law in question forbids people convicted of a crime punishable by a prison term of more than one year or who illegally use or are addicted to a controlled substance as defined in the Controlled Substance Act from possessing firearms.
Several outlets have reported that Mr. Biden possessed a gun in 2018 and that his then-girlfriend, Hallie Biden—the widow of Hunter’s brother, Beau—threw the gun into a garbage can before it was recovered by authorities. He has said in his autobiography that he was using crack cocaine that year.
The charge carries up to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000.
Mr. Biden has agreed to enter a pretrial diversion agreement on that charge, according to Mr. Weiss.