The Collapse of Hunter Biden’s Sweetheart Plea Deal

COMMENTARY Crime and Justice

The Collapse of Hunter Biden’s Sweetheart Plea Deal

Jul 27, 2023 6 min read
John Malcolm

Vice President, Institute for Constitutional Government

John is Vice President for the Institute for Constitutional Government and Director of the Meese Center and Simon Center.
United States President Joe Biden's son Hunter Biden, exits in J. Caleb Boggs Federal Building in Delaware, United States on July 26, 2023. Celal Gunes / Anadolu Agency / Getty Images

Key Takeaways

There were clearly some bizarre twists and turns in federal court Wednesday in Delaware, as Hunter Biden’s anticipated sweetheart plea deal collapsed. 

So far, no information has been forthcoming, although the DOJ has, it seems, now given approval for Weiss to appear before Congress to offer his side of the story.

Perhaps there is a glimmer of hope that the ongoing Justice Department and congressional hearings will find out the truth about his culpability.

There were clearly some bizarre twists and turns in federal court Wednesday in Delaware, as Hunter Biden’s anticipated sweetheart plea deal collapsed.

So, what happened? 

That is hard to say for sure, as a transcript of the colloquy between the lawyers and the judge has not been released. Basically, it seems that there was a misunderstanding between the prosecutors and the Biden legal team about whether the plea deal was going to end Hunter’s potential legal exposure to other crimes, or whether there was still an ongoing investigation.  It seems that Biden’s legal team believed the former, while the Delaware U.S. Attorney’s Office believed the latter.

While it is not uncommon for plea deals to fall apart, one would think such a high-profile deal, in writing, would have been ironclad before the parties stepped into court today. 

Apparently not.   

After the deal was announced in June, there was an outcry from many quarters about the nature of it.  Moreover, since that time, two whistleblowers—experienced, career IRS agents Gary Shapley and Joseph Ziegler—have come forward and raised serious questions about whether there was interference by highly placed individuals within the Justice Department with the investigation being conducted by Delaware U.S. Attorney David Weiss. 

Such interference, they claimed under oath, included rejecting recommendations from the IRS to file far more serious charges; refusing to provide the IRS investigators with pertinent information that was found on Biden’s laptop; shutting down potentially fruitful areas of investigation into financial dealings involving Biden, his father, and possibly others; refusing to authorize search warrants that could have uncovered important evidence; tipping off Biden’s lawyers about areas that were to be searched and the names of individuals who were to be interviewed; and unexplained and inexcusable delays that resulted in significant charges falling outside the statute of limitations. 

Shapley and Ziegler have also raised doubts about whether Attorney General Merrick Garland told the truth when he testified under oath before Congress and denied that any interference had taken place and that Weiss had all the authority he needed to file whatever charges he deemed appropriate in any applicable jurisdiction.

Perhaps these disturbing allegations induced a change of heart by Weiss.  Who knows?

So far, no information has been forthcoming, although the DOJ has, it seems, now given approval for Weiss to appear before Congress to offer his side of the story.  In response to a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit filed by The Heritage Foundation’s Oversight Project, the Justice Department has stated that it has thousands of responsive documents about the communications between Main Justice and Weiss’ office, but it has declined to produce any of those documents thus far.

Heritage’s Oversight Project also filed an amicus brief in Delaware asking the judge not to accept the Biden plea deal.

In terms of the plea deal, it has been reported that the deal collapsed when the U.S. Attorney’s Office announced that it is still investigating whether Biden violated the Foreign Agents Registration Act, or FARA, which is designed to root out potential national security threats by identifying those who are acting, directly or indirectly, on behalf of foreign governments, political parties, or parent companies of U.S. subsidiaries, among other foreign organizations, when attempting to influence public policy and laws in the United States. 

FARA requires:

The registration of, and disclosures by, an “agent of a foreign principal” who, either directly or through another person, within the United States (1) engages in “political activities” on behalf of a foreign principal; (2) acts as a foreign principal’s public relations counsel, publicity agent, information-service employee, or political consultant; (3) solicits, collects, disburses, or dispenses contributions, loans, money, or other things of value for or in the interest of a foreign principal; or (4) represents the interests of the foreign principal before any agency or official of the U.S. government.

Willful violations of FARA can result in five years imprisonment and a $250,000 fine per count.

Although rarely prosecuted, it was one of the many charges that were filed against Paul Manafort, President Donald Trump’s former campaign manager, and Manafort’s business partner, Richard Gates. Manafort pled guilty to that charge but was ultimately pardoned by Trump.

The Justice Department recently filed charges, including FARA charges, against Gal Luft for accepting over $700,000 from the CEFC China Energy Fund allegedly to advance the interests of the People’s Republic of China, among others. Luft claims that he has already provided information to the FBI about Biden’s involvement with the same company and claims that Biden was paid a lot more than he was. 

Evidence has surfaced that Biden was paid at least $5 million by CEFC, including a WhatsApp message suggesting that Biden threated the CEFC executive who wired those funds, saying he was sitting next to his father and that there would be repercussions if the funds were not forwarded immediately.  An email retrieved from Biden’s laptop states that CEFC offered him a three-year consulting contract at $10 million per year “for introductions alone.”

And yet another email on Biden’s laptop seemingly identifies then-former Vice President Joe Biden as a participant in a call about CEFC’s attempt to purchase natural gas in the United States.  And Hunter Biden’s former business partner, Tony Bobulinski, has stated that he met Joe Biden in 2017 to discuss a business deal involving CEFC and has stated that an email from another one of their partners referenced a 10% cut of proceeds being set aside for the “big guy,” whom Bobulinski says was a reference to Joe Biden.

It has also been reported that Hunter Biden had a 10% ownership interest in BHR Partners, a Chinese government-linked investment firm.

The allegations involving CEFC are in addition to, of course, the allegations about Hunter Biden’s lucrative involvement with Burisma, the Ukrainian energy concern, as well as the fact that then-Vice President Joe Biden used his position to get Ukraine’s top prosecutor Viktor Shokin fired at a time when Shokin claims he was investigating Burisma.

There are many open questions about what other business interests Hunter Biden might have had with foreign entities, what activities he performed on their behalf, and what involvement his father might have had (and what payments he might have received) as a result of Hunter Biden’s business interests.

Suffice it to say, this is a dynamic and confusing situation. Now that the plea deal has collapsed and the DOJ is continuing to investigate Hunter Biden for alleged violations of FARA, perhaps there is a glimmer of hope that the ongoing Justice Department and congressional hearings will find out the truth about his culpability and anyone else who may have been involved in criminal activity connected to him.  Where this will lead is anyone’s guess at this point.

This piece originally appeared in The Daily Signal