Federal prosecutors and Hunter Biden’s attorneys entered a courtroom hoping a judge would approve the plea deal they’d struck, even though they had publicly disagreed about a key element: what immunity it offered the president’s son from potential additional criminal charges. The deal seemed likely to go through if U.S. District Judge Maryellen Noreika didn’t prod them. Hunter Biden had written a statement about his desire to close a difficult chapter in his life, and was planning to read it before news cameras outside the courthouse after entering his plea, reports the Washington Post. U.S. Attorney David Weiss of Delaware and his prosecutors, under fire for months for not making a decision in the case, also were eager to finalize the deal, in which Biden was supposed to plead guilty to two tax-related misdemeanors in Delaware, admit the facts of a gun violation and probably avoid jail time.
Noreika did ask. As soon as she raised the issue of immunity, the agreement started to implode. The public unraveling reflected tensions that have always hung over the Biden investigation — a case Republicans have used to attack President Biden’s integrity and invoked when Democrats talk about the criminal investigations of former president Trump. In the last three weeks, efforts to negotiate a new deal have also foundered, doomed by the federal government’s insistence that any immunity offered be narrow while the FBI keeps investigating Hunter Biden’s work for foreign entities — and by the younger Biden’s demand that any agreement he signs should put his legal troubles behind him. When prosecutors came to Biden’s team this spring to start talking about a possible plea, they focused only on the potential charges of failure to pay taxes and illegally possessing a gun, leaving defense lawyers with the impression that other investigatory avenues had come up dry. The broader probe includes examining whether Hunter Biden violated the Foreign Agents Registration Act, which requires that lobbyists and others who work on behalf of foreign entities or governments register with the U.S. government.