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Hunter Biden Plea Deal Hits Snag as Judge Presses for Details

After surviving an attempt by congressional Republicans to block the Hunter Biden plea deal and then confusion in court over the exact terms of their agreement, prosecutors and defense lawyers agreed to a revised and limited plea agreement that does not shield Biden from potential future charges, CNN reports. Assuming the deal holds, a sentencing hearing will be held at a later date. The hurried renegotiation occurred after the judge's questions in court exposed a dispute over the extent of the deal. Under questioning by U.S. District Judge Maryellen Noreika about the terms of the deal struck with U.S. Attorney David Weiss — like the judge herself, a Trump appointee — the two sides said after a brief recess that there is no deal after all, prompting a scramble to patch it back together. The snag came over whether a gun charge was tied to the plea deal and whether the plea agreement offered Biden blanket immunity for his business dealings or just on the tax charges, the New York Times reports. Biden had come to court to plead guilty to two misdemeanors for not paying federal taxes on time in return for prosecutors' probation recommendation. Earlier in the hearing, federal prosecutors gave a lengthy and detailed description of Hunter Biden's tax problems and troubled finances at Wednesday’s plea proceedings. Biden failed to pay between $1.1 million and $1.5 million in federal taxes before the legal deadlines, prosecutors said in court. The prosecutors highlighted Biden's substantial income from Ukrainian and Chinese energy companies, and how he repeatedly missed federal tax deadlines. During the plea proceedings for Hunter Biden, Judge Noreika, Justice Department attorneys and Biden’s lawyers expressed agreement that the judge did not have the power to order the prosecutors to "redo" the probe if she thought "the investigation was lacking."

The highly unusual legal maneuvering by Republican critics of the deal illustrated the lengths that House Republicans and their allied groups have been willing to go to as they have tried to use Biden’s legal and personal troubles to inflict political damage on his father, President Biden, the New York Times reports. Representative Jason Smith of Missouri, the chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, filed a brief in Wilmington federal court on the eve of Wednesday's hearing. The committee has heard testimony from two Internal Revenue Service investigators who claim to be whistle-blowers and have told the panel that the younger Biden received preferential treatment from the Justice Department. Smith’s brief asked the judge to consider the testimony in deciding whether to approve the agreement. Another brief was filed by the Heritage Foundation, the conservative research group, which has started an operation dedicated to aiding the Republican investigations into President Biden. Judge Noreika agreed to seal Smith's filing, but not before The New York Times was able to obtain a copy. The brief argued that the plea deal was “tainted,” citing the testimony of the two I.R.S. officials. Republicans have been trying to link Hunter Biden’s international business dealings in Ukraine and China to his father, suggesting that as vice president the elder Biden used his office to help his son and his son’s business partners. But no evidence has surfaced implicating President Biden, who has always maintained that he kept his distance from his son’s business.

Update: Shortly after press time, Judge Noreika instructed the two sides to make changes in the deal clarifying her role and inserting language that limits the broad immunity from prosecution offered to Biden on his business dealings, a process the defense lawyers estimated would take two weeks. the Times reports. Biden formally entered a not guilty plea, to be changed to guilty if the deal finally goes through.


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