Hunter Biden indicted on federal gun charges

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Hunter Biden has been charged with three federal counts of gun offences as prosecutors renew their legal challenge to the son of US president Joe Biden.

The indictment filed in Delaware federal court on Thursday charges Hunter Biden with false statements related to the purchase of a firearm and the information required for these transactions, as well as the possession of a firearm by an “unlawful user of or addicted to a controlled substance”. 

The indictment comes after a deal Hunter Biden had initially reached with federal prosecutors to resolve the charge related to possessing a gun while using a controlled substance fell apart in July. The indictment adds two new counts.

US attorney-general Merrick Garland last month named David Weiss — the US attorney in Delaware who was appointed by Donald Trump — as special counsel to oversee cases involving the president’s son, raising the stakes in the politically sensitive case and giving Weiss greater independence to pursue his investigation.

The fresh charges will pile political pressure on Joe Biden as he gears up for a re-election bid in 2024 and grapples with Republican scrutiny of his son’s addiction problems, legal troubles and business dealings.

The indictment comes just two days after Kevin McCarthy, the Republican Speaker of the House, launched an impeachment inquiry into the president related to Hunter Biden’s business dealings. McCarthy alleges that the president “lied to the American people” about his knowledge of his son’s business deals.

The White House and lawyers representing Hunter Biden did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The US attorney’s office in Delaware declined to comment.

Earlier this year, federal prosecutors announced that Hunter Biden had agreed to plead guilty to two misdemeanour counts of wilful failure to pay federal income tax, and enter a “pretrial diversion agreement” in relation to a separate charge accusing him of possessing a firearm as an unlawful or addicted user of a controlled substance.

But in an unexpected move, a judge in Delaware in July raised doubts about the terms of the plea deal, including questions around the firearm offence. Hunter Biden pleaded not guilty to the tax charges, and further efforts to reach a plea agreement with the government stalled. Prosecutors then said they would dismiss the tax case and possibly refile in a different court.

The gun charges stem from Hunter Biden’s purchase of a Colt Cobra revolver in 2018. At the time, he provided a written statement in Delaware saying he was not an “unlawful user” of a controlled substance “when in fact, as he knew, that statement was false and fictitious”, the indictment said.

The three counts carry a total maximum penalty of 25 years in prison, although actual sentences tend to be lower than the maximum.

The president and the White House have largely shied away from commenting directly on Hunter Biden’s troubles. The White House has repeatedly said that the president and first lady “love their son and they support him as he continues to rebuild his life”.

Joe Biden made his first public comments on the impeachment probe late Wednesday at a fundraising event in Virginia, telling Democratic donors: “I don’t know quite why, but they just knew they wanted to impeach me.”

He added: “I get up every day, not a joke, not focused on impeachment. I’ve got a job to do. I’ve got to deal with the issues that affect the American people every single solitary day.”

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