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Hunter Biden’s case throws a wrench in Republican rhetoric about ‘two-tiered’ justice

The news that Hunter Biden will plea guilty punctures the idea the legal system unfairly persecuted Mr Trump

Eric Garcia
Tuesday 20 June 2023 22:04 BST
(Getty Images)

Ever since former president Donald Trump announced his indictment two weeks ago, most Republicans have crowed about a supposedly two-tiered system of justice that held the former president and GOP frontrunner to a different standard than President Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden.

This thesis led House Republicans to create a special subcommittee on “weaponisation” of the federal government that came after the multiple probes into Mr Trump’s misconduct. To Republicans, the contrast showed how the so-called “deep state” specifically targeted conservatives while someone like Mr Biden was allowed to walk free.

But the news on Tuesday that Hunter Biden would plead guilty to two charges of failing to pay taxes, and would enter a pretrial diversion agreement for a charge related to the unlawful possession of a firearm, seemed to scramble the argument Republicans have made.

House Speaker Kevin McCarthy took a stab at defending the man who calls him “My Kevin” when he told reporters on Tuesday that the outcome showed a “two-tiered system” in America and decried the “sweetheart deal” Mr Biden cut with the attorney. However, CNN’s Manu Raju correctly reminded the speaker that Mr Trump nominated David Weiss, the US Attorney for the District of Delaware, who made the deal with the younger Mr Biden.

Meanwhile, Jim Jordan, the chairman of both the House Judiciary Committee and the aforementioned weaponisation subcommittee, said simply “10% for the Big Guy. Zero jail time for his son.” Mr Jordan, a former college wrestler whose shoulders are often slumped over as if he is ready to get into a defensive crouch, is one of Mr Trump’s biggest defenders and has used his perch atop the two committees as a sort of rapid response shop for the former president. Given his role at the subcommittee, it should not surprise anyone if he drags Mr Weiss in front of his panel to somehow paint him as a tool of the Democratic Party or the “Biden Crime Family,” despite the fact that, again, Mr Trump nominated Mr Weiss.

Hunter Biden has always been a fairly easy target for many Republicans. He likely did get many jobs because of his last name, and his difficulties with substance use disorder made him seem like a classic nepo baby who got by because of his senator-turned-vice-president-turned-president father.

In addition, Hunter Biden’s misdeeds allowed Republicans and Mr Trump to muddy the waters around allowing Mr Trump’s daughter to work in the White House and the less-than-scrupulous way his sons handled his business during the administration. If every politician does it, then Mr Trump must not be that bad; or moreover, career politicians like President Biden must somehow be worse.

But the plea deal punctures the GOP’s arguments because it appears that the US attorney vigorously pursued the case and Hunter Biden admitted wrongdoing, thus contradicting the GOP talking point that prosecutors only go after conservatives.

Incidentally, while Democrats may not like the idea of having to answer for the president’s son, the agreement did bolster their arguments that justice is applied equally.

Rep Jamie Raskin (D-MD), the lead House manager for Mr Trump’s second impeachment, said the action “reflects the Justice Department’s continued institutional independence in following the evidence of actual crimes and enforcing the rule of law even in the face of constant criticism and heckling by my GOP colleagues.” Similarly, Rep Daniel Goldman (D-NY), who before serving in Congress acted as the Democrats’ lead counsel in Mr Trump’s first impeachment, said he was confident the charges reflected “Mr Weiss’s fidelity to the law.”

The effusive praise for a Trump appointee who charged a Democratic president’s son may strike some as peculiar, but for members of the president’s party, it shows how justice remains impartial and that Mr Trump is not a victim of political persecution.

Nonetheless, this will likely not deter House Republicans from vigorously pursuing the younger Mr Biden, but it will likely be hard to do so with the credibility of the American public. And the news today made their job all the harder.

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