The latest on Hunter Biden's federal investigation

By Aditi Sangal and Elise Hammond, CNN

Updated 4:41 p.m. ET, June 20, 2023
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4:41 p.m. ET, June 20, 2023

Key things to know about the federal tax charges against Hunter Biden and his plea deal

From CNN's Kara Scannell, Evan Perez and Paula Reid

Hunter Biden at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, Monday, May 15.
Hunter Biden at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, Monday, May 15. Patrick Semansky/AP

Tuesday's Department of Justice court filings revealed that President Joe Biden's son, Hunter Biden, will plead guilty to two tax misdemeanors. He also struck a deal with federal prosecutors to resolve a felony gun charge.

If you are just reading in, here's what you need to know:

The firearms investigation: Prosecutors had been examining a 2018 incident in which a firearm owned by Hunter Biden ended up tossed by his then-girlfriend into a dumpster in Wilmington, a person briefed on the matter said. Hunter Biden described in media interviews in 2021 that he was addicted to drugs, which raised the possibility he broke federal law when he bought the firearm, which prohibits firearms purchases by anyone who uses or is addicted to illegal drugs. CNN previously reported that federal prosecutors were weighing possible charges connected to making a false statement related to the gun purchase.

Missed IRS deadlines: Hunter Biden is pleading guilty to two misdemeanor counts of willfully failing to pay federal taxes, according to the newly unsealed charging documents. He was repeatedly warned about his tax obligations, according to the emails, but his attorney told CNN in July 2022 that those years were difficult times for Hunter Biden, given struggles with drug and alcohol addiction. Clark has said that his client has now “fully paid” his IRS tax debts. Meanwhile, the Republican-controlled House has been scrutinizing Hunter Biden’s financial dealings and exploring the Justice Department’s handling of the investigation as well as any involvement by other Biden family members in overseas deals.

What's in the plea agreement: The DOJ has agreed to recommend a sentence of probation for the two counts of failing to pay taxes in a timely matter for the years 2017 and 2018, according to sources. Hunter Biden owed at least $100,000 in federal taxes for 2017, and at least $100,000 in 2018, but did not pay what was due to the Internal Revenue Service by the deadlines. A judge will have the final say on any sentence.

The news sparks political criticism: The plea deal will have immediate reverberations in the 2024 presidential race. It has already jumpstarted political criticism from Republicans of the Biden administration. Former President Donald Trump also criticized the plea deal on Truth Social, calling it a "mere 'traffic ticket.'"

Trump-appointed attorney led the probe: The charges against Hunter Biden were detailed in a criminal filing in US District Court in Delaware, where the US Attorney David Weiss, a Trump appointee, has been conducting the investigation that at one time explored allegations of money laundering, foreign lobbying and other potential charges. The investigation is ongoing, the Justice Department said Tuesday. But Hunter Biden’s attorney, Christopher Clark, said in a statement that the deal with federal prosecutors will “resolve” the Justice Department’s long-running criminal probe into the president’s son.

White House response: White House spokesperson Ian Sams said in a brief statement Tuesday that the Bidens “love their son and support him as he continues to rebuild his life.” When asked by CNN about the news later on Tuesday, Biden said he is "very proud" of his son. The president made the remarks in San Francisco, where he is speaking at a meeting on artificial intelligence convened by the White House. 

Hunter Biden's struggle with addiction: His legal issues come against the backdrop of his personal struggle with addiction to alcohol and drugs, many of which he addressed in his 2021 memoir. His 24-year marriage ended in a 2017 divorce and his ex-wife has accused him of spending extravagantly on liquor and strip clubs. In 2017, he also admitted an relationship with the widow of his late brother Beau. Hunter Biden remarried in 2019 and shares a child with his wife, Melissa Cohen.

CNN's Sam Fossum and Priscilla Alvarez contributed reporting to this post.

2:11 p.m. ET, June 20, 2023

This is the US attorney overseeing the Hunter Biden criminal probe

From CNN's Shawna Mizelle

Attorney David C. Weiss gives remarks to the media after a driver s education initiative Thursday morning at William Penn High School in New Castle, Delaware, in September 2022.
Attorney David C. Weiss gives remarks to the media after a driver s education initiative Thursday morning at William Penn High School in New Castle, Delaware, in September 2022. Saquan Stimpson/Delaware News Journal/USA Today

The Donald Trump-appointed US attorney leading the investigation into President Joe Biden’s son Hunter has decades of experience as a federal prosecutor.

David Weiss was confirmed by the Senate in 2018 to serve as US attorney for the District of Delaware. At the time of his nomination, he was serving as the acting US attorney for the district and was one of nine candidates whom Trump said shared his “vision for "Making America Safe Again."

The Philadelphia native is a member of the Delaware and Pennsylvania bars.

A Washington University in St. Louis and Widener University School of Law graduate, Weiss began his career in law in 1984 as a clerk to Justice Andrew D. Christie of the Delaware Supreme Court, according to his Justice Department biography.

Following his clerkship, Weiss prosecuted violent crimes and white-collar offenses as an assistant US attorney before joining firm Duane Morris, where he was a commercial litigation associate and eventually became a partner. He later served as chief operating officer and senior vice president at The Siegfried Group, a financial services firm, according to his biography.

He served as the first assistant US attorney starting in 2007.

Weiss’ investigation into Hunter Biden, which began as early as 2018, continued into the Biden administration, prompting Attorney General Merrick Garland to stress during a March Senate committee hearing that he would not interfere with the investigation. Weiss, he reiterated at the time, had “full authority” to carry out the investigation and to bring in another jurisdiction if necessary.

Garland said Weiss was “not to be denied anything that he needs.”

1:47 p.m. ET, June 20, 2023

House and Senate Democrats are reacting to the Hunter Biden news

From CNN staff

House Oversight and Accountability Ranking Member Jamie Raskin speaks to reporters after attending an FBI briefing in the House Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility at the Capitol Building on June 5, in Washington, DC. 
House Oversight and Accountability Ranking Member Jamie Raskin speaks to reporters after attending an FBI briefing in the House Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility at the Capitol Building on June 5, in Washington, DC.  Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

Democrats are responding to the news of Hunter Biden's plea deal as Republicans slam it. Here's what they are saying:

Rep. Jamie Raskin: The top Democrat on the House Oversight panel called the DOJ's charges against Hunter Biden, a reflection of its "continued institutional independence in following the evidence of actual crimes and enforcing the rule of law." 

He also called out the GOP investigations and questioned why they have not pursued similar investigations into "Jared Kushner and Donald Trump’s receipt of billions of dollars from autocratic regimes after handing them a string of outrageous policy favors and concessions."

Sen. Chris Coons: The senator from Delaware and a close ally of President Joe Biden, released a statement saying that he is “encouraged that Hunter is taking responsibility for his actions, paying the taxes that he owes, and preparing to move on with his life."

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer did not respond to a question from CNN about the plea deal. He told CNN he had “no comments on anything."

CNN's Annie Grayer, Nicky Robertson and Kristin Wilson contributed to the reporting.

1:47 p.m. ET, June 20, 2023

These are some of the other investigations involving Hunter Biden

From CNN's Kara Scannell, Evan Perez and Paula Reid

Hunter Biden, the son of President Joe Biden, will plead guilty to two tax misdemeanors and struck a deal with federal prosecutors to resolve a felony gun charge, according to court filings.

But investigators also looked into several other things related to Hunter Biden.

Among the matters under scrutiny in the Justice Department’s probe was Hunter Biden’s efforts, after his father left the vice presidency in 2017, to secure a deal with CEFC China Energy to invest in US energy projects, according to documents released by Republicans from two Senate committees.

The deal ultimately fell through, according to an account Hunter Biden gave in a 2019 New Yorker profile, and the company’s executive was later detained by Chinese authorities amid allegations of corruption.

Additionally, Hunter Biden briefly was the lawyer for the head of an organization backed by CEFC who was later convicted on bribery allegations linked to CEFC.

During the Obama administration, other Hunter Biden business ventures in China raised concerns among White House officials, according to The New Yorker, which reported an equity stake Hunter Biden took in an investment fund involving US and Chinese partners.

Federal investigators also previously examined the Ukraine-linked lobbying work by Hunter Biden as well. Of specific interest was the work the lobbying firm Blue Star Strategies did with Burisma, an energy company whose board Hunter Biden served on from 2014-2019, earning as much as $50,000 a month.

Joe Biden has said that his son’s Ukraine-related dealings had no bearing on his approach to the country as vice president, when he spearheaded Ukraine anti-corruption initiatives for the United States. And State Department officials who were critical of Hunter Biden’s Ukraine activities nonetheless told lawmakers that it did not improperly influence policy-making, according to transcripts of Senate testimony.

12:53 p.m. ET, June 20, 2023

A brief history of legal troubles for presidential families

From CNN's Kevin Liptak

The federal charges against Hunter Biden amount to the most significant legal action against a child of a president in recent memory. 

However, other presidents' children and siblings have also run afoul of the law, becoming distractions to their presidential relatives. 

Donald Trump: New York Attorney General Letitia James sued Trump, three of his adult children and the Trump Organization alleging they were involved in an expansive fraud lasting over a decade that the former president used to enrich himself. Trump himself has been indicted by a Manhattan grand jury over a hush money payment scheme involving adult film actress and by a federal jury in Florida over mishandling of documents, including some classified records. Read here for the entire list of his legal troubles.

Barack Obama: Onyango Obama, an uncle to President Barack Obama, was arrested in 2011 after failing a field sobriety test in Massachusetts. In 2013, after living in the United States illegally for decades, Onyango Obama received a federal court’s OK to stay in his adopted country. 

George W. Bush: Jenna W. Bush, one of President Bush's 19-year-old twin daughters, was cited in 2001 for alcohol possession by a minor when she was a freshman at the University of Texas at Austin.

Bill Clinton: Roger Clinton was one of 140 people pardoned by his brother in the last days of the Clinton presidency. The younger Clinton had been convicted of a cocaine drug charge in Arkansas in 1985, while his brother was the state's governor. The pardon drew an investigation by House Republicans.

George H.W. Bush: Bush's son, Neil, was sued by the FDIC in 1990, saying he and others' "gross negligence" led to the collapse of a savings and loan association. Neil Bush later came under scrutiny for business dealings in Asia.

Bush's son (and eventual president) George W. Bush was arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol near his parents' home in Kennebunkport, Maine, in 1976. Bush, who was 30 at the time, pleaded guilty, paid a $150 fine and his driving privileges were temporarily suspended in Maine.

Jimmy Carter: Billy Carter became famous for drunken antics during his brother's time in the White House. Later, he accepted a $220,000 loan from the Libyan government, prompting IRS and congressional investigations into his activities.

2:19 p.m. ET, June 20, 2023

Hunter Biden probe "is ongoing," Justice Department says

From CNN's Marshall Cohen

The Hunter Biden investigation "is ongoing," said David Weiss, the US attorney who led the probe, in a statement.

Earlier on Tuesday, Hunter Biden lawyer Christopher Clark said in a statement it was his "understanding" that the Justice Department probe was "resolved."

Weiss is a Trump-era holdover who stayed at his post while the Hunter probe was pending. Weiss did not offer any further detail on what is still under investigation. 

1:47 p.m. ET, June 20, 2023

GOP 2024 presidential candidates react to Hunter Biden's plea deal

From CNN staff

Republican presidential candidate Nikki Haley talks with other military families following a deployment ceremony for the South Carolina National Guard on Saturday, June 17, in Charleston, South Carolina.
Republican presidential candidate Nikki Haley talks with other military families following a deployment ceremony for the South Carolina National Guard on Saturday, June 17, in Charleston, South Carolina. Meg Kinnard/AP

Here's what Republican 2024 presidential candidates are saying about Hunter Biden's plea deal:

Nikki Haley: The deal "only raises further questions" about President Joe Biden’s son and a "double standard of justice" in the US federal government, she said in a statement to CNN. "There is clearly a lot more the Biden family has to answer for." 

Asa Hutchinson: "The admission of guilt is an important step," he said in a statement, but added that "it is important for our country to have the whistle blower allegations answered."

Vivek Ramaswamy: In a statement, he called the plea deal “a joke” and “farcical,” while also questioning the timing of the agreement reached with the Justice Department.

"It’s no accident that the farcical Hunter Biden ‘plea deal’ comes right after the Trump indictment: it’s the perfect fig leaf to pretend that ‘no one is above the law,’ while absolutely putting certain people above the law," he added. 

Former President Donald Trump argued in a post on Truth Social that the "The corrupt Biden DOJ just cleared up hundreds of years of criminal liability by giving Hunter Biden a mere 'traffic ticket.' Our system is BROKEN!"

The Trump campaign told CNN they believe Hunter Biden's plea deal reveals that the former president is being held to a different standard of justice.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said in a tweet that Hunter Biden “received a sweetheart deal,” arguing his connection to the “elite DC class” skirted him from jail time.

CNN's Kate Sullivan, Alayna Treene, Kit Maher, David Wright and Veronica Stracqualursi contributed to this story

2:47 p.m. ET, June 20, 2023

Hunter Biden plea deal "should enhance" GOP investigation, McCarthy says

From CNN's Morgan Rimmer, Haley Talbot and Manu Raju

House Speaker Kevin McCarthy speaks to reporters outside his office on Capitol Hill in Washington, June 7. 
House Speaker Kevin McCarthy speaks to reporters outside his office on Capitol Hill in Washington, June 7.  Andrew Harnik/AP

House Speaker Kevin McCarthy blasted the Hunter Biden plea deal, echoing the sentiments of his congressional colleagues calling it a “sweetheart deal.”

“My first reaction is it continues to show the two-tiered system in America. If you are the president's leading political opponent, the DOJ tries to literally put you in jail and give you prison time. If you are the president's son, you get a sweetheart deal,” the Republican from California told reporters this morning. 

McCarthy says this should aid their investigation. “It actually should enhance our investigation because the DOJ should not be able to withhold any information now, saying that because a pending investigation, they should be able to provide Chairman Comer with any information that he requires," he said.

McCarthy dismissed the fact that the US attorney was a Trump holdover.

Asked about where the House investigation into the Biden family will go next, McCarthy said they will “continue to follow whatever information leads us to,” and pointed to the family's finances and the alleged use of shell companies, as well as referencing the allegations that the president was involved in an illegal venture with a foreign national while he was vice president. 

11:43 a.m. ET, June 20, 2023

Hunter Biden missed IRS payment deadlines in 2017 and 2018, DOJ says 

From CNN's Marshall Cohen

The exterior of IRS headquarters in Washington, DC, in 2022.
The exterior of IRS headquarters in Washington, DC, in 2022. Al Drago/Bloomberg/Getty Images/File

Hunter Biden owed at least $100,000 in federal taxes for 2017, and at least $100,000 in 2018, but did not pay what was due to the IRS by the deadlines, the Justice Department said in a filing.

The bare-bones filing from prosecutors doesn’t say how much money Hunter Biden actually owed in federal taxes. His lawyer told CNN last year that his client eventually “fully paid” his IRS debts stemming from 2017 and 2018, when Hunter Biden was struggling with drug and alcohol addiction.

As a result of the missed IRS deadlines, Hunter Biden is pleading guilty to two misdemeanor counts of willfully failing to pay federal taxes, according to the newly unsealed charging documents.

Each tax offense could lead to a maximum of one year in prison, plus hefty fines. But sources familiar with the matter previously told CNN that the Justice Department is expected to recommend a sentence of probation. The punishment is ultimately up to a federal judge.