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Hunter Biden: President’s Son Convicted in Federal Gun Case, Faces Tax Evasion Trial Next

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A federal jury found Hunter Biden guilty Tuesday of three felony charges for illegally purchasing a gun at a time when he was using drugs, making him the first child of a sitting U.S. president to be found guilty of a crime. “This was a fairly straightforward case,” says Ben Schreckinger, reporter for Politico. “Most criminal trials result in convictions. This wasn’t an exception.” Schreckinger lays out the political implications for President Joe Biden, compares this conviction to Trump’s criminal proceedings and explains Hunter Biden’s upcoming trial for tax fraud in California.

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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman, with Juan González.

A federal jury in Delaware has convicted Hunter Biden of all three felony charges for illegally purchasing a gun at a time when he was using drugs. Hunter Biden becomes the first child of a sitting U.S. president to be found guilty of a crime. Special counsel David Weiss spoke after the verdict.

DAVID WEISS: Ultimately, this case was not just about addiction, a disease that haunts families across the United States, including Hunter Biden’s family. This case was about the illegal choices defendant made while in the throes of addiction: his choice to lie on a government form when he bought a gun, and the choice to then possess that gun. It was these choices and the combination of guns and drugs that made his conduct dangerous. Second, no one in this country is above the law. Everyone must be accountable for their actions, even this defendant. However, Hunter Biden should be no more accountable than any other citizen convicted of this same conduct. The prosecution has been and will continue to be committed to this principle.

AMY GOODMAN: Hunter Biden faces up to 25 years in prison, though that strictest sentence is highly unlikely and Biden could avoid jail entirely. A date for the sentencing has not yet been set.

President Biden has vowed not to pardon his son. In a statement on Tuesday, President Biden said, “As I also said last week, I will accept the outcome of this case and will continue to respect the judicial process as Hunter considers an appeal. Jill and I will always be there for Hunter and the rest of our family with our love and support. Nothing will ever change that,” he said.

We’re joined now by Ben Schreckinger, a reporter for Politico. He’s the author of The Bidens: Inside the First Family’s Fifty-Year Rise to Power.

Ben, if you could start off by responding to the verdict in this trial, what exactly it means, what Hunter Biden was charged with and convicted of?

BEN SCHRECKINGER: Sure. My first response is that it’s just not that surprising. This was a fairly straightforward case. Most criminal trials result in convictions. This wasn’t an exception. It is noteworthy, in part, for the reasons that the special prosecutor mentioned, showing that no person is above the law. You know, Hunter Biden was held accountable for his actions here.

Politically, this may actually be marginally helpful to President Joe Biden. The dominant images Americans are seeing out of this trial and its aftermath are of a loving father who’s supporting his son. A lot of people have been sympathetic to that aspect of Joe Biden’s relationship with his son. And it holds less political peril than investigations related to Hunter Biden’s personal finances or business dealings.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Yeah, and, Ben, I wanted to ask you about that, the difference in potential impact between this conviction and the trial that will be coming up in Los Angeles, the potential for that trial to be much more dangerous to President Biden himself and to other aides of the president.

BEN SCHRECKINGER: Yeah. Well, that trial is about Hunter Biden’s taxes, so — and as prosecutors have outlined, it will get into his foreign business dealings. The tax years he’s being charged for are not during his father’s time in office, but the sources of income, some of those trace back, like the money from Burisma. Those were engagements that did begin during his father’s time in office. And so, that may present a less relatable, less flattering picture of the way Hunter Biden was making his money, although it doesn’t really deal with some of the things that that investigation originated with, where prosecutors were originally looking at potential Foreign Agents Registration Act violations, potential money laundering violations. Those have not been charged and may never be charged. And those, you know, were avenues of inquiry that had to do more with President Biden and his political power than even Hunter Biden’s taxes do.

AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to go back for a minute and ask you about this case. You have Hunter Biden who is accused of lying on a federal firearms application, which is a crime that is not usually indicted alone. Like, you could be — you know, they convicted him of lying, saying that he was not using drugs at the time that he was going for a gun. But it usually happens, the indictment, if then you use the gun. Can you talk about the significance of this, and that David Weiss, the special prosecutor, was appointed by Trump, and President Biden decided not to get in the way of that, though he could have let him go — is that right — before this indictment?

BEN SCHRECKINGER: Yes, that’s right. Yeah, this was a trial that in some ways was never supposed to happen. David Weiss, I read, was not even present in the courtroom when the verdict was read out yesterday. David Weiss was originally charged with investigating Hunter Biden’s finances. This gun offense came up sort of tangentially in relationship to that investigation and was supposed to be dealt with as like, you know, a probationary diversion kind of agreement when Hunter Biden was going to enter into a plea deal. That plea deal fell apart. Arguments have been made that it fell apart because of political pressure being brought by Republicans in Congress. I don’t know if there’s any way we’ll ever know for sure if that’s the case. So, this was not really what the investigation into Hunter Biden was ever about. Once that plea deal fell apart, David Weiss decided to bring the charge.

And yeah, you’re absolutely right, President Biden could have sacked David Weiss, as he did the other U.S. attorneys who were serving under Donald Trump. He kept him on. Merrick Garland appointed him as special prosecutor. Obviously, there would have been a lot of political scrutiny and uproar from Republicans if Weiss had been replaced. So, here we are.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Also, President Biden has said he will not pardon his son. Many in the media have commented on the difference between how Donald Trump conducted himself during his trial and how the Biden family and Democrats have responded to this case. The media cite a very different tone. What’s your response to that?

BEN SCHRECKINGER: Yeah, there’s a pretty sharp contrast in how Joe Biden has publicly responded to this trial of his son and how Donald Trump has responded to his several criminal indictments. Obviously, Donald Trump has lashed out at the judge, at prosecutors, you know, sought to portray the cases brought against him as part of a political witch hunt. President Biden has said that he’ll respect the legal process here. As you said, he has vowed that he will not pardon his son for this crime. So that’s, you know, quite a contrast and two very different approaches by two presidential candidates to the legal system here.

AMY GOODMAN: Speaking of the election, you have in September the tax trial in Los Angeles against Hunter Biden, and then you have the October sentencing in this — as a result of this conviction. This is all right before the November election. Before we go, Ben, you know, you wrote the book on the Bidens. In fact, it’s called that, The Bidens: Inside the First Family’s Fifty-Year Rise to Power. If you can talk about some of Hunter Biden’s private communications revealed about his business deals, and what’s going to come out right before the election?

BEN SCHRECKINGER: Yeah. Well, a lot of what I’ve learned in recent months has come out of the Republican-led impeachment inquiry in the House of Representatives. One of the more striking communications that’s come out there is one from the period when Joe Biden was out of office, Hunter Biden’s pursuing deals with a Chinese energy firm, which are relevant to his upcoming tax case. And he says something to the effect of, “You know, you haven’t paid me this money that I believe you owe me. If this doesn’t come soon, my father and I are going to come after you with everything we have.” Money does start to flow a few days after that. Joe Biden has said, you know, “I wasn’t actually with Hunter, despite what’s in that message. That’s not true.” Hunter Biden has said, you know, “I was in no state of mind to be speaking coherently.” He’s attributed, essentially, to his drug addiction that message. But, obviously, those sorts of communications have the potential to be more politically damaging than, you know, evidence presented at this trial, that was really more about Hunter Biden’s personal life.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, Ben Schreckinger, we want to thank you very much for being with us, reporter for Politico, author of The Bidens: Inside the First Family’s Fifty-Year Rise to Power. We’ll also link to your articles on the Bidens, and particularly on Hunter Biden.

When we come back, a federal jury in Florida has ordered the banana giant Chiquita to pay over $38 million in damages to the families of eight Colombian men killed by paramilitary death squads Chiquita funded. Stay with us.

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Bananas and Blood: Chiquita Ordered to Pay Colombian Families $38 Million for Backing Death Squads

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