On the eve of Hunter Biden’s court appearance to enter into a plea deal for misdemeanor tax crimes that would allow him to avoid prison time, House Republicans and conservative groups sought to intervene in the case, urging a judge to throw out the agreement he reached with prosecutors.
The highly unusual legal maneuvering — which experts said was unlikely to succeed — 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 Joe Biden.
Rep. Jason Smith, R-Mo., the chair of the House Ways and Means Committee, filed a brief in U.S. District Court in Wilmington, Delware, where Hunter Biden’s plea deal is to be considered by a judge Wednesday.
The committee has heard testimony from two IRS investigators who claim to be whistleblowers 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, a conservative research group, which has launched an operation dedicated to aiding the Republican investigations into the president.
Hunter Biden’s lawyers tried to stop Smith from filing his brief, saying that he had no standing and that the materials included in the filing should be filed under seal because they contain confidential taxpayer information.
The judge overseeing the case, Maryellen Noreika, agreed to seal the 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 IRS officials.
“The situation here is not that the Justice Department exercised charging or plea negotiation discretion, but the presence of credible allegations that the investigation, charging decisions and plea negotiations were tainted by improper conduct at various levels of the government,” wrote Theodore Kittila, a lawyer who filed the brief on behalf of Smith.
Hunter Biden struck a deal with the Justice Department last month to plead guilty to two misdemeanor charges of failing to file his taxes on time in 2017 and 2018 and to accept terms that would allow him to avoid prosecution on a separate gun charge.
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 the president, who has always maintained that he kept his distance from his son’s business.
Republicans have more recently tried to make a case that Hunter Biden’s plea deal was marked by favorable treatment from the Justice Department in his father’s administration. That assertion has been rejected by Attorney General Merrick Garland and by the prosecutor who has overseen the case, David Weiss, the U.S. attorney in Delaware, a Trump appointee.
Christopher Clark, a lawyer for Hunter Biden, chastised the Republicans for trying to interfere in the court case.
“Most troubling is that you have sought to append to a filing on the public docket hundreds of pages of documents, many of which contain grand jury secret information and confidential taxpayer information,” he wrote to lawyers for the Republicans, calling their actions “baseless and abusive.”
Smith has previously urged Garland and Weiss to enter materials based on the testimony by the IRS officials into the court file in an attempt to undermine the plea deal.
The Justice Department has not responded to the House Republicans’ demands to enter files into the court record but said in a letter to Congress on Monday that it wanted to “protect law enforcement work from even the perception of political interference, including from Congress.”This article originally appeared in The New York Times.
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