News broke on Tuesday morning that federal prosecutors have charged Hunter Biden, President Joe Biden’s son, with two misdemeanor counts of failure to pay taxes and one count of felony gun possession. Under a plea agreement, he reportedly plans to plead guilty to the tax charges and enter a pre-trial diversion program that would expunge the gun crime. The agreement comes amid an ongoing five-year probe of Hunter Biden’s business dealings and finances and shows that the United States is a nation of laws in which even the president’s son can be investigated and prosecuted for violations.
But right-wing media figures, desperate for pretexts they can use to weaponize the justice system, are responding to the news by moving the goalposts. They are claiming that the charges and punishment are insufficient and show the president’s son received special treatment — apparently from the Trump-appointed Republican prosecutor in charge of the case.
The Daily Wire’s Ben Shapiro previously denounced last week’s federal indictment of former President Donald Trump for illicitly retaining government documents and related charges, arguing that the prosecution of a Republican political leader under a Democratic president is inherently politically charged.
“The only way that you actually restore the credibility of the justice system is to have Republicans prosecute Republicans and Democrats prosecute Democrats,” Shapiro claimed. “If the basic line here is that Republicans are just supposed to accept that Republicans who are guilty of crimes get indicted, and Democrats who are guilty of crimes get slots on CNN and MSNBC, that is not a workable solution for anyone.”
“At the very least,” Shapiro added, at the same time charges were announced against Trump, Attorney General “Merrick Garland could have said we’re also bringing charges against Hunter. Right? That would have shielded — because Hunter is clearly guilty of a bevy of crimes, up to and including violation of gun law.”
He concluded, “The only way to restore the credibility of the institution is even-handed application of justice against your own side.”
Here we are a week later, and charges have been filed against Hunter Biden — during his father’s presidency — including the “violation of gun law” Shapiro had singled out.
Does Shapiro think that this shows “even-handed application of justice against your own side” that will “restore the credibility of the justice system”? Of course not.
Shapiro began criticizing the results within minutes as insufficiently punitive and a sign of preferential treatment for the president’s son.
Meanwhile, journalists with greater insight into the charges reported that Hunter Biden is actually being treated relatively harshly for the crimes with which he was accused. NBC News justice reporter Ryan J. Reilly noted that the gun charge against Hunter Biden “is very rarely brought” by prosecutors. And The Daily Beast’s Roger Sollenberger pointed out that Trump crony Roger Stone and his wife were not criminally charged when they settled an unpaid taxes case with the Justice Department over a larger sum.
It’s worth recalling the steps Joe Biden took in order to maintain the credibility of the justice system when he took office three years into the probe of his son, as they show the weakness of the right wing’s argument.
President Biden left in place FBI Director Christopher Wray, a Trump-appointed Republican. It is traditional for FBI directors to serve out their 10-year term unimpeded — but Trump violated that tradition by firing James Comey over his handling of the Russia probe as that inquiry touched on his own associates.
Joe Biden also retained David Weiss, the Republican prosecutor who was overseeing the probe and ultimately filed the charges against Hunter Biden, as U.S. attorney in Delaware. Incoming presidents traditionally replace U.S. attorneys when they take office, and while Biden did so for most of Trump’s appointees, he left Weiss in place to complete the investigation of his son.
Apparently, those Republicans are in on the effort to let Hunter Biden off easy.
The right doesn’t seem to care about the legal process — they care about the results. Their aim is the destruction of the independence of federal law enforcement in favor of a weaponized justice system, and they will keep creating new pretexts until they get it.