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How Does Hunter Affect 2024?

Gavin Newsom couldn’t ask for a better setup to a presidential run.

California Governor Newsom Speaks On State's School Safety And Covid Prevention Efforts
(Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Last week, it was reported that Hunter Biden was pleading guilty to two misdemeanor counts of willful failure to pay income tax, as well as agreeing to enter into a diversionary program to deal with charges related to unlawful possession of a firearm. Neither of thes is particularly surprising. Hunter Biden is, after all, a known addict with a history of shady business deals. The fact that he did not pay his taxes, that he allegedly lied in order to obtain a firearm while addicted to drugs, and the fact that he is making a plea deal that will likely avoid jail time are all expected occurrences. As several writers at the Wall Street Journal opined this week, an honest look at comparable criminal charges shows this isn’t quite the outlandish “sweetheart deal” the Republican media is already complaining it is. 

But beneath the surface-level whining that Hunter is getting off easy, there are some serious issues worthy of more reflection. First, there is the laughable notion that this ought to be the end of the investigations of Hunter Biden. His lawyer rosily made the claim that “with the announcement of two agreements between my client, Hunter Biden, and the United States Attorney's Office for the District of Delaware, it is my understanding that the five-year investigation into Hunter is resolved.” Not likely. 

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The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Delaware, which is filing these charges, said that the “investigation is ongoing.” Gary Shapely, a special agent with IRS criminal investigations, recently came forward as a whistleblower and stated that broader charges against Hunter Biden were sought by the U.S. attorney in Delaware, but those charges were stopped by U.S. attorneys in California and Washington, D.C. Under oath, the whistleblower pulled no punches: “I am alleging, with evidence, that DOJ provided preferential treatment, slow-walked the investigation, did nothing to avoid obvious conflicts of interest in this investigation.” 

It seems that there are tax problems beyond the two years—2017 and 2018—for which Hunter Biden will enter his plea deal. And even if the criminal statute of limitations has run, the IRS is clear that in cases of tax fraud there is no statute of limitations for civil assessments. In summary: Hunter Biden has a history of potentially criminal behavior, of making enormous sums of money in questionable circumstances, and of not paying his taxes in the process. It looks like the charges Hunter will plead to are merely the tip of the iceberg. There is a good chance that this plea deal resulting in a diversionary program and some probation will not be the end of his legal woes; if the Pandora’s box of Hunter Biden’s misdeeds has been opened, it is hard to believe that this is the end of it.

A greater political question hovers over the sudden media focus on Hunter Biden’s legal troubles: Why is this happening now, several years after the incidents, several years after law enforcement was made aware of this, just as his father’s re-election campaign gets underway? 

It is clear that Joe Biden has become increasingly unpopular among his own party, and many do not want Biden to run for president in 2024. His natural successor, Kamala Harris, polls slightly worse than Biden. But Biden has announced he will seek re-election, and it appears Biden/Harris will again be the ticket. What is the Democratic party machine to do?

The Democrats have an alternative in Gavin Newsom, who of course has said he is not running for president against the Democratic incumbent. But it looks a lot like he is. We all knew last year that Ron DeSantis was running for president when he announced the release of a book offering Florida as a blueprint for America; when we see Gavin Newsom on national television proposing a gun control constitutional amendment and offering California’s economic successes to the nation, it seems as though he is running for president. 

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Governors already popular at home do not boldly offer their states as models for the nation or execute nationwide political publicity stunts just for fun. Perhaps the party machine has found its way out of a Biden candidacy and into a Newsom candidacy via the airing of Hunter Biden’s dirty personal and familial laundry.

This could be dismissed as a reach. After all, one should be cautious not to attribute to malice what can be explained by stupidity. It is quite possible that there is no politically-motivated plot behind the emergence of this Biden family scandal as the primary election heats up. Hunter Biden has been making bad decisions for years; perhaps they are simply catching up to him. But the nation recently found out that government agencies were quite willing and able to collude with social media companies to censor the Hunter Biden laptop story on the eve of the 2020 election. Is it so inconceivable to imagine that perhaps the powers that be now find it convenient for this story to go public?

Whether the current Hunter Biden headlines are a conspiracy to replace Joe Biden on the 2024 ticket or simply Hunter’s many bad decisions catching up with him, this looks like more than mere passing clickbait. President Biden is implicated in some of his son’s misdeeds: Hunter’s deals include kickbacks for “the big guy,” and there is apparently a WhatsApp message from Hunter to a Chinese business associate where Hunter claims that his father was sitting right next to him as the demands were being made. 

The Democratic Party has an incumbent president who is 80 years old, prone to falling, stumbling, and embarrassingly bad public speaking. He has announced his re-election campaign, but many within his party want him out. If the evidence against Hunter continues to grow and the president turns out to have involvement in any of these criminal misdeeds, perhaps we will have a Democratic primary race on our hands after all.

Correction: An earlier version of this piece claimed that Biden was vice president when sitting next to his son at the time of the Chinese business associate’s WhatsApp message. He was no longer vice president at that time.

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