Hunter Biden faces trial on gun charges days after Trump conviction

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Hunter Biden will appear on Monday on gun charges in the first trial of a sitting US president’s son, less than a week after Donald Trump became the first former president to be convicted of a crime.

Department of Justice special counsel David Weiss charged Biden in September with lying about his drug use when buying a gun. The president’s son has acknowledged he was struggling with an addiction to crack cocaine when he bought a Colt Cobra revolver in October 2018. 

The three counts carry a total maximum penalty of 25 years in prison, although Hunter Biden has no prior criminal record, and actual sentences tend to be lower than the maximum. He pleaded not guilty to the charges last year.

The trial will add new volatility to a US election campaign that has already been shaken by Trump’s felony conviction last week. Democrats noted on Sunday that Biden will face the same judicial system that found Trump guilty in the New York hush money trial.

“Hunter Biden, of course, is entitled, as was Donald Trump, to the presumption of innocence and to a trial by a jury of his peers,” said Hakeem Jeffries, the top Democrat in the House, on NBC’s Meet the Press.

“And this justice department is going to proceed in that fashion, present the facts and the law and then we’ll all have to wait for a determination that is made by a jury as to Hunter Biden’s guilt or innocence.”

House Republicans voted six months ago to launch an impeachment inquiry probing whether Joe Biden improperly benefited from Hunter’s business dealings when he was vice-president. The investigation has fizzled out without a sign that the House will vote to charge Biden with any crime.

Republicans have pointed to Hunter’s gun and tax charges as Trump faces four criminal cases and a civil fraud verdict that threatens his business in New York. 

The former president has denied wrongdoing and pledged to appeal the Manhattan conviction of falsifying business records to cover up “hush money” payments to a porn star before the 2016 election.

“We’ve been concentrating for six weeks on this bogus trial . . . not talking about what Hunter Biden’s been up to, not talking about his upcoming trial,” said GOP Senate candidate Kari Lake on Fox.

“They want us so distracted.”

Last year, federal prosecutors announced Hunter Biden had agreed to plead guilty to two misdemeanour counts of wilful failure to pay federal income tax, and enter a “pretrial diversion agreement” on the gun charge. A federal judge in Delaware raised doubts about the terms of the plea deal between prosecutors and Biden, and it later collapsed.

US attorney-general Merrick Garland then named Weiss — the US attorney in Delaware appointed by Trump — as special counsel to oversee cases involving the president’s son. The indictment added two new but related counts.  

Weiss then separately charged Biden with nine federal tax offences, including tax evasion, in California. He is scheduled to stand trial in that case in September.

Additional reporting by Stefania Palma and Lauren Fedor

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