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2024 Republicans Unite to Blast Hunter Biden’s ‘Sweetheart Deal’
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2024 Republicans Unite to Blast Hunter Biden’s ‘Sweetheart Deal’

Plus: Democrats see a mixed bag following the president’s son’s plea deal.

Hunter Biden speaks at a World Food Program event on April 12, 2016. (Photo by Paul Morigi/Getty Images for World Food Program USA)

Happy Wednesday! This is basically just an indictments newsletter now. 

Up to Speed

  • Hunter Biden will plead guilty to two misdemeanors related to unpaid taxes, according to a plea deal announced by the Department of Justice Tuesday. The agreement is not expected to include a prison sentence, with the president’s son instead likely to serve two years of probation. An additional felony gun charge will enter “pretrial diversion,” meaning it will be dropped if Biden does not violate his probation. Republicans have denounced the plea as a “sweetheart deal,” and the House GOP has vowed to continue its probes into the overseas business dealings of the Biden family. 
  • In Donald Trump’s first TV interview since his federal indictment, the former president told Bret Baier of Fox News he did not comply with a Department of Justice subpoena to return government documents because he was “very busy” and the documents needed to be separated from his personal belongings. In the interview, which ran in part on Monday, Trump also claimed “everything was declassified” and he was not referring to “a document per se” on an alleged recording of him showing secret information to others, but rather “newspaper stories, magazine stories, and articles.”
  • The Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday that China plans to establish a military training facility in Cuba and that the Biden administration has tried to head off the deal. The report follows the Journal’s reporting earlier this month that China and Cuba had agreed to build an eavesdropping facility on the island nation, which would allow China to track U.S. ships and monitor electronic communications throughout the southeastern U.S. The Biden administration initially denied that report before changing its tune, stating that Chinese intel facilities had existed in Cuba since at least 2019.
  • South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott appeared at a Fox News town hall Tuesday, pitching himself as the presidential race’s hopeful and optimistic candidate while railing against the Biden Department of Justice and pledging to “finish” the investigation into Hunter Biden. “With your help, we are going to fire Joe Biden, and then we are going to fire Merrick Garland and fire Christopher Wray,” Scott said.
  • Former ambassador and South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley will deliver a “major foreign policy speech” Friday at the American Enterprise Institute, a center-right think tank in Washington. The address will focus on China.
  • The National Republican Congressional Committee, the House GOP campaign arm, raised $7.8 million in June, growing its war chest to $23.7 million while paying off its remaining debts from the 2022 election cycle. That tops the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, which collected $7.6 million last month. However, the DCCC reported more cash on hand than the NRCC as of June 1, with $28 million.

2024 Republicans Denounce Hunter Biden ‘Double Standard’

In the wake of Tuesday’s news that Hunter Biden will plead guilty to two misdemeanor tax charges in order to avoid a felony gun charge, at least one Republican presidential campaign is reacting just how you’d expect.

“Today proves that there is a clear two-tiered system of justice—one for the Democrats and one against President Trump,” Trump spokesman Steven Cheung tells The Dispatch. “As President Trump predicted earlier this month, Hunter was given a sweetheart deal that sweeps his crimes under the rug in a blatant attempt to interfere with the 2024 election.”

A bit more surprising: the fact that nearly all of Trump’s primary competitors are echoing the same message.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis also calls the plea “a sweetheart deal.” Vivek Ramaswamy derides it as “farcical,” “the perfect fig leaf to pretend that ‘no one is above the law’ while absolutely putting certain people above the law.” Mike Pence laments a “two-tiered system of justice with one set of rules for Republicans and one set of rules for Democrats.” Nikki Haley tells The Dispatch in a statement it “only raises further questions about Hunter Biden’s crimes and the double standard of justice in our federal government,” while Sen. Tim Scott tells us in a statement it’s “another reason Americans have lost faith in Biden’s Justice Department.”

“While the Biden family gets a slap on the wrist with kid gloves,” Scott adds, “DOJ throws the kitchen sink at political opponents, raids the homes of pro-life advocates, and targets parents as ‘domestic terrorists.’”

The “slap on the wrist” critique centers on the fact that Hunter Biden’s plea is expected to allow him to avoid jail time, which Republicans argue underplays the seriousness of the alleged gun crime. In 2018, Biden purchased a gun while being, by his own admission, a regular user of crack cocaine—a felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison. That gun briefly went missing after his then-girlfriend—Hallie Biden, the former wife of his late brother Beau—found it and threw it away in a trash can outside.  

Many Republicans had also called for the Hunter Biden matter to be converted into a semi-independent special counsel investigation, a common step taken to avoid the appearance of impropriety in investigations with possible conflicts of interest. Thirty-two Republican senators, including Tim Scott, signed a letter to that effect late last year, arguing a special counsel would “avoid the appearance of impropriety” and show that the investigation was “free from political influence.”

Attorney General Merrick Garland told Senate Republicans in March that he was not interfering with the U.S. attorney heading the Hunter investigation, and the White House insisted it was not involved with the process—a position somewhat undercut by Biden’s occasional public remarks on the topic. “My son has done nothing wrong,” President Biden said last month.

Of course, part of the reason Hunter Biden will not face fuller penalties for his crimes is because he cooperated with the investigation and took a plea deal. That’s a marked contrast with Trump’s own behavior ahead of his own recent indictment, in which—as the conservative former Judge J. Michael Luttig put it—he “dared, taunted, provoked, and goaded” prosecutors to go after him by his stubborn, monthslong refusal to return classified documents.

Still, don’t expect Trump’s GOP competitors to make that contrast. There’s “no real upside for anyone here,” a strategist for one 2024 campaign tells The Dispatch—pointing to Hunter Biden’s malfeasance is just the Republican baseline. 

After Hunter Plea, Some Democrats Breathe Sigh of Relief

As the Hunter Biden news broke, the White House’s message was straightforward.

“The President and First Lady love their son and support him as he continues to rebuild his life,” White House spokesman Ian Sams said in a statement provided to The Dispatch Tuesday afternoon.

Beyond that, official Democratic channels kept silent. The Biden campaign did not respond to a request for comment. The Democratic National Committee declined to comment. 

But outside of official party channels, Democratic operatives sound hopeful that the plea deal is mostly good news for President Joe Biden’s 2024 prospects. To the extent Hunter Biden’s case was a political liability for his father’s reelection bid, they say, it’s now moving toward a conclusion. 

“Hunter Biden manned up and admitted his illegality and cut a deal with a prosecutor who began the investigation under Trump and was allowed to continue by the Biden administration,” says Dane Strother, a Democratic strategist in Sacramento. Strother adds that the “whining wing” of the Republican Party will no doubt continue to use the issue to “garner headlines and raise money.”

“It makes it ‘asked and answered,’ while Trump’s saga will play out for who knows how many more news cycles,” a Democratic insider on Capitol Hill argues. “It’s like pulling off a bandaid.” 

That may not prove true—the U.S. attorney running the probe said Tuesday the matter is not closed; and Republicans aren’t going to let the matter drop, either. That is why one veteran Democratic operative is less sanguine about Hunter’s plea than others, declaring the plea deal a “mixed bag” politically. 

“The Biden campaign can say that Hunter Biden took responsibility and admitted guilt—and that a Trump-appointed U.S. attorney meted out punishment,” this Democrat says. “The other side of it is, it’s not going to stop Republicans one iota from saying the system is rigged and there’s a two-tiered justice system.” 

“If you’re willing to believe that the fix is in and government out to get conservatives, then today helps amplify that in your mind,” this Democrat adds. 

Democrats generally see few similarities, if any, between the Hunter Biden case and the allegations against Trump. 

But some Democrats concede that the political optics would not have been good for the president had the Justice Department let his son off the hook while prosecuting his predecessor and current frontrunner for the GOP nomination in 2024. Viewed from that vantage point, some Democrats say, Hunter Biden’s plea deal alleviates some of the pressure on the president that Trump’s indictment might have caused over time.

“It makes it easier to [prosecute] Trump,” says T.J. Rooney, a former chairman of the Pennsylvania Democratic Party. “It hurts Trump in the long run.”

Eyes on the Trail

  • Republicans on location: Why denounce the failures of Democratic-run cities from a soundstage when you could do it from the cities themselves? Ron DeSantis cut a new spot in “the once great city of San Francisco” Tuesday, bemoaning the city’s collapse while standing in front of a graffiti-covered wall. “I’ve seen so many businesses boarded up,” he said.“I’ve seen so much riffraff just running around. And it just shows you these policies matter, leadership matters.” Meanwhile, Vivek Ramaswamy spent Tuesday schlepping around the impoverished Philadelphia neighborhood of Kensington with Turning Point USA’s Benny Johnson. “Rampant drug use in plain sight in the middle of the streets,” Ramaswamy tweeted. “Sheer misery.”

Notable and Quotable

“Well, he’s the number two right now, yeah. I mean, at some place he could be replaced. The way he’s going right now, he’s dropping like a rock—he could be number three, number four, and you won’t ever hear me talking about him again. I like fighting number two.”

—Former President Donald Trump to Fox News’ Bret Baier on why he spends so much time attacking Ron DeSantis, Tuesday, June 20

Andrew Egger is a former associate editor for The Dispatch.

David M. Drucker is a senior writer at The Dispatch and is based in Washington, D.C. Prior to joining the company in 2023, he was a senior correspondent for the Washington Examiner. When Drucker is not covering American politics for The Dispatch, he enjoys hanging out with his two boys and listening to his wife's excellent taste in music.

Audrey is a former reporter for The Dispatch.

Thomas Dorsey is an intern for The Dispatch.