Earlier this year, Merrick Garland, America’s attorney general, went to the extraordinary length of actually denying that there exist two tracks of justice in America. It is a bizarre statement for the country’s top cop to make – unless of course a significant percentage of us doubt whether the laws are indeed one for all. The sweetheart deal reached between the Justice Department and First Son Hunter Biden on Tuesday to plead guilty of tax and gun charges won’t help Garland’s case, even if it was meant to do exactly that.
When I was told I’d have to “eat a charge” in a politically motivated investigation five years ago, I was probably more surprised than Hunter is today. After all, my infractions were pretty minor, and I knew at the time that the underlying accusation of former Republican President Donald Trump having been installed in office by the Russians was ridiculous.
Anyone who has even casually perused the contents of the famous Hunter Biden laptop knows that President Joe Biden’s repeated assertion that his son “did nothing wrong” are not only risible, but also insulting to the intelligence of the average American.
It is crystal clear both from the laptop and abundant reporting both before and after its discovery that Hunter made a career out of trading on his father’s name. As I was drafting a press release to announce my forthcoming book Dangerous Company: The Misadventures of a ‘Foreign Agent’ this morning I was literally drafting the words “what would Hunter’s life look like if his last name weren’t Biden” when the news of his plea deal broke.
My “crimes,” for instance, were connected to my work in Ukraine, where I was eminently qualified to be. I’d worked as a political consultant there in the past and had a ten-year long relationship with the country and speak Russian. My clients hired me because they believed I was the best, not because of who my father is.
By stark contrast, a Ukrainian living in exile because he is wanted on corruption charges by his own government hired Hunter to be his advisor almost immediately after then-VP Joe Biden was formally put in charge of Ukraine policy. To their credit, some U.S. diplomats objected to the horrible optics of the arrangement, but were effectively told to put a sock in it. And that’s just Ukraine we’re talking about. There is the small matter of multi-million dollar payments to Hunter by a notoriously corrupt Russian, and of course the bigger one of China.
Yet the current plea deal addresses none of these arguably more serious matters – instead it is tied to the more mundane housekeeping of what he did and didn’t do with the foreign cash he took, and his lying on a federal background check to get a gun while being out of his mind on crack cocaine. What we do not know, but deserve to know, is whether the deal comes with the government agreeing to waive future charges. Given Hunter’s high-powered counsel, I’m betting it did.
To be honest, the first feeling I experienced on hearing that the First Son will also “eat a (couple) charge(s)” was relief. Simple citizens want to believe our system is fair, and for a few moments, I lulled myself in that comfort. Until, that is, I read the details. The White House is likely counting on the fact not many will.
Politically it is a smart move by the Biden camp. I also suspect it is a big personal concession by the president who likely agreed to run in 2020 on the promise that his last remaining son would be left in peace. But when he doubled down on that gamble this spring and said he’d run for a second term, such an arrangement – if indeed it existed – needed to go back to the drawing board.
After all, prosecuting a former president while protecting the clearly corrupt son of the present one would be too grotesque a display of the two tracked system Garland denies exists for most Americans to bear. So instead we’re treated to a little theater.
But let’s get back to gritty reality for a second. My book looks at how struggles for power around the globe – with and without America’s influence – play out. What could an American whose last name isn’t the same as a powerful politician’s do to help the underdog, and what compromises are reached along the way. This would all be terribly obscure stuff of course, if it weren’t for Hunter, parachuting into many of these same places and banking the proceeds.
Hunter’s legal news is smart theater by the White House. Now Senator Chuck Grassley needs to stop talking about the existence of recordings of Hunter and his father by an executive at the Ukrainian gas company and show us the goods. After this most recent feint by the Bidens, Republicans are once again playing catch-up.