Special counsel David Weiss appeared to be willing to end the Hunter Biden probe earlier this year without any charges for the president’s son, but seems to have changed his mind around the time two IRS whistleblowers accused the Justice Department of stonewalling the case and giving Hunter Biden special treatment, The New York Times reported on Saturday.
It’s unclear if Weiss actually changed course because of the whistleblowers.
The newspaper cited sources from both sides who were involved in the case, and hundreds of pages of non-public emails between Weiss’ prosecutors and Hunter Biden’s attorneys. Weiss’ spokesman did not comment for the story.
Weiss concluded by late 2022 that he did not have sufficient grounds to charge Hunter Biden with felony tax crimes, the Times reported. So, one of Weiss’ top deputies proposed to Hunter Biden’s team that they revolve the investigation with a single “diversion agreement,” where the president’s son would avoid charges if he promised to pay his back taxes and never buy a gun again, according to the Times.
An agreement was drafted in May, and the two sides haggled over language, though emails from prosecutors included a disclaimer that they “had not discussed or obtained approval” from their supervisors for the emerging deal.
It appears that prosecutors took that proposal off the table around the same time two IRS whistleblowers, who helped lead the investigation, accused Justice Department officials of politically interfering in the case, the Times reported.
Around the time the whistleblowers emerged, Weiss demanded that Hunter Biden plead guilty to two tax misdemeanors, according to The New York Times.
The president’s son agreed to the new harsher terms, and a two-pronged deal was negotiated: a guilty plea for the two tax crimes and a “diversion agreement” where the gun charge would be dropped in two years if he passed drug tests and stayed out of legal trouble.
Those deals were presented to Judge Maryellen Noreika at a hearing in July — but she wasn’t ready to accept the deals as written. She ordered both sides to provide her with more information for why the deals were constitutional, but the parties later reached an impasse, the deals collapsed, and Weiss requested special counsel status.
The investigation is ongoing and Weiss has signaled that he might pursue more serious felony charges, and that a trial “is in order” now that the negotiations have collapsed. Hunter Biden’s lawyers have said a trial “is not inevitable” and insist that the gun deal is still “valid and binding” because it was signed. It will likely be up to the judge to decide.
Weiss, along with Attorney General Merrick Garland and other senior Justice Department officials, have forcefully denied the claims from the IRS whistleblowers, whose allegations have been championed by congressional Republicans.