Tuesday, Apr 16, 2024

Hunter Biden Plea Deal Implodes as Judge Challenges Hidden ‘Immunity Clause’

 

The intensely-watched Hunter Biden case took a dramatic turn this past week as a judge refused to rubberstamp a plea agreement that would have granted Hunter “a sweetheart deal” –an exceptionally lenient agreement that would exempt the president’s son from jail time for alleged tax fraud and other felonies.

A legal loophole called a “diversion agreement” would also let Hunter off the hook for illegal possession of a firearm while drug-addicted.

Under the plea deal terms, carefully negotiated by Hunter’s lawyers and federal prosecutors, Hunter would only be required to serve two years on probation for two tax misdemeanors. He would also have to get a job, remain sober, submit to drug tests, be fingerprinted by the FBI, and not commit other crimes.

His criminal record would also be expunged thirty days after his probation period ends.

In a striking departure from the norm, if Hunter violated the terms of the probation, he would be shielded from prosecution, unless the judge in the case gave permission for the legal action.

Critics slammed the plea deal as “a slap on the wrist, despite voluminous evidence of felony crimes” in the words of a NY Post editorial. Others decried a deal that showcases “a two-tiered system of justice,” one that favor well-connected or wealthy defendants with exceptionally lenient sentences, while subjecting ordinary Americans to the full measure of the law.

 

Hunter’s ‘Free Pass’ Hit a Glitch   

Perhaps most importantly, the plea deal would have awarded Hunter Biden sweeping immunity from prosecution over a wide range of alleged federal crimes that have recently seized the spotlight. Some of the most serious allegations implicate not only Hunter but other Biden family members including President Joe Biden.

The charges came to light earlier this month through the testimony of FBI and IRS whistleblowers, first behind closed-doors and then before the full House. The seasoned IRS agents presented shocking allegations of multimillion dollar bribery and money laundering schemes attributed to Hunter Biden in partnership with various foreign nationals in Ukraine, Romania and China.

Most of these allegations would no longer be subject to investigation and prosecution once a judge signed off on the Hunter Biden plea deal, due to a critical clause buried deep in the text, that “The United States agrees not to criminally prosecute [Hunter] Biden . . . for any federal crimes” related to the case.

This sweeping immunity would mean the end of the federal investigation into potential violations of federal law arising from the Bidens’ questionable overseas financial deals.

But in the Wilmington, Delaware federal court where Hunter prepared to plead guilty to two misdemeanors as his part in the plea deal, the plan to give Hunter a ‘free pass’ hit a glitch.

Judge Noreika was bothered by what she called “nonstandard” and “atypical” provisions in the plea deal. She repeatedly expressed skepticism about the scope of the immunity clause, calling it “exceptionally broad.”

Norieka grilled Delaware AUSA Leo Wise over the strange way the lawyers had structured their deal.

‘We looked through a bunch of diversion agreements that we have access to, and we couldn’t find anything that had anything similar to this,’ she said, according to a transcript of the hearing.

“You’re leaving provisions of the plea agreement out [of their proper place,] and putting them into a diversion agreement that you’re not asking me to sign off on. You’re saying I don’t even get to accept it, I guess I’m supposed to rubber stamp it?’ she demanded.

[Legal experts say that such non-prosecution or immunity promises always appear in the plea agreement. But in this case, they were instead ‘hidden’ in the diversion agreement.]

 

Prosecutor Switches Gears on Immunity Clause

In response to insistent questioning from the judge, prosecutor Wise suddenly switched gears, telling Noreika that the immunity clause was not as global as it sounded; it did not extend to the ongoing federal investigation into alleged FARA [Foreign Agents Registration Act] violations by Biden family members.

In other words, Hunter would not be immune from prosecution if his foreign business enterprises were found to have violated federal law.

Wise’s reversal had the impact of a bombshell in the courtroom, prompting immediate objections from a stunned Hunter and defense attorney Chris Clark.

“As the government expressed it, I don’t agree with that statement,” Clark brusquely interjected. “As far as I’m concerned, the plea agreement is null and void. Rip it up, rip it up,” he urged the prosecutorial team, as reported by news outlets that obtained transcripts of the hearing.

The court then recessed for an hour as the two sides plunged into frenzied negotiations in an effort to salvage the plea deal, ultimately hammering out a new arrangement with more limited immunity for Hunter.

Judge Noreika still wasn’t satisfied and declined to ratify the recrafted deal.

“You just want a rubber stamp agreement … I’m not in a position at this point where I can accept or deny a plea,” she told the attorneys. “I have a ton of questions here.  I’m not sure that you’ve brought these plea agreements under the proper statutes. I’m not sure that this is even Constitutional. I need more time and you need to give me more information about how you came to these arrangements and why you think they’re acceptable.”

Noreika deferred any decision on the deal and requested further briefing from both sides within 14 days. Immediately after, the plea agreement was officially abandoned as Biden, in a striking  reversal of the initial plan, entered a “not guilty” plea to all charges.

This put the brakes on any plan in the works to close the DOJ’s investigation. It left Hunter, who was likely expecting to have his plea deal waived through, still saddled with significant tax fraud issues, the illegal weapons charge and allegations of influence-peddling and money-laundering.

 

Spitting in the Face of Justice’ 

Former Assistant US Attorney Will Scharf castigated prosecutors and Hunter’s legal team for allegedly trying to fool Judge Noreika into approving the overly lenient plea deal without proper scrutiny.

“This was a way of hiding the ball both in federal court in Delaware, and in the court of public opinion, to give Hunter Biden a free pass on a decade of criminal activity not covered by the charges in this case,” the former Missouri prosecutor told Daily Mail.

He described the strange construction whereby the broad immunity was buried in the diversion agreement as “crazy,” “totally unique,” – “not something that you would ever see in a court of law in any other circumstance.”

“I believe that this was an effort to insulate Hunter Biden from any future legal liability for just about anything that he has ever done, without them saying that in a document which would be subject to judicial approval,“ Scharf said.

“The idea that he would be effectively let off with two misdemeanor convictions for failure to pay taxes, is spitting in the face of law enforcement, it’s spitting in the face of justice.’

Fox News slammed both Hunter Biden’s legal team and federal prosecutors for keeping the broad immunity provision “hidden” in the middle of the ‘Diversion Agreement.’

Mike Howell, director of the Heritage Foundation’s Oversight Project, said his legal team, which submitted a brief to Noreika ahead of the hearing, revealed the plea deal as “a Trojan Horse for global immunity for Hunter” –a tactic to advance an agenda by keeping it as inconspicuous as possible.

“It wasn’t really about the tax or gun charges, it was about letting him off the hook for any crimes that may arise from running a multi-million dollar influence-peddling scheme with his father…” Howell told the NY Post. “They tried to slip it past the judge.”

“Hunter, his lawyers, and the DOJ came to Delaware to execute that corrupt bargain. They left with nothing,” he said.

Even some liberal news outlets found the DOJ’s double standards and its preferential treatment of Hunter Biden hard to justify. “If Noreika signs off on this odoriferous deal, the result will undercut the very promise of equal justice that sentencing guidelines were created to safeguard, a Washington Post op-ed noted.

“At a minimum, she should summon Attorney General Merrick Garland or another senior Justice Department official to explain how this agreement is conceivably in the public interest,” the article said. “Even better would be to send the parties back to the negotiating table to reach an agreement that won’t cause even ‘sweetheart deals’ to blush.”

 

Republican Leaders Demand Answers from AG Garland

“With the text of the initial plea agreement now public, it’s no longer possible to deny that the Justice Department had been bending over backward to protect the Biden family — including President Joe Biden,” noted the NY Post.

“The hearing’s outcome ensures that Hunter Biden’s legal issues remain swirling around his father as he campaigns for reelection,” wrote the Wall Street Journal. “If anything, there are only more questions now about how these plea agreements were arranged, how the decisions were made by both the Justice Department and the defense team, and what went on behind the scenes.”

These are precisely the questions spelled out in a letter early this week to AG Garland signed by three leading House Republicans: Judiciary Committee Chairman Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, Oversight Committee Chairman James Comer, R-Ky., and Ways and Means Committee Chairman Jason Smith, R-Mo.

“The Department’s unusual plea and diversion agreements with Mr. Biden raise serious concerns — especially when combined with recent whistleblower allegations—that the Department has provided preferential treatment toward Mr. Biden in the course of its investigation and proposed resolution of his alleged criminal conduct,” the letter reads.

The letter asks Garland to answer a list of questions and provide documents and communications about Hunter Biden’s “unusual” plea agreement, precisely how it was crafted, and how the “broad immunity” clause came to be hidden where it didn’t require the judge’s signature and almost escaped notice.

 

Hunter’s Former Business Partner Testifies Before House Oversight Committee

On the heels of Hunter Biden’s plea deal fiasco, Devon Archer, a former business associate and friend of Hunter, sat for hours before the House Oversight Committee in a closed-door hearing Monday, giving testimony about inside information he possessed regarding Hunter’s business enterprises.

He also testified about the extent to which he knew Joe Biden to be involved in them.

Archer, 49, is staring down a yearlong prison sentence for securities fraud. Before his arrest, Archer was one of Hunter Biden’s closest business partners, helping him and his family secure millions of dollars from deals involving Ukraine, China and Russia.

Messages uncovered on Hunter Biden’s discarded laptop computer show his once-close friendship with Archer unraveling in March of 2019, as Archer was trying to overturn his conviction, according to the Washington Times.

Archer sent a series of texts to Hunter Biden, asking him why the Bidens dropped him. “Why did your dad’s administration appointees arrest me and try to put me in jail…and no one from your family’s side step in and at least try to help me?” Archer lamented. His deep disillusionment with Hunter and the Biden family may explain his decision to share what he knows with Congressional committees investigating Hunter’s foreign business dealings.

According to Oversight Committee Chairman Rep. Comer, Archer in his appearance Monday, confirmed that President Biden “lied to the American people when he said he had no knowledge about his son’s business dealings and was not involved.”

On the contrary, “Joe Biden was ‘the brand’ that his son sold around the world to enrich the Biden family,” Comer said, paraphrasing Archer’s testimony.

Archer testified that Hunter Biden put then-Vice President Joe Biden on the speakerphone during business meetings over 20 times—His job was to sell “the brand.” The phone calls and meetings, according to Archer, included a dinner in Paris with a French energy company and in China with Jonathan Li, the CEO of BHR Partners, which was a joint-venture between Hunter Biden’s company, Rosemont Seneca, and a Chinese investment firm

Archer also testified that then-Vice President Biden had coffee with Jonathan Li, the CEO of BHR, in Beijing. Joe Biden even wrote a letter of recommendation for college for Li’s daughter.

According to a Fox News report, Archer corroborated a claim made by a paid FBI informant that Hunter Biden and then-Vice President Biden were each paid a $5 million bribe by Burisma CEO Mykola Zlochevsky to engineer the firing of a Victor Shokin who was investigating the gas company for corruption.

 

Ukrainian Business Partners to Hunter: ‘Get Help From D.C.’

Archer told House committee members that Zlochevsky and Pozharski “placed constant pressure on Hunter Biden to get help from D.C.” in getting Shokin ousted. At the time, Hunter had a highly lucrative role on the company’s board, receiving about $80 thousand a month.

According to the report, Archer testified that on Dec. 4, 2015, Hunter Biden, Zlochevsky and Pozharski “called D.C.” to discuss the matter. At the time, Joe Biden was in charge of U.S.-Ukraine policy for the Obama administration. Just days after the phone call from Hunter and his partners “to D.C.,” Joe Biden traveled to Ukraine and made a speech, declaring that the government needed to weed out corruption, beginning with the Ukrainian prosecutor’s office.

Archer’s testimony supports disclosures from a trusted FBI informant that Joe Biden and Hunter Biden allegedly “coerced” Zlochevsky to pay them millions of dollars in exchange for their help in getting Shokin fired.

Biden has acknowledged, in a videotaped Council of Foreign Relations meeting, that when he was vice president, he successfully pressured Ukraine to fire prosecutor Viktor Shokin. Biden  threatened to withhold $1 billion of critical U.S. aid if Shokin was not fired. The threats produced immediate results, the told the Council of Foreign Relations.

“I looked at them and said: ‘I’m leaving in six hours. If the prosecutor is not fired, you’re not getting the money.’ Well, what do you know, he got fired!” Joe Biden bragged to his audience.

Rep. Comer said the House Oversight Committee “will continue to follow the Bidens’ money trail and interview witnesses to determine whether foreign actors targeted the Bidens, President Biden is compromised and corrupt, and our national security is threatened.”

 

*****

Judge Threatens to Sanction Hunter’s Attorneys After Sneaky Attempt to Remove Whistleblower Docs from Court Docket

On the very eve of the hearing, Rep. Smith filed an amicus brief in the U.S. District Court in Delaware containing key portions of the IRS whistleblower transcripts, to ensure the judge received all the facts uncovered by the Oversight Committee before she considered the plea agreement. These filings included allegations of felony tax crimes not addressed in the plea deal.

“Rep. Smith took this action after AG Merrick Garland and U.S. Attorney David Weiss refused to file the materials in the court record as he requested,” reported the Ways and Means Committee in a statement.

Shockingly, soon after Smith’s lawyer completed the filings, Hunter Biden’s defense counsel appears to have called the Court Clerk’s office and request the removal of the amicus materials from the court docket before the judge could review them.

According to a report in Politico, Judge Noreika, based on information received from the Clerk’s Office, accused the caller—an attorney named Jessica Bengels—of impersonating someone from Rep. Smith’s law firm and making the request in the firm’s name.

“During the call, Bengels asked that Rep. Smith’s filing be removed from the public docket due to sensitive information in it,” the judge wrote in her order. “It appears that the caller misrepresented her identity and who she worked for, in an attempt to improperly convince the Clerk’s Office to remove the amicus materials from the docket.”

The judge ordered Biden’s legal team to explain why she should not issue formal sanctions “for misrepresentations to the Court,” the Politico article said. “She also ordered attorneys to henceforth raise issues with her directly, not with the court clerk.”

“The Clerk’s Office for this Court is staffed by many hardworking and dedicated employees,” the judge wrote in her order. “They have earned my trust and my respect. I will not tolerate or countenance them being ill-used, disrespected or lied to.”

Hunter’s attorneys denied that Bengels misrepresented herself, arguing there must have been an “unfortunate and unintentional miscommunication” between Bengels and the court staff.

No one disputes, however, that Bengels attempted to have the whistleblower documents filed by the opposing side illegally removed from the docket—an apparently desperate move by Hunter’s defense counsel that suggests a case poised to fall apart.

 

*****


The DOJ’s Catch-22

People in the courtroom during the plea deal hearing reacted in shock when Assistant U.S. Attorney Wise suddenly “broke the picket line,” backing down on blanket immunity for Hunter. After playing a pivotal role in crafting the plea deal together with Hunter’s attorneys, why would he suddenly go off script when questioned by Judge Noreika?

A possible reason is that he found himself in a strange catch-22 after Judge Noreika’s intense scrutiny of the broad immunity clause, and her queries about whether FARA violations would be covered by that immunity.

Apparently, no one expected the judge to take much notice of the clause, much less kick up a fuss about it. Judges tend to honor plea deals worked out between federal prosecutors and defendants. But it seems the parties underestimated this judge.

According to the NY Post, the transcripts show that the judge was made aware only a few hours before the hearing began of the immunity clause improperly wedged into the diversion agreement. The bizarreness of its location apparently galvanized her to relentlessly question the attorneys until she drew out the truth.

If she had accepted the plea deal with its sweeping immunity, it would mean the Justice Department would have no need to continue the investigation into Hunter’s alleged misdeeds, allowing federal officials to steer clear of anything that might implicate President Biden.

Yet shutting down the probe would eliminate the only rationale the DOJ has for refusing to answer questions from Congress about whether they obstructed the IRS investigation, blocked agents from pursuing leads against Biden family members, and showed preferential treatment to Hunter, as the whistleblowers claim.

Without the excuse of an ongoing investigation, U.S. Attorney David Weiss would have to accede to the Judiciary Committee’s request to not only turn over all communications about the Biden probe as requested, but to appear himself before the committee to answer questions, writes the NY Post.

Insist on broad immunity in the plea deal and thereby shield Hunter and possibly his father from further investigation? Or settle for limited immunity in order to shield the Justice Department from transparency before Congress with the argument of “an ongoing investigation?”

Assistant U.S. Attorney Leo Wise apparently chose the latter, setting in motion the unraveling of the botched plea agreement.  The parties are now back to the drawing board, hammering out the fate of Hunter Biden once again.

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