Here is the column:
The reported plea bargain for Hunter Biden was of little surprise to many of us. Indeed, a year ago, I described these very counts as a way to carry out a “controlled demolition” of this scandal.
Hunter Biden is, on many levels, a hapless figure of a man, devoured by destructive addictions and appetites. Yet the most tragic aspect of Hunter’s life may be his apparent role as the designated defendant of the Biden family. He allegedly became the conduit for what House Republican investigators say was potentially millions of dollars from influence-peddling, including possible payments to his uncle, the widow of his deceased brother, and even Biden grandchildren.
In the law, the “designated defendant” is often a chump who is given some impressive title, a good salary, and the authority to sign reports or filings for a corporation.
Hunter was clearly more than a simple dupe, but he never had much to offer beyond his name and access to his father.
Many have noted that Hunter Biden was an implausible business associate or board member to be working with various foreign companies. He had lived a life that was a toxic mix of nepotism and narcotics, by his own admission. According to his 2021 memoir, during the period when foreign companies were clamoring to give him millions of dollars, he was “drinking a quart of vodka a day” and “smoking crack around the clock.” He kept up that self-destructive lifestyle, he said, until his father’s 2020 presidential campaign began.
When Hunter’s world began to collapse financially, his uncle, James (who has been implicated in influence-peddling in news reports and by House investigators) rushed to assure him that he and his father were arranging a “safe harbor” for him, according to one media report. The alarm over Hunter cutting off contact was understandable as a family matter in dealing with a relative with a history of drug addiction. Yet Hunter also potentially represented something of a threat to a family that has long been accused of influence-peddling.
Hunter has relied on his family and his father’s political associates to protect him. He reportedly paid his delinquent taxes with the help of a wealthy friend; other unnamed individuals paid huge sums for his art work.
When Hunter’s gun disappeared near a school and local authorities were investigating, the Secret Service mysteriously showed up at a gun shop and asked for the paperwork tying him to the gun.
When Hunter lost a laptop reportedly filled with incriminating emails detailing criminal conduct with drugs, as well as alleged evidence of influence-peddling, national security experts rushed forward to declare it was likely to be Russian disinformation. Much of the media joined with an effective news blackout of the story. The FBI then allegedly sat on the laptop and did not appear to do a thing to investigate further.
At every juncture, the wayward son of Joe Biden seems to be snatched from the jaws of disaster.
Now, at the center of a swirling scandal of alleged influence-peddling, Hunter has emerged with a plea that brings a new meaning to the word “bargain.”
He will plead guilty to two minor misdemeanor tax counts and a phantom felony count that will go away in time.
Yet this may be the most vital role that Hunter has played for his family. He will declare himself guilty so the media and the political establishment can declare the scandal to be a closed matter: Nothing more to see here, other than a plea to a couple misdemeanors.
This is why betting against the Bidens in a corruption scandal is like betting for The Generals against the Harlem Globetrotters. The plea agreement already is being heralded by the Biden team as the final resolution of any Hunter Biden investigation.
The hope is that Hunter takes the hit for the family. He will avoid jail time, and his father can avoid a political scandal.
In his memoir, Promises to Keep, Joe Biden wrote about how he once asked Hunter, “What do you want to be when you grow up?”
Hunter responded, “I want to be important.”
Like much else about Hunter’s life, that statement now seems tragic on a Shakespearean level. Hunter allegedly was key to bringing in millions of dollars in exchange for influence with and access to his father. He is now taking a plea to tie off a scandal threatening his family. He is the designated defendant who will stand in the dock and take the hit. In that perfect Bidenesque moment, he will plead guilty to not paying taxes but avoid answering questions on how he made his money.
The plea deal also avoids the charge that the White House most feared: a violation of the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA). Despite the striking similarities with the past FARA cases, like that of Paul Manafort, there is no allegation that Hunter was an illegal foreign agent. If this is the final “resolution” as claimed by Hunter’s counsel, it also is the ideal resolution for the Biden family.
Hunter has finally achieved his childhood dream. There is a host of people, from his family to foreign officials around the world, who will bear witness to that. Hunter Biden finally is important.
Jonathan Turley, an attorney, constitutional law scholar and legal analyst, is the Shapiro Chair for Public Interest Law at The George Washington University Law School.