CNN Is Annoyed About Republicans’ Reaction to Hunter Plea Deal

June 22nd, 2023 10:38 AM

Wednesday morning’s CNN News Central featured a slew of guests to complain about the Republican response to the specifics of the Hunter Biden plea deal, and to present their own opinions on the deal as well. Anchors Kate Bolduan and Sara Sidner brought on CNN senior legal affairs correspondent Paula Reid, “It’s Complicated” podcast host Renato Mariotti, former federal prosecutor Shan Wu, and former U.S. attorney Michael Moore to rail about how “absolutely not true” Republicans were because they “paint the whole thing as a sham.”

Paula Reid’s complaint was that Republicans had “put a lot of energy and time into” discussing Hunter Biden’s legal issues, and that this was superfluous because the “Trump-appointed U.S. attorney” had “narrowed this case down” to several relatively insignificant charges. She emphasized how the plea deal for the tax misdemeanor charges was absolutely normal, but the gun charge itself was abnormal. She attributed this abnormality to how it was “uncommon to be prosecuted at a federal level for failing to disclose addiction on the form when you purchase a firearm.”

Yes, it may be abnormal to pursue such charges, but it’s also rather abnormal to have a case in which there is proof in the accused’s own words, both in an autobiographical book and on social media, that he was addicted to narcotics during the exact period of time in which he had purchased the gun. Reid may want to consider that.



Mariotti raised a row over how Hunter Biden’s family connections actually made his treatment “harsher than the treatment that a typical person would receive,” which both Wu and Moore agreed with. Mariotti said that he didn’t “recall ever seeing misdemeanor tax charges on their own” in such a big case, and that the gun charges that had been brought were very rare as standalones as well.

He did call the DOJ’s inability to come up with any real charges “a failure of an investigation,” on their part. However, he then went on to say that “there’s no evidence…of other crimes that were passed up by the prosecutor,” which he acknowledged would be the only way that this case could “be a benefit to Hunter Biden.”

Mariotti seemed to imply that the DOJ should simply not have investigated Hunter’s activities at all, since the charges that they left him with were a “failure,” and no other possible charges were evident.

Shan Wu also put his two cents in, declaring that “if his last name was not Biden, I don’t even think he would’ve been charged” for the charges that Hunter was receiving. He supported this in his Daily Beast article on the matter, where he also said that Attorney General Merrick Garland, who was overseeing the case, “would be doing the country and tax payers a big favor if he simply pulled the plug on any further investigation into Hunter Biden.”

Again, CNN hosted a request to stop investigating the possibly criminal actions of a particular man, simply because he is the President’s son, and had apparently been “getting the short end of the stick on this because it’s such a high-profile case” (a.k.a., because he is the President’s son).

Moore provided a last word on the matter when he described how Republicans would never have been happy with the outcome of the case anyways:

But you’re not—you’re never gonna satisfy the other side, I mean if they’d given him life in prison, you’d b—they’d be asking, “Why didn’t they cut his head off, with the guillotine?” or something. The—the—there’s nothing to this, and they’re just trying to make much ado about nothing.

In this case, comparing the American Republican Party to the 18th century French revolutionaries, who guillotined the elite classes and whoever else they didn’t like during one of the bloodiest periods of that country’s history, and all in the name of “Liberty, Equality, Fraternity.” This comparison is not at all appreciated.

This misinformation was brought to you by Subway and PC Matic. Contact them via their linked contact information and let them know that this is what they're supporting.

Transcript of the segments below (click Expand):

CNN News Central


9:17 AM ET

KATE BOLDUAN: Republicans are now responding to the details coming out about Hunter Biden's plea deal on federal tax offenses. And, they don't like it.

If a judge approves the deal, Hunter Biden would likely be sentenced to probation for misdemeanor counts related to failing to pay taxes in 2017 and 2018. He would also avoid further prosecution on a separate felony charge of illegally possessing a firearm. No jail time.

In his first com—in his first comments about his son's guilty plea, President Biden, he said that he's “very proud” of his son. But elected Republicans, including House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, they paint the whole thing as a sham, really, calling it a “sweetheart deal” and “evidence of bias” at the Justice Department.

Let me bring in CNN's Paula Reid. She's got more on this. And, Paula, Attorney General Merrick Garland, he just talked about—he just talked about this Hunter Biden case. What did he say?

PAULA REID: That's right, Kate. He is traveling. He's in Stockholm attending a conference. He was asked about the outcome of the Hunter Biden investigation.

Let's take a listen to what he said.


MERRICK GARLAND: As I said from the moment of my appointment as Attorney General, I would leave this matter in the hands of the United States attorney, who was appointed by the previous president, and assigned to this matter by the previous administration, that he would be given full authority to decide the matter as he decided was appropriate. And that's what he's done, and if you have any further questions about that matter, you should direct them to the U.S. attorney to explain his decision.


REID: And, of course, he's referring to David Weiss, who was appointed by former President Trump. And he's pushing back here once again on criticism that the Justice Department is playing political favorites by emphasizing the fact that this was overseen by an independent prosecutor.

Now, of course, Hunter Biden's legal and personal problems have been something that Republicans have put a lot of energy and time into, especially trying to tie them to his father. But here, in the Justice Department's investigation, after five years, a Trump-appointed U.S. attorney, with all the resources of the Justice Department, who looked at everything, from possible foreign lobbying to money laundering, narrowed this case down to just two misdemeanor tax violations and a possible gun charge.

And as part of this deal, Hunter Biden will plead guilty to failing to pay his taxes on time. In 2017 and 2018, according to prosecutors, he failed to pay about $100,000 each year by the IRS deadline.

Now, he has subsequently paid those taxes, plus fees and penalties, and the Justice Department will recommend probation.

Now, on the gun charge, he can actually avoid that if he follows through with some court-ordered requirements. That will be expunged.

Now, Kate, a lot of folks have asked, well, is this what would happen to anyone else? And it does appear, in talking to former federal prosecutors and looking at previous cases, that for the tax offenses, yes. I mean for a case like this when it's your first time, having this result in a plea deal to misdemeanors, does appear to be very common.

When it comes to the gun charge, though, it's very uncommon to be prosecuted at the federal level for failing to disclose addiction on the form when you purchase a firearm. A recent Supreme Court case expanded Second Amendment rights. And, Kate, there's another case that's working its way through the appeals court that could make it even harder to bring a case like that.

So it does not appear that this is a sweetheart deal, but that question will be up to a judge because all of this is subject to their approval.

BOLDUAN: Yeah. And—and it seems what is also becoming very clear in this, as we wait for that judge's approval, if it does come, is the legal realm and the political realm as it is very much all intertwined here, are two very different things.

It's great to see you, Paula. Thank you. Sara.

SARA SIDNER: All right, joining us now is former federal prosecutor Renato Mariotti. Thank you so much for joining us.

Let's just get straight to it. Is this a sweetheart deal? You have Hunter Biden, who didn't pay his taxes on time for 2018 and 2017. Is this any different, what he is doing than what would happen to the average American?

RENATO MARIOTTI: It's different but not in the way you might expect. I think it's actually harsher than the treatment that a typical person would receive. So, I've charged misdemeanor tax charges that are just like the ones here, in other words, a mi—it's a—we talk a lot of times, the public might talk about tax evasion, and think of all crimes as tax—tax crimes as tax evasion. Tax evasion’s a very specific felony charge where you are actively trying to deceive the government, deceive the IRS. Usually that's the sort of crime that is charged in a tax case. That or tax fraud.

And when I've brought these misdemeanor-type charges just for failing to pay or failing to file your tax return, I usually use those as a backstop in a more serious case. You'd throw them in just in case the jury was split on some of the other counts. I don't recall ever seeing misdemeanor tax charges on their own. I'm sure it's happened, but it's—it’s the exception rather than the rule, it's pretty rare. The Justice Department rarely works on cases in order to generate a misdemeanor tax charge. I would consider that a failure of an investigation.

Similarly, you know, the gun charge, I have never seen that gun charge brought before. Usually the types of gun charges that are brought are felon in possession where—or a firearm used in the—in the—in the course of committing a violent crime or a drug trafficking crime. I've talked to other former federal prosecutors and they've had a similar reaction.

SIDNER: Let me ask you, is there any chance the judge decides not to take this plea deal? And that would be pretty unusual, would it not?

MARIOTTI: Yes. And there's no evidence that there's—at least that I'm aware of—of other crimes that were passed up by the prosecutor. That would really be the only way in which this would be a benefit to Hunter Biden.

SIDNER: Alright…

10:28 AM ET

SNIDER: Republican presidential candidates on the campaign trail are sounding off about Hunter Biden's plea deal with the Justice Department, a plea deal most legal experts say is not out of the ordinary. If a judge approves the plea deal, the president's son would likely be sentenced to probation for misdemeanor counts of failing to pay his two hun—2017 and 2018 taxes on time. Biden had owed at least $100,000 in federal taxes both years, but failed to pay by the deadlines. The plea deal would also allow Biden to avoid a separate felony gun charge.

Now, after the deal was announced, as you might imagine, former President Trump, facing far more serious charges of his own, posted on Truth Social, accusing the Justice Department of giving Biden “a mere traffic ticket” and saying the system is “broken.”

Across the board, a similar sentiment among Republican presidential candidates, many of them saying the Hunter Biden deal, once again, proves the Justice Department is unfairly targeting Republicans.


GOV. RON DESANTIS (R-FL): Two different sets of rules depending on whether you're a member in good standing of elite society or not. If Hunter were a Republican, he would have been in jail years ago.

MIKE PENCE: I, like tens of millions of Americans, is concerned, as I said on that prior program, about a two- tiered system of justice, like one set of rules for Republicans and one set of rules for Democrats. And with all the issues that continue to swirl around the Biden family…

SEN. TIM SCOTT (R-SC): We are not happy about the fact that the kid gloves are back on for the Biden family. This DOJ continues to hunt Republicans and protect Democrats. I can’t think of anything more blatant.


SNIDER: Absolutely not true. Attorney General Merrick Garland made clear this morning, saying the Trump-appointed U.S. Attorney assigned to the Hunter Biden case was given full authority to decide the matter as he decided was appropriate.

11:22 AM ET

BOLDUAN: Let me ask you both about Hunter Bi—Hunter Biden’s plea deal, which was announced ye—yesterday. I mean, Shan, the main reaction from Republicans so far is that this—the—in their views shows a double standard in—when it comes to justice—ju—the judicial system, that Hunter Biden got off easy because of who his father is.

I wanna play this for you.


REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA): If you are the leading opponent of the President, you’re gonna get jail time. But if you’re the son of the President, you don’t get any jail time.

SEN. TED CRUZ (R-TX): This does not happen if Hunter’s last name is anything other than Biden. If he’s Hunter Smith, he’s doing hard time.


BOLDUAN: Shan, you say that that’s not only inaccurate, I’ve seen when your—what you’ve been writing, but you also actually think that it’s the ac—the opposite of this. Explain.

SHAN WU: Yeah, I think that’s exactly backwards, I mean it’s absolutely important his last name is Biden. If his last name was not Biden, I don’t even think he would’ve been charged. Typically in tax cases where the person has paid back the taxes, appetite for going after him criminally is low.

This is not a monstrous amount of taxes, there were only about 100,000 underpaid in these two years.

And second of all, with regard to the gun application charge, that’s rarely gone after as a standalone unless the gun later got used in some sort of crime.

So I actually think, you know, Biden’s kinda getting the short end of the stick on this because it’s such a high-profile case, the Justice Department is gonna make sure they have some accountability for—to make them look very fair and even-handed.

BOLDUAN: Michael, if this case crossed your desk as U.S attorney, and this was not the President’s son, it was someone else whose—what—what would you have told—what would you have told your team to do?

MICHAEL MOORE: This case would have never come across my desk if I was U.S. attorney, because it’s so low-profile and there’s just nothing to it. Shan is right. Thi—this tax case, I would’ve taken the money, they would’ve been done with it.

The gun case, if we’re gonna start charging people for making some kind of statement on an application about a gun, we be—better build a country full of jails.

But you’re not—you’re never gonna satisfy the other side, I mean if they’d given him life in prison, you’d b—they’d be asking, “Why didn’t they cut his head off, with the guillotine?” or something. The—the—there’s nothing to this, and they’re just trying to make much ado about nothing.

He—I think Shan’s right too, he—he was probably more severely looked at, and remember this was a Trump-appointed prosecutor, who remained in place to finish this case, and I believe he's come out and said, “I had—there was nothing political about this.”

So, I don't know how they're complaining about their own people making a decision in a case that really, had it been anybody else, would never have seen the light of day and certainly wouldn't be, you know, the subject of—of the media scrutiny. So I—you know, he was treated differently, but he was treated differently to his detriment.

BOLDUAN: This is why we bring you guys on. You're the experts. Michael Moore, Shan Wu, thank you both.