The Biden administration believed that the controversy surrounding Hunter Biden was over. They hoped that by appearing in court, answering questions, and signing paperwork, the issue would be resolved. While Republicans may continue to raise concerns, they believed the real danger had passed. However, things did not go as planned. The collapse of the plea agreement and the appointment of a special counsel has breathed new life into the criminal investigation involving Hunter Biden. This could extend the scandal for months, just as President Biden is preparing for his re-election campaign. The White House may find it harder to dismiss the questions surrounding Hunter Biden’s conduct as politically motivated, and the issue may gain more attention from the general public.
It is still unclear if Hunter Biden faces further criminal exposure beyond the tax and gun charges originally brought against him. It is possible that the decision to appoint a special counsel means there is more potential legal trouble stemming from his business dealings with foreign firms. However, this may ultimately have less impact than it seems. The special counsel’s announcement to abandon the plea agreement could mean that the case could be taken to trial in states other than Delaware, where Hunter Biden’s case is currently being handled. Some analysts speculate that requesting special counsel status is a way to empower the prosecutor to prosecute the case outside of Delaware.
Even if the impact is limited, a trial involving Hunter Biden could prove distracting and embarrassing for the White House and provide more ammunition for Republicans. The president’s advisers are frustrated and resigned to months of additional scrutiny. While they may not be alarmed by the prospect of a wider investigation, they see it as unwelcome news for the president’s re-election campaign.
The appointment of David C. Weiss as special counsel did not resolve the criticism from Republicans. They argue that the choice of Weiss is evidence of a Biden family cover-up and have portrayed him as a lackey of the administration. Their attacks also aim to discredit Weiss if he does not confirm their allegations of corruption against the Biden family. While testimony and news accounts suggest that Hunter Biden used his name to make money, there is no evidence that President Biden personally benefited or used his power to benefit his son’s business interests.
Some Republicans argue that the appointment of Weiss as special counsel shows that there is more than just smoke surrounding the investigation. They believe it is significant that the Biden administration’s own attorney general acknowledged the need for a special counsel. This adds complexity to the issue and makes it harder to dismiss as solely a Republican or MAGA-related controversy.
The Friday afternoon announcement by Attorney General Garland was an unwelcome surprise for the White House. Just seven weeks earlier, they believed they had turned a corner with Hunter Biden’s plea agreement. The president’s team celebrated the agreement as a victory over their pursuers during a high-profile state dinner. However, when Hunter Biden showed up in court to finalize the deal, it fell apart under questioning from a judge. The disagreement over what the agreement meant led to an impasse in subsequent negotiations, making a trial the likely next step.
While the cases involving Hunter Biden and former President Trump are not comparable, Republicans have used the controversy to complain about a “two-tier justice system.” A poll conducted in June found that three-quarters of Republicans believed Hunter Biden received preferential treatment, compared to 33 percent of Democrats. However, most voters saw President Biden’s support for his son as him being a good father, and only 26 percent said they were less likely to vote for President Biden as a result of Hunter’s legal troubles.
The president’s strategists argue that attacks on Hunter Biden did not work in the 2020 election or the 2022 midterm elections. They believe the issue has not resonated with crucial voter groups, such as independents and disappointed Democrats. In the coming months, this assumption will be put to the test as Hunter Biden’s trial unfolds alongside the president’s re-election campaign.