Special counsel indicts Hunter Biden

Hunter Biden after a court appearance on Wednesday, July 26, in Wilmington, Delaware.
Hunter Biden after a court appearance on Wednesday, July 26, in Wilmington, Delaware. Julio Cortez/AP/FILE

President Joe Biden’s son, Hunter Biden, has been indicted by special counsel David Weiss in connection with a gun he purchased in 2018, the first time in US history the Justice Department has charged the child of a sitting president.

The three charges include making false statements on a federal firearms form and possession of a firearm as a prohibited person.

Here’s what to know:

What led up to the indictment: Weiss has been leading the Hunter Biden investigation since late 2018. The probe appeared to be winding down in June when Weiss announced a two-pronged agreement under which Biden would plead guilty to two federal tax misdemeanors, and enter into a “diversion agreement” where the gun charge would be dropped in two years if he passed regular drug tests and stayed out of legal trouble.

But at a court hearing in July, the deals collapsed under scrutiny from the federal judge overseeing the case. Weiss was granted special counsel privileges in August.

Gun was purchased in 2018: Hunter Biden’s gun-related legal troubles relate to a firearm he purchased in October 2018 and possessed for about 11 days. While buying a revolver at a Delaware gun shop, he lied on a federal form when he swore that he was not using, and was not addicted to, any illegal drugs. Prosecutors allege he was struggling with crack cocaine addiction at the time of the purchase.

These are the charges: The three-count indictment was handed up Thursday by a federal grand jury in Delaware, according to court filings.

  • Count One accuses Hunter Biden of lying on an ATF form when he bought the gun, by falsely swearing that he wasn’t addicted to illegal drugs or using illegal drugs.
  • Count Two accuses Hunter Biden of lying to the federally licensed gun dealer in Wilmington where he bought the gun. The alleged lie was related to the same sworn statement on the ATF form.
  • Count Three accuses Hunter Biden of illegally possessing a gun while using drugs or being addicted to drugs, which is a federal crime. He possessed the gun for 11 days in 2018.

What Hunter Biden’s lawyers are saying: His lawyer, Abbe Lowell, blasted the indictment as politically motivated. “As expected, prosecutors filed charges today that they deemed were not warranted just six weeks ago following a five-year investigation into this case,” Lowell said in a statement. 

What could happen next: Hunter Biden is currently in California, a source familiar told CNN, adding that any plan for a self-surrender or initial appearance, including the date and location, still needs to be worked out. If convicted on all counts, he could face up to 25 years in prison and fines of up to $750,000, according to court filings.

In addition to the gun case, Weiss is still weighing whether to charge Biden with tax crimes. He said in a court filing last month that “a trial is now in order” on the tax offenses and that he “may bring tax charges” possibly in California or Washington, DC.

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