Hunter Biden’s past casts a permanent shadow over Joe Biden

For Republicans hoping to defeat Joe Biden in 2024, the president’s son Hunter is something of a golden goose that keeps on giving.

The First Son and his insalubrious past have led to both criminal charges and an impeachment inquiry in the same week.
And they will cast a permanent shadow over his father’s re-election bid as he gears up for a potential 2024 rematch against Donald Trump.

Hunter, 53, was indicted on Thursday by special counsel David Weiss on three federal charges relating to owning a gun for 11 days allegedly while abusing drugs in 2018.

It is the first-ever prosecution of a serving president’s offspring, an extraordinary move that could put him on trial during next year’s campaign. If convicted, he could face up to 25 years in prison.

It comes hot on the heels of Republicans opening an impeachment inquiry into the elder Mr Biden and his potential ties to Hunter’s lucrative business deals.

In politically embarrassing public hearings, they plan to substantiate their claims of a “culture of corruption” around the Bidens.

It leaves the president facing the prospect of having the Biden name sullied both in court and Congress as he fights for a second term next year.

The White House dismissed the impeachment inquiry as a “political stunt” and had plotted to attack any findings in the same vein.

A war council of lawyers, legislative experts and communications professionals has been assembled to argue that point, and initially appeared confident of success.

Just a day ago, a White House spokesman wrote to US media outlets cautioning them on their coverage of proceedings “based on lies”. But the criminal case against Hunter has stunted that line of attack and instead added legitimacy to the probes in Congress.

Republicans have long argued Hunter was being offered a “sweetheart deal” to avoid jail on tax and gun charges. That deal collapsed over the summer when it emerged Mr Weiss had not ruled out charging the president’s son with further alleged crimes following a five-year investigation.

Mr Weiss has since requested and received special counsel status, giving him expanded powers to continue the case. He may exercise those to revive the charges relating to two minor tax offences, and has signalled he could also bring charges relating to Hunter’s work for foreign interests.

Hunter’s team has indicated they will vigorously fight the charges, and the lengthy court drama could divert attention away from Mr Trump’s own legal woes.

The Republican frontrunner may be relishing the prospect. Reacting to the news, he suggested it was the inevitable consequence of the Democrats’ “unfair… witch hunts”.

‘‘They have opened the proverbial Pandora’s Box,” he crowed.

And yet, Hunter’s criminal jeopardy undercuts Mr Trump’s argument that his own prosecution is politically motivated.

The president’s Justice Department is now aggressively pursuing his son as well as his most likely 2024 opponent.

Biden allies have pointed out that indictments for cases like Hunter’s alleged gun violation are exceedingly rare.

Republicans are primed to seize the moment. In the words of James Comer, one of the Republicans leading Mr Biden’s impeachment inquiry, this is just the “start”.

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