Hunter Biden, White House
Hunter Biden in the East Room at the White House in Washington, DC, on July 7, 2022. Photo credit: © Gripas Yuri/Abaca via ZUMA Press

If Hunter Biden’s legal troubles are a sign that federal authorities are aggressively going after privileged tax cheats, then it’s great news. But maybe it’s just the Washington Post getting hoodwinked ahead of an election again.

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When The Washington Post published a story Thursday with the headline “Federal agents see chargeable tax, gun-purchase case against Hunter Biden,” our reaction was: “Awesome!” On balance, this is great for the country.

First, let’s look at all of the positives… and there are plenty.

Most importantly, after former President Donald Trump spent four years trying to weaponize the Department of Justice (DOJ), charging the son of a sitting president would show that this time of interference is over.

It would also shut up the people who are justifying Trump’s behavior by claiming his successor is doing the same thing. That never made much sense, but it is a popular right-wing talking point. Granted, it would be replaced by another right-wing talking point, i.e., that Hunter Biden is a criminal, but at least that one would be deserved.

Of course, there is still the presumption of innocence and all that stuff, but Hunter seems to be a grifter and, pardon our French, quite the fudge up. So, if he did the thing, he should be prosecuted and convicted.

And once the Feds are done with him, they can move on to all of the other rich crooks and tax cheats, starting with Donald Trump and his spawn (as well as his spawn-in-law).

As a rule, Americans should be excited about millionaires being investigated for and charged with tax evasion. In fact, the whole country would be better off if authorities scrutinized the tax records of the one percent the way they seem to be doing here.

That being said, every now and then, a news article comes along that is packed so full of issues that it takes some time to untangle all of them. This is that story, so let’s get to it.

First of all, the Post decided to publish this exclusive in its “National Security” section, which seems odd. Hunter has no role in government (as opposed to, for example, the aforementioned Trump brood), so what gives, Washington Post

We have no idea how the paper’s editors make decisions on what to publish where, but it seems that this story would have been a better fit for the “Health” section because it is certain to cure any erectile dysfunction issues among Fox “News” executives and hosts who will now get to talk about Hunter forever — or at least until the election.

That brings us to the next issue. While we strongly believe that nobody is above the law, especially not privileged white men, and that prosecuting Hunter would have benefits that go way beyond punishing another white-collar tax cheat, there are some issues with this article.

For one, it is an excellent example of the media allowing itself to be used. The timing of this leak is obvious, as is how Fox and others will spin this news. Granted, this is a bit tricky. Journalists should report on stories that are genuinely newsworthy, and the no-good son of a president being in legal trouble certainly is.  

However, knowing that it would get lots of clicks, the Post made too much of it. In addition, and this is more important, a closer look at the “meat” of the article shows that it is much less of a story than it may seem to be.

Let’s look at the first sentence:

Federal agents investigating President Biden’s son Hunter have gathered what they believe is sufficient evidence to charge him with tax crimes and a false statement related to a gun purchase, according to people familiar with the case.

Basically, the story says that cops believe they have enough evidence to put away a bad guy. Well, whoop dee doo. That’s probably how most investigators feel who have been gathering evidence for a couple of years. What the story does not say is whether Hunter will actually be charged. And, again, if there is enough evidence of a crime (and we have no reason to believe there isn’t), then he should be.

But this leak is designed to get Hunter Biden’s name in the news ahead of an election. Essentially, this story is more clickbait than news.

Now people might ask how we can have a problem with this well-timed leak and not, for example, the one involving Georgia Senate candidate Herschel Walker (R). Earlier this week, the Daily Beast reported that the avowed Christian, pro-lifer, and serial impregnator of women to whom he is not married paid for the abortion of one of those women.

Clearly, this leak was also timed to damage Walker ahead of the election. The big difference, of course, is that Hunter Biden is not running for anything (apart, maybe, for “worst son”). He did not choose to be a public figure. Walker, on the other hand, is running for Senate on a conservative platform in a swing state.

There is another thing that is worth mentioning. Here is the Post again:

Initially, the investigation centered around Hunter Biden’s finances related to overseas business ties and consulting work. Over time, investigators with multiple agencies focused closely on whether he did not report all of his income, and whether he lied on gun purchase paperwork in 2018, according to the people familiar with the situation, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss an ongoing case.

The investigation was initiated in 2018, i.e., during a time in which Trump tried to weaponize his Department of Justice — along with various other federal agencies. By this account, it then apparently turned into a fishing expedition that eventually seems to have come up with something.

Again, and we can’t stress this enough — we are all for rich white people being investigated for crimes like tax evasion. 

However, it should not be done selectively. It’s also not ideal to start investigating people for one thing and then charge them with something completely different.

For example, it would also be problematic if the FBI went looking for stolen classified materials at Mar-a-Lago, didn’t find any, but then began investigating Trump for some unrelated extortion scheme that they found evidence for.

So, if you want to put Hunter Biden under this microscope, that’s great. But please do the same with Trump’s kids and every other millionaire in the country.

Finally, per the article, one of the issues investigators are looking into is whether the president’s son made a false statement on a federal form when purchasing a gun. Specifically, at a time when Hunter Biden admitted to using drugs, he answered “no” on a question of whether he did so.

It will be interesting to see whether the National Rifle Association comes to his rescue. After all, the Second Amendment says Hunter’s right to bear arms shall not be infringed. We’re not holding our breath on that last one, though.


  • Klaus Marre

    Klaus Marre is a writer, editor, former congressional reporter, and director of the WhoWhatWhy Mentor Apprentice Program. Follow him on Twitter @KlausMarre.

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