Hunter Biden, son of Democratic President Joe Biden, will likely avoid prison under the terms of a plea deal unveiled on Tuesday, June 20. The younger Biden has agreed to plead guilty to two misdemeanor counts of failing to pay federal taxes in excess of $200,000 in a timely manner. In exchange, the US Department of Justice (DOJ) will recommend probation for the tax charges and has agreed not to prosecute a separate felony firearm offense.
This is just the latest salvo in the tit-for-tat war of investigation and counterinvestigation being waged by the two capitalist parties as they jockey for an electoral edge in 2024. News of the deal came just one week after the arraignment of former President Donald Trump on federal espionage and obstruction of justice charges. These court battles are a further indication that fights between competing factions of the ruling class can no longer be contained within traditional political channels.
The plea bargain came under immediate attack from Republican House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, Joe Biden’s recent dance partner in the debt-ceiling negotiations. Earlier this month, the two agreed to lay the burden of ever-mounting US debt firmly on the working class. But when it comes to Trump and Hunter Biden’s legal problems, relations between the president and speaker are decidedly less friendly. McCarthy compared the two defendants: “If you are the president’s leading political opponent, DOJ tries to literally put you in jail and give you prison time. If you are the president’s son, you get a sweetheart deal.”
Republican presidential candidates also lost no time in denouncing the plea deal as crooked favoritism. As Florida Governor Ron DeSantis said, “If Hunter was not connected to the elite D.C. class, he would have been put in jail a long time ago.” It will surprise nobody that Trump, the current Republican frontrunner, was even more dramatic. Writing on his Truth Social platform, he said, “Wow! The corrupt Biden DOJ just cleared up hundreds of years of criminal liability by giving Hunter Biden a mere ‘traffic ticket.’ Our system is BROKEN!” Even Asa Hutchinson, former Arkansas governor and “moderate” Republican long shot, raised questions about the agreement.
Under the plea deal, not only will Hunter Biden avoid prison for the tax charges, he will also not be prosecuted for lying about his abuse of illegal drugs on the federal government’s background check system. Lying on the application form is a felony punishable by up to five years in prison. The gun case is particularly embarrassing to the elder Biden, who has made expanding background checks a centerpiece of his unsuccessful efforts to combat America’s epidemic of gun violence. In May—around the time of the 300th mass shooting of the year—Hunter Biden’s lawyers caused a stir in liberal circles when they cited a recent pro-gun Supreme Court decision, denounced by his father as an insult to “common sense and the Constitution,” as their legal basis for fighting the firearms charge.
The plea agreement will certainly not end investigations by the Republican-controlled House of Representatives into alleged corruption by both Bidens. In fact, the lower house of Congress is preparing to hear testimony from an Internal Revenue Service (IRS) whistleblower. The IRS official is expected to accuse Biden’s Attorney General, Merrick Garland, of interfering with the tax investigation. Garland runs the DOJ, a once venerated institution tracing its history all the way back to a 1789 act of Congress bearing the signature of none other than George Washington.
The perception that Hunter Biden received a mere wrist slap from his father’s DOJ will only exacerbate the growing lack of confidence in the institutions of capitalist rule. Meanwhile, the working class, already suffering under the burdens of inflation, faces the prospect of a new global recession which promises an accelerated decline in standards of living. All this will form the backdrop to the unedifying spectacle of the 2024 presidential election. With no party fighting for the genuine interests of the workers, whoever emerges victorious in November 2024 cannot hope to end the chaos and instability which are the new normality of US and world politics.
The controversy surrounding the President’s son further underscores what Socialist Revolution recently wrote in The Road to the Third American Revolution:
The US ruling class spent centuries building up the institutions of its domination. But a profound crisis of confidence in virtually all of them has seeped into every layer of society … there are mounting fears of a constitutional crisis, which would undermine the legal basis for bourgeois rule …
In fact, Gallup found significant declines in confidence for 11 of 16 institutions tested, with average confidence across all institutions at a new low of 27% … [B]ig business and the criminal justice system stand at 14%, with television news at 11%, and Congress with just 7% confidence.
With each passing day, more and more workers and youth are coming to see institutions like Congress, the DOJ, and the courts not as neutral arbiters, but as mere props undergirding the brutal domination of the ruling class. But this realization is not enough. These decrepit institutions will not be replaced by something better of their own accord. They can only be dismantled through uncompromising class struggle on the basis of a Marxist program culminating in socialist revolution.