Leading House Republicans sent a letter to Attorney General Merrick Garland on Monday seeking more information on the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) plea and pretrial diversion agreements with Hunter Biden. The move comes after the agreements fell apart last week when a U.S. district court judge noticed they were “not standard” and “different” from what is normally presented in such scenarios.
“Given recent unusual events relating to the Department’s plea and pretrial diversion agreements with Mr. Biden, we write to better understand the Department’s decision to sign off on such apparently atypical agreements,” the letter reads.
As The Federalist’s Margot Cleveland reported, Hunter originally pled guilty to two misdemeanor tax counts and signed onto a pretrial diversion agreement with the DOJ regarding a felony firearms offense last month. While the latter charge typically “holds a maximum of 10 years in jail and a $250,000 fine,” the deal struck with the DOJ allowed Hunter to avoid prosecution so long as he “forsakes his drug-plagued lifestyle for 24 months and never owns a gun again.”
During last week’s Delaware court hearing on the matter, Judge Maryellen Noreika raised serious legal concerns about the pretrial diversion agreement. As noted in House Republicans’ Monday letter, Noreika specifically questioned federal prosecutors on paragraph 14 of the pretrial diversion agreement. Typically, if the Justice Department finds a defendant has violated his pretrial diversion agreement, the DOJ itself can press charges without a green light from the district court. Paragraph 14 of Hunter’s agreement, however, essentially reasons that unless Noreika discovers “the pretrial diversion agreement has been breached, ‘no criminal charges can be pursued [against Mr. Biden] for the gun charge or any other federal charge within the scope of the agreement not to be prosecuted.'”
When Noreika pressed whether prosecutors “ha[d] any authority that any Court has ever accepted … or said that they would” agree to such a deal, a special assistant U.S. attorney replied, “No.”
“[T]he government does not have discretion to continue to pursue this charge or any other charge unless you include the Court. And that seems like it’s getting outside of my lane in terms of what I am allowed to do,” Noreika said. “I asked if there is any precedent for this, I was told no. I was asked if there is any authority for this, I was told no.”
Noreika further scrutinized paragraph 15 of the pretrial agreement, which guarantees that the DOJ wouldn’t criminally prosecute Hunter for other federal crimes, such as those related to the Foreign Agent Registration Act. As former federal prosecutor Will Scharf wrote in these pages, federal prosecutors were essentially attempting to “insulate Hunter’s plea from judicial oversight — and the possibility of judicial rejection” by burying such an arrangement in the pretrial diversion agreement, which they argued Noreika “was not a party to and therefore lacked the power to reject.”
When Noreika once again asked if there was a precedent at the DOJ for allowing this type of agreement, which has “nothing to do with the case or the charges being diverted,” the special assistant U.S. attorney responded, “I’m not aware of any.”
Hunter ultimately pleaded not guilty to the charges.
“The Department’s unusual plea and pretrial diversion agreements with Mr. Biden raise serious concerns — especially when combined with recent whistleblower allegations — that the Department has provided preferential treatment toward Mr. Biden in the course of its investigation and proposed resolution of his alleged criminal conduct,” House Republicans’ letter reads.
In addition to asking a series of questions related to Hunter’s case and prior DOJ pretrial diversion agreements, Republicans are also requesting Garland provide House committees with records related to the DOJ’s prior use of pretrial diversion agreements, a “generalized description of the nature” of the DOJ’s “ongoing investigation(s) concerning Hunter,” and an explanation on why the agency “agreed to a plea agreement if other investigation(s) concerning Hunter Biden are ongoing” by Aug. 14.