Hunter Biden’s bid to dismiss tax case meets judge’s skepticism

A federal judge pressed a lawyer for the president’s son about the claim that the tax charges represent a selective prosecution.

LOS ANGELES — Hunter Biden’s effort to dismiss the federal tax charges against him got a chilly reception in court on Wednesday, as a federal judge sounded skeptical that the president’s son was a victim of a politically motivated prosecution.

The president’s son was not present in the federal courthouse in downtown Los Angeles, as his defense attorneys, led by Abbe Lowell, put forth a variety of arguments to gut or shut down the case entirely.

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“There is nothing regular about how this case was initiated [and] investigated,” Lowell said, making an overarching argument that Biden has been unfairly targeted by special counsel David Weiss.

But Judge Mark Scarsi, a district judge in California’s Central district, continually pressed Lowell for firmer proof that Biden was subject to selective, vindictive prosecution.

Last year, as the GOP-led House ramped up its scrutiny of the Biden family, two IRS agents publicly alleged that the Justice Department initially gave special treatment to Hunter Biden — an account that both DOJ and Weiss have denied. Biden’s legal team has argued that Republican pressure caused Weiss to bring charges that otherwise would never have been brought.

But Scarsi, an appointee of former President Donald Trump, said during the hearing that “there is no evidence [from the defense] that influenced the prosecutors’ decision here.” The judge asked Lowell whether the defense argument boiled down to “where there’s smoke, there’s fire.”

Scarsi said he would rule on Biden’s various motions to dismiss the case by April 17.

The president’s son has been charged with nine tax offenses, including allegedly failing to file tax returns for three years, inflating his business expenses and understating his income.

Weiss alleges that Biden claimed personal spending, such as his daughter’s tuition, luxury hotel stays and payments to an escort, as business expenses in order to lower his tax burden.

Weiss has also charged Biden in a separate criminal case in Delaware with illegally possessing a firearm as a drug user.

The two cases follow the collapse of a deal between Biden and the Justice Department last summer. Biden was prepared to plead guilty to two misdemeanor tax offenses and likely avoid punishment on a felony gun charge.

The agreement quickly unraveled after a federal judge in Delaware raised concern about its scope. Attorney General Merrick Garland ultimately appointed Weiss as special counsel, giving him increased authority to oversee the probes. Weiss was present in the courtroom on Wednesday but did not join in the arguments.

Biden’s legal team has mounted a wide-ranging effort to halt the cases, filing motions in both states to dismiss the charges. Wednesday marked the first time those arguments were argued before a judge.

In California, the nine motions from the defense included questioning the propriety of the appointment of the special counsel, as well as seeking to transfer the case out of California.

The most protracted argument centered around whether the “pretrial diversion agreement,” which was part of the overall deal with the Justice Department, was still in effect, therefore making Biden immune from prosecution.

Leo Wise, one of the government prosecutors, dismissed the defense’s arguments as “revisionist history,” while another, Derek Hines, said it was “absolutely outrageous” to allege the department was following the lead of Trump or other partisan figures.

Scarsi, who kept a poker face for much of the roughly three-hour hearing, was most vocal with his misgivings with the defense’s assertion that prosecutors were bending to outside pressure.

The judge questioned whether Lowell could prove that the political circus building around Biden had forced the Justice Department’s hand.

“I don’t have transparency,” Lowell replied, arguing he could not divine the prosecutors’ motives. “What I have is the type of evidence that [a prosecutor] goes to a jury with every week and says ‘you can connect the dots.’”

Scarsi pushed back, asking plainly “is there evidence that pressure from outside entity influenced the prosecution?” The defense’s argument, he noted, rested on a timeline detailing the political clamor surrounding Biden in the months leading to the Justice Department’s decision to file new charges.

“It’s a timeline, but it’s a juicy timeline,” Lowell responded, pointing to Weiss being hauled in front of Congress to testify, among other milestones.