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After the Department of Justice (DOJ) secured a guilty plea from Hunter Biden to two misdemeanor counts of tax evasion, some commentators contrasted the DOJ’s treatment of the president’s son with that of former Trump 2016 campaign chair Paul Manafort.
Much like Hunter Biden, Manafort, a career campaign operative, had his foreign business dealings scrutinized by the government. But unlike Manafort’s, the indictment of Biden reveals nothing about his foreign business dealings.
According to GOP congressional investigations, Biden and his business partners operated dozens of shell companies that appeared to be designed to obfuscate movements of money from people and entities with ties to foreign governments, including those of China and Ukraine.
“Since the FBI’s investigation into Hunter Biden began nearly five years ago, I and my colleagues in Congress have uncovered extensive government and bank records indicative of money laundering as well as foreign business schemes that, in any other circumstance, would raise serious criminal and counterintelligence concerns,” commented Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) in a release. “Hunter’s laptop, which the FBI has had since 2019, contains records corroborating much of this evidence, as well as evidence of other serious criminal violations.”
Republican lawmakers stressed that they haven’t been able to find a legitimate business of Hunter Biden’s—neither product nor service—save for his ability to facilitate access to and potentially favors from his father, especially during Joe Biden’s terms as vice president.
Yet the indictment, at barely two pages, offers no detail on Hunter Biden’s activities. It merely states that he “willfully” failed to pay somewhere above $200,000 in taxes on income exceeding $3 million from 2017 and 2018—charges so light he may avoid prison altogether. It mentions nothing about what made the behavior willful, not to mention where the money came from, or even exactly how much money was involved.
Biden also faced a separate charge for illegal gun possession, but was allowed to resolve it through pre-trial diversion, a program that allows him to avoid both incarceration and a criminal record.
By contrast, Manafort’s 2017 indictment spent 30 pages describing in detail how he hid from tax collectors millions of dollars in foreign bank accounts. It explained where the money came from—Russia-aligned Ukrainian politicians and entities. It listed companies Manafort used to transfer the money. It listed individual transactions. It even specified that Manafort used the money to buy “luxury goods and services for himself and his extended family.”
Manafort was hit with charges of failing to register as a foreign agent, lying, conspiracy to commit said crimes, as well as a conspiracy to launder money. He was sentenced to more than 7 years in prison. Courts also ordered his cash and property confiscated. President Donald Trump pardoned him in 2020.
Conservative commentator Tucker Carlson scoffed at the charges against Hunter Biden, calling them “pretty much nothing.” He noted the government’s willingness to go after people in Trump’s orbit for violating the Foreign Agent Registration Act (FARA), but not after Biden.
“If it was a fair system, Hunter Biden would be first on the list of those next to be charged with the FARA violation. In fact, many of them,” he said during his June 20 show.
Trump adviser Stephen Miller also used the Manafort comparison.
“They gave Manafort the equivalent of a life prison term for alleged tax improprieties,” he said in a tweet, complaining that the DOJ is “shielding” the Bidens.
President Biden, responding to shouted questions from reporters about his son’s plea deal, replied with six words: “I’m very proud of my son.”