By Dan Christensen, FloridaBulldog.org
Hunter Biden’s plea deal on misdemeanor tax charges with the Justice Department has drawn scorn from Republicans who insist the president’s son got a cozy, lenient deal.
“It continues to show the two-tier system in America,” House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) told reporters Tuesday. “If you are the president’s leading political opponent, the DOJ tries to literally put you in jail and give you prison time. But if you are the president’s son, you get a sweetheart deal.”
But McCarthy and numerous other Republican lawmakers who’ve complained about Hunter Biden’s deal, which included his agreeing to enter a pre-trial diversion program for illegally possessing a handgun while he was addicted to drugs, have short, politically convenient memories.
According to the Justice Department’s press release announcing the charges, Hunter Biden failed to pay income taxes of more than $200,000 due in 2017 and 2018 on total taxable income of more than $3 million. The New York Times reported in March 2022 that Hunter Biden told an associate he paid the tax liability of more than $1 million, and that he had to take out a loan to pay it off.
Nevertheless, Biden, 53, agreed to plead guilty to both tax charges. Further, Politico has reported that prosecutors have agreed to dismiss the firearms charge if he successfully completes two years’ probation.
In contrast, look at how the Justice Department under President Biden treated the tax cases against Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign manager Paul Manafort and Trump’s longtime political advisor Roger Stone.
NO CRIMINAL TAX CHARGES FOR STONE, WIFE
The government sued Stone and his wife, Nydia, in April 2021 for nearly $2 million in back taxes, penalties and interest. For 15 years before that, during both Republican and Democratic administrations, the IRS had filed liens against the couple seeking to collect. And for years, Roger Stone kept dodging – offering vague answers to inquiries and failing to hand over financial records sought by the government, arguing the Justice Department’s tax lawyers already had obtained that information from his accountant.
That, of course, was true. But the fact the government wanted to see Stone’s records, too, strongly suggested they thought Stone had provided false information to his accountant. If so, that would be a felony.
In court papers, the government also accused Stone and his wife of using a company they co-owned, Drake Ventures, “as their alter ego to shield their assets” and “fund a lavish lifestyle” while “fraudulently” transferring funds to buy their Fort Lauderdale residence on NE 18th Avenue.
In June 2022, three days after Fort Lauderdale U.S. District Judge Rodolfo A. Ruiz II ordered the Stones to turn over various documents and provide better answers to government interrogatories, Roger Stone’s attitude changed. His attorney announced without explanation that the Stones had offered to settle the case.
The deal, approved at the highest levels of the Justice Department because Stone was a subject in the ongoing criminal investigation of sedition and conspiracy arising from the Jan. 6, 2021 attack on the U.S. Capitol by Trump’s far-right supporters, called for the Stones to pay more than $2.1 million to settle the case.
Unlike Hunter Biden, the Stones were not charged with any tax crime. The principal difference in their cases: Biden twice failed to file annual income tax returns; the Stones filed all required tax returns, but failed to report their correct income six different years.
MANAFORT GOT OFF EASY, TOO
Roger Stone, however, was previously convicted by Special Counsel Robert Mueller of lying to Congress about what he and Trump knew about Russian efforts to discredit Hillary Clinton during the 2016 presidential campaign. In the same case he was also convicted of witness tampering and obstruction of justice and was sentenced to 40 months in prison. Trump commuted Stone’s sentence days before he was to report to prison in July 2020, and pardoned him for the crimes shortly before leaving office.
Paul Manafort received a pardon from Trump on the same day, Dec. 23, 2020.
Manafort, 74, of Palm Beach Gardens, agreed last March to pay $3.2 million to settle charges that he failed to disclose foreign bank accounts he used to funnel “millions of dollars” to himself without paying income taxes.
Specifically, Manafort was accused for his “willful” failure to file timely annual Foreign and Financial Accounts (FBAR) reports disclosing his ownership or control of more than three dozen offshore companies and accounts as required by the Bank Secrecy Act. The penalties and interest assessed against him were for the years 2013 and 2014.
Those civil penalties arose from Manafort’s two convictions on charges that included tax and bank fraud, obstruction of justice and witness tampering. Twice he was sentenced to prison, but on Dec. 20, 2020 President Trump pardoned Manafort for both convictions. The criminal pardon, however, did not affect the civil penalties assessed in the cases brought by Special Counsel Robert Mueller.