Hunter Biden’s plea agreement with federal prosecutors on tax and gun charges—panned by critics as “a sweetheart deal”—fell apart in federal court in Wilmington, Delaware, on Wednesday after a federal judge scrutinized the agreement. 

Although the president’s son on June 20 reached a deal to plead guilty to two misdemeanor tax charges and to lying on a gun purchase form, he ultimately pleaded not guilty in court Wednesday. 

That means the case is likely headed to trial at a time when Congress has been digging into reputed Biden family influence-peddling, and House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., has floated the idea of an impeachment inquiry of President Joe Biden. 

During a press briefing Wednesday, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters, “Hunter Biden is a private citizen, and this was a personal matter for him.” 

She added, “This case was handled independently, as all of you know, by the Justice Department under the leadership of a prosecutor appointed by the former president, President [Donald] Trump.” Delaware’s two Democratic senators, Tom Carper and Chris Coons, vocally supported Trump’s appointment of prosecutor David Weiss.

In a tumultuous series of events, it appeared the deal had fallen apart, then might be salvaged, before it fell apart again. 

The New York Times reported that U.S. District Judge Maryellen Noreika asked Assistant U.S. Attorney Leo Wise whether the Hunter Biden investigation was “ongoing.” Wise replied “yes” to the judge, and said that if Hunter Biden’s team thought otherwise, “then there’s no deal.” 

Many of the judge’s concerns were also raised by a amicus brief filed by Mike Howell, director of The Heritage Foundation’s Oversight Project and an investigative columnist for The Daily Signal. The Daily Signal is the multimedia news outlet of The Heritage Foundation.

Hunter Biden’s lawyers were quoted in news accounts that this was the end of the investigation. 

After two recesses, defense lawyers for the president’s son and prosecutors who met with Noreika agreed the case should cover the tax years for 2014 through 2019 for alleged tax crimes. The original plea agreement covered only alleged tax crimes for 2017 and 2018.

Noreika also raised concerns about the scope of the plea agreement and about linking the tax and gun charges together. 

After the deal was announced by the Justice Department, transcribed testimony to Congress from two IRS whistleblowers was made public. The two whistleblowers also testified in a House hearing and alleged the investigation had been stifled out of apparent political considerations. 

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