Opinion: Hunter Biden Can Thank Merrick Garland for His Conviction

Photo Illustration by Luis G. Rendon/The Daily Beast/Getty Images
Photo Illustration by Luis G. Rendon/The Daily Beast/Getty Images

Hunter Biden can and will only blame himself for his conviction for lying about drug addiction on a form to purchase a gun and then possessing the gun after lying to buy it. He is the one who abused crack cocaine, and he is the one who chose to purchase a gun.

But we have Attorney General Merrick Garland to thank for the fact the case was brought, and that it was tried in the politically explosive time of a presidential campaign, only a month before the start of the Republican convention and two months before the Democratic one.

Political scientist Norm Ornstein and journalist Dahlia Lithwick wrote in Slate that while all Americans tend to have a normalcy bias, “[l]awyers have an almost terrifying normalcy bias. It leads them to assume that so long as they are winning good cases it means the justice system is a pathway to winning the larger political debate.”

Hunter Biden Juror Reveals How Divided the Jury Was

There is no better example of this than Merrick Garland, whose obsession with cleansing the partisan poop smeared on the Justice Department walls by Trump officials, like former Attorney General Bill Barr, has led him on a slow death march right into ever-deeper piles of poop.

Garland has been described as a “kind of radical institutionalist,” and like any other radical agenda, his has led him—perhaps unwittingly—to favor extreme change. That extreme change is in the political stability of our democracy.

The AG’s delay in pursuing Donald Trump and his inner circle in the Jan. 6 cases—and allowing Special Counsel Robert Hur to make partisan slurs against President Joe Biden’s mental alertness under cover of clearing the president of wrongdoing—all may be well-intentioned efforts to appear that he is being non-partisan and independent of the White House. But all of those decisions have contributed to the robust comeback of former President Trump and his supporters.

The Hunter Biden prosecutions are yet another example of the consequences of Garland’s approach to leading the DOJ.

Justice Alito’s Jan. 6 Flags Are a Desperate Wake-Up Call for the DOJ

David Weiss, the former Trump-appointed U.S. Attorney, investigated Hunter Biden for the better part of a decade—before Weiss tried to dispose of potential charges through a plea bargain. In that plea deal, the gun charges for which Hunter Biden was just convicted would have been dismissed without any conviction, as part of Biden being placed in a diversion program. Such a result would have been unremarkable given that there is near universal agreement from legal experts and former prosecutors that a person like Hunter Biden—who did not use the gun in any other crime—is almost never prosecuted for making false statements on the form about substance abuse.

But that plea bargain—which included Biden pleading guilty to tax charges—disintegrated due to Weiss’ team insisting that crimes besides tax fraud and the gun charge might not be encompassed by the plea bargain. Weiss then was elevated to the status of special counsel by Garland and indicted Biden on both the tax and gun charges.

At trial, the prosecution presented evidence and testimony galore that was deeply embarrassing in an effort to convince the jury that Hunter Biden had been such a flagrant drug abuser that he could not possibly have believed he was not a drug addict when he filled out the gun form. There may be some issues on appeal about the sheer volume of embarrassing evidence admitted, because the legal standard must be that it was not more prejudicial than probative.

The prosecutor’s closing argument also made a highly unusual—and possibly legally inappropriate—reference to the friends and family, including First Lady Jill Biden, being in the courtroom, by telling the jury that those people were “not evidence” and that “no one is above the law.” While such a remark was likely an effort to counteract any jury nullification through sympathy, the flip side of that strategy is that it may also be viewed by an appellate court as introducing matters not in evidence to the jury.

But whether or not Hunter Biden succeeds in overturning his conviction on appeal, the political and personal damage is already done.

AG Merrick Garland Needs to Get Out of the Business of Defending Trump

There is little question that he would not have been charged but for his last name, and also little question that Garland believes this particular prosecution shows his DOJ brings cases “without fear or favor”—one of his favorite phrases.

But such a politically charged prosecution—the first-ever conviction of the son of a sitting president—smacks of both fear and favor on the part of Garland. It reeks of his fear over accusations of partisanship, which has resulted in little visible benefit to DOJ, while also being constantly attacked and denigrated.

The prosecution also has resulted in favor to President Biden’s opponents. Allowing the prosecution to stumble forward for years—well into the presidential election season—means it is political ammunition for Republicans and Trump. And Garland’s not done yet! The tax case against Hunter Biden is set for trial in September.

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