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House Republicans demand answers from DOJ on Hunter Biden plea agreement

A letter signed by three committee chairmen called on Attorney General Merrick Garland to answer their questions about the derailed plea deal by Aug. 14.
Hunter Biden leaves after a court appearance in Wilmington, Del., on July 26, 2023.
Hunter Biden leaves after a court appearance in Wilmington, Del., this month.Julio Cortez / AP

WASHINGTON — A trio of House Republican committee chairmen announced Monday that they are investigating the circumstances of the plea agreement that the Justice Department reached with Hunter Biden before it unraveled in court last week.

In a letter to Attorney General Merrick Garland, the three chairmen highlighted a provision in the pretrial diversion agreement that would have put the onus on the judge overseeing the case to determine over a 24-month period if the president's son violated the terms of the plea deal. The judge — Judge Maryellen Noreika, who was appointed by former President Donald Trump — said last week that doing so would be outside the scope of her authority.

The congressional Republicans also took issue with a clause in the agreement that would have given Biden immunity from all other crimes in exchange for completing the pretrial diversion program.

"Taken individually, each of the provisions discussed above raises serious concerns about how the Department has handled this matter. But when considered together, the provisions appear to be even more troubling," said the letter, signed by House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jim Jordan of Ohio, House Oversight Committee Chairman James Comer of Kentucky, and Ways and Means Committee Chairman Jason Smith of Missouri.

Biden pleaded not guilty to federal tax charges last week after the judge raised questions about the terms of the agreement. He had been expected to plead guilty to two charges of failure to pay taxes under a deal he struck with the government, but instead, he pleaded not guilty to those charges until the two sides can meet and address the questions posed by Noreika.

Biden’s lawyer, Chris Clark, responded to Noreika’s concerns about the pretrial diversion agreement provision in court last week, saying that because of tremendous political “Sturm and Drang” surrounding the case, that component of the agreement would help ensure it “wouldn’t become more politicized” if the government targeted Biden again in the future.

The Republican chairmen on Monday called the pretrial agreement "unusual" and said that combined with allegations presented by whistleblowers in related House GOP investigations into the Biden family, they believe the Justice Department "has provided preferential treatment toward Mr. Biden in the course of its investigation and proposed resolution of his alleged criminal conduct."

The letter called on Garland to respond by Aug. 14 at 5 p.m. ET to their questions about other pretrial diversion agreements that included similar provisions as a point of comparison to Biden's case, and for specific information about who inserted those provisions in the plea agreement. They also requested a briefing from Justice Department officials about the plea deal.

A spokesperson for the Justice Department confirmed receipt of the letter but declined to comment further.

Biden's attorney did not immediately respond to a request for comment.