(Bloomberg) -- President Joe Biden faces a new threat to his reelection bid from the latest round of criminal charges against his son Hunter, with Republicans led by Donald Trump seizing on the case as a political gift.
Trump, attempting to detract from his own legal troubles, has new fodder for his unsubstantiated allegations that the president was involved in an influence peddling scheme, dubbing the father-son duo the “Biden crime family.”
And Republican investigators, who haven’t turned up evidence to back their own claims the president was involved in Hunter’s business dealings, see this as a further and well-timed validation for their sputtering impeachment probe.
The president sidestepped the matter on Friday, declining to field reporters’ questions. He has previously dismissed inquiries about his son’s case, calling it “a bunch of lies.”
Several timelines are about to converge. Hunter Biden hasn’t been arraigned yet on the latest charges, and it’s unclear when that will happen or how quickly the case will proceed.
Separately, he has been subpoenaed for a deposition on Capitol Hill Wednesday. But he’s in a standoff with Republicans — offering to testify publicly, while House Oversight Chairman James Comer and Judiciary Chairman Jim Jordan have insisted that the questioning take place behind closed doors.
The chairmen have warned of contempt of Congress proceedings if the younger Biden doesn’t show up.
Earlier: Hunter Biden Indicted in Tax Case as White House Woes Mount
And then there’s the impeachment question. The House is poised to vote next week on authorizing proceedings, with Speaker Mike Johnson saying the vote is needed to secure the inquiry’s legal standing. The resolution does not spell out any specific potential articles of impeachment.
The political impact of an actual impeachment inquiry, however, is unclear. Some Republicans have warned it could backfire, and some Democrats have shrugged off the threat for the same reason.
Rutgers University political scientist Ross Baker says Republicans have placed their chips largely on Biden’s guilt by association — and they could succeed.
“Tenuous connections repeated often enough and in enough venues will convince some voters that all is not on the up and up in the House of Biden,” Baker said. “It will be difficult for the Democrats to snuff out that brush-fire.”
Still, it amounts to a tough vote for some Republicans, including the 18 representing districts that Biden won in 2020. And Representative Ken Buck of Colorado — who is not running for reelection — has been publicly suggesting he won’t go along.
“What’s missing, despite years of investigation, is the smoking gun that connects Joe Biden to his ne’er-do-well son’s corruption,” Buck wrote in an op-ed column in September.
But Representative Byron Donalds, a Florida Republican and staunch Trump ally, recently sent out a campaign donor appeal, stating: “The walls are closing in on the Biden crime family – and Crooked Joe knows it.”
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis voiced distrust of the government’s Hunter Biden prosecution, saying he doubts the case will be resolved before the 2024 election and that the administration will portray it as proof of its impartiality.
“I think it may be being done as a way for them to feign that they’re apolitical,” DeSantis told reporters Friday in West Des Moines, Iowa, while campaigning for the Republican presidential nomination.
At the same time, Trump is fighting legal battles on several fronts, including charges regarding his campaign to overturn the 2020 election and mishandling of classified documents.
What Trump’s Many Legal Perils Mean for His 2024 Bid: QuickTake
Those cases haven’t deterred his supporters. Several polls have shown Trump leading Biden in key swing states, but some Republicans have warned that Trump’s own indictments will wreck his campaign.
The latest indictment against Hunter Biden accuses him of avoiding taxes while living lavishly, including withdrawing $1.66 million in cash over a four-year period.
“Between 2016 and Oct, 15, 2020, the defendant spent this money on drugs, escorts and girlfriends, luxury hotels and rental properties, exotic cars, clothing, and other items of a personal nature, in short, everything but his taxes,” according to the 56-page indictment.
Earlier: Hunter Biden Probe Widens With Special Counsel Appointment
Hunter Biden’s long-simmering legal problems almost ended with a plea agreement, but have since flared up. The prosecutor running the investigation, David Weiss, was appointed a special counsel earlier this year — a move that all but guarantees the inquiry will extend well into the election year.
The effects of that will only be known in time.
“I can’t say whether it will have a substantial impact on Biden’s campaign or the race generally, especially since his main rival faces numerous indictments directly tied to crimes,” said Josh Huder, a senior fellow at Georgetown University’s Government Affairs Institute. “It’s still way too early to know how it plays out.”
--With assistance from Hadriana Lowenkron.
(Updates with DeSantis comments in 15th paragraph.)
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