May 5, 2023 - Podcasts

How the Hunter Biden investigations could impact 2024

Federal prosecutors seem close to deciding whether to charge the president's son, Hunter Biden, with tax- and gun-related charges. The decision could have a profound impact on President Biden’s re-election campaign. It's just one of three current investigations surrounding Hunter Biden.

  • Plus, four Proud Boy members are found guilty of seditious conspiracy for their roles in January 6th.
  • And, a major music industry copyright case comes to a close.

Guests: Axios' Alex Thompson

Credits: Axios Today is produced by Niala Boodhoo, Alexandra Botti, Fonda Mwangi and Alex Sugiura. Music is composed by Evan Viola. You can reach us at [email protected]. You can text questions, comments and story ideas to Niala as a text or voice memo to 202-918-4893.

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NIALA: Good morning! Welcome to Axios Today! It’s Friday, May 5. I’m Niala Boodhoo. Today on the show: four Proud Boy members are found guilty of seditious conspiracy for their roles in January 6th. Plus, a major music industry copyright case comes to a close. But first: the Hunter Biden investigations, and their impact on 2024. That’s our One Big Thing.

The Hunter Biden Investigations

NIALA: After a yearslong investigation, federal prosecutors seem close to deciding whether to charge Hunter Biden, president Biden's son, on tax and gun related charges, and the decision could have a profound impact on President Biden's reelection campaign.

Meanwhile, it's a busy time for the Justice Department, which secured a conviction in federal court yesterday for the leader of the Proud Boys. Axios’ Alex Thompson is reporting on both of these stories, and he's here for our weekly politics state of play. Welcome back Alex.

ALEX THOMSPON: Thank you so much for having me.

NIALA: So, can you give us a refresher about the charges involving Hunter Biden?

ALEX: You have to understand that there are actually three different investigations going on simultaneously. Now, there is this main case investigated by the Justice Department, which is technically led by Hunter's father, and his attorney General Merrick Garland. Now that case is focused on Hunter Biden's taxes and potentially lying on a gun form. You know, on a gun form you have to state that you have not been under the influence of drugs. It is pretty clear that he almost certainly was, or he had been in the last six months.

There's also the House Republicans investigation into Hunter and the Biden family writ large, right? And how Hunter's financial dealings may have entangled with the policies that then Vice President Joe Biden was enacting. And then there's the third one, which is probably the most tabloidy of all of them, which involves, essentially a love child that Hunter Biden had, with a woman from Arkansas, in 2019. Um, he originally had denied paternity, then was forced to take a paternity test. He was the father and has since been paying, we learned this week, $20,000 a month in child support.

You have all of these different cases going. And Hunter's expected to sit for a deposition in the Arkansas case. His lawyers met with DOJ on the taxes and gun case this last week, which could be an indication that maybe things are wrapping up. And then, on the House Republican case, it looks like they are just getting started.

NIALA: Republicans have been talking about Hunter Biden for the past couple of years. How is this going to factor into President Biden's reelection campaign?

ALEX: It is going to be a huge part of the campaign just as it was a huge part of the last campaign. But I also wanna add the caveat that Republicans thought it was a winning issue for them in 2020, and they still lost. So even if they deploy the tactic, how effective is it? How much do, you know, independent and swing voters really care or do they think the Hunter thing is a distraction? And that much is not clear. Now, even before the laptop or the hard drive was found, and reported on in October of 2020, Hunter was a huge part of the presidential election last time, even before that. You have to remember that President Trump calling the Ukrainian president, that led to Trump's impeachment, was really about him trying to push the Ukrainian president to investigate Hunter Biden. And then, you know, you had Donald Trump going out on the trail saying, “Where's Hunter? Where's Hunter? Where's Hunter?” and the fact is that, After the laptop was found, some of these photos go online, it became this lurid spectacle that Republicans have really glommed onto. You know, some some of the investigations, the questions about the business dealings are more above board, and some of them are just meant to pick on and humiliate Hunter Biden as well.

NIALA: In a moment, more with Alex Thompson.

Welcome back to Axios Today. I’m Niala Boodhoo.

We’re talking with Axios National Political Correspondent Alex Thompson for our weekly State of Play, about Hunter Biden, the three separate investigations into him, and why this all matters for 2024. Alex, before the break you mentioned a laptop of Hunter’s – can you remind us about that in case people have forgotten the details there?

ALEX: Yes. So in October of 2020, right before the election, the New York Post reported that they had found a hard drive of Hunter Biden's that he had left at a computer repair shop, in Delaware and that, you know, proved a lot of corrupt dealings. Now, what they include essentially is a lot of material, photos, texts, from uh, you know, around 2014, 2015, 2016, 17, 18, early 2019. And these are the periods also where Hunter was in the throes of a very serious addiction to crack cocaine and was honestly, self-documenting a lot of his life at that point with his phone, which he had then backed up to his computer.

And he's written about this in, in his memoir that came out in 2021, how he sort of got sucked into this vortex. Now, some of it, the worst of it really happened once his brother Beau, was diagnosed with glioblastoma brain cancer. And after he died is really when he spiraled, in a really serious, significant way that was, you know, really scary for a lot of the Biden family. Now, you know, people sort of in the orbit say that he has now been sober for a few years now. But certainly, as he's the subject of attacks from a lot of sides, it's been, you know, it's been a taxing few years, for him and, and for the family.

NIALA: What has the president said about all of this recently?

ALEX: You know, not very much. He did bring Hunter with him to Ireland for his foreign trip. I think it was like a…partly a display of solidarity with his son. And he has said that, you know, he believes his son did nothing wrong. He has been by his side in very public moments as a sign of support.

NIALA: Alex, I have to go back to something you said. Technically, President Biden is in charge of the Justice Department. So how does that happen objectively that the Justice Department can investigate basically their boss's son?

ALEX: It's very awkward. and this is also part of the reason why Joe Biden has not said a lot about it even though Republicans have repeatedly raised questions about will Biden's, you know, attorney general let Hunter off the hook, right? I mean, that, that is, some criticism you've definitely seen from quarters. Now, what the Biden administration has tried to do is when they came in, it is normal for you to replace all U.S. attorneys or at least nominate many of your own. The U.S. attorney in Delaware, that's investigating this case, they left him in charge, and Merrick Garland, the Attorney General said he would respect whatever decision that he made.

NIALA: The Justice Department is also right now juggling investigations of former President Trump, and as we saw yesterday is continuing its cases against the January 6th insurrectionists as well?

ALEX: Absolutely. I mean, you, Merrick Garland, is in a situation right now where he is prosecuting January 6th, and investigating also President Trump's role in it. He is in- also investigating, you know, the documents case with President Trump. He's investigating Hunter Biden. And, it is one of a, one of the most consequential moments to be the attorney general, certainly, uh, in recent history.

NIALA: Alex Thompson is Axios’ national political correspondent. Thanks Alex.

ALEX: Thanks so much for having me.

Ed Sheeran wins music copyright case

NIALA: One more story before we go…

A Manhattan jury yesterday found musician Ed Sheeran didn’t copy Marvin Gaye’s “Let’s Get It On” in his 2014 hit “Thinking Out Loud.” It’s been one of the most high profile music copyright cases in years.

The copyright infringement case was filed in 2017 by the family of Ed Townsend, Gaye’s co-writer on the song. The lawsuit claimed Sheeran took the rhythm, chord progression and other elements of Gaye’s 1973 classic without permission.

So let's listen to first Marvin Gaye’s Let’s Get It On:

[[music plays]]

And now here’s Ed Sheeran’s Thinking Out Loud:

[[music plays]]

Here is what Ed Sheeran had to say yesterday outside of a Manhattan courthouse after the verdict.

ED SHEERAN: These chords are common building blocks, which were used to create music long before “Let's Get It On” was written and will be used to make music long after we are all gone. They are in a songwriter's alphabet, our toolkit and should be there for all of us to use. No one owns them or the way they're played in the same way that nobody owns the color blue.

NIALA: That’s not always the case. In a similar lawsuit in 2015, Gaye’s family won a suit against Robin Thicke and Pharrell Williams - when jurors said their song “Blurred Lines” infringed on Gaye’s “Got to Give it Up.”

That’s all for this week. Axios Today is produced by Fonda Mwangi, Lydia McMullen-Laird and Robin Linn. Our senior sound engineer is Alex Sugiura. Alexandra Botti is our supervising producer. Sara Kehaulani Goo is Axios’ editor in chief. And Aja Whitaker-Moore is Axios’ executive editor. Special thanks as always to Axios co-founder Mike Allen.

I’m Niala Boodhoo. Stay safe, enjoy your weekend, and we’ll see you back here on Monday.

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