A complication to Republicans’ allegation the justice system favors Democrats

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Last week, President Joe Biden was defending the justice system as a “cornerstone” of society.

“It’s dangerous, it’s irresponsible for anyone to say this was rigged just because they don’t like the verdict,” Biden said at the White House after Republicans tried to undercut the process that led to former President Donald Trump’s conviction in New York on state charges.

This week, the president will have to remember those words while his son Hunter faces federal gun charges at a trial in Delaware, the first of two separate cases this year that could lead to jail time.

The Biden family must be frustrated that a plea deal fell apart last year when it was rejected by the Trump-appointed judge in the case, Maryellen Noreika. Plus, these particular gun charges are rarely prosecuted on their own, perhaps evidence of the enhanced scrutiny placed on a president’s son.

Hunter Biden’s gun trial is very different than Donald Trump’s hush money trial, even if they both come in an election year, feature the public airing of painful, personal details and essentially boil down to allegations of lying on paperwork.

Trump had to endure the detailed, public testimony of Stormy Daniels, the adult-film actress who alleged an affair with Trump nearly 20 years ago.

Hunter Biden will have to endure a public recounting of his affair with his brother Beau’s widow, their tortured text messages and his drug addiction.

But Trump’s legal problems all revolve around his own campaigns and actions during and after his presidency. Trump was found guilty of falsifying business records to hide hush money payments meant to cover up the alleged affair from voters in 2016. He also faces federal charges of mishandling classified information in Florida and trying to overturn the 2020 election in Washington, DC, as well as Georgia.

Hunter Biden faces trial in Delaware starting this week for lying on a firearm background check application. He checked the box that said “no” he was not abusing or addicted to drugs. He also faces trial in California later this year for tax evasion. David Weiss, the Trump-appointed special counsel prosecuting the case, has never made allegations to tie Hunter Biden’s tax problems to his father, although Republicans on Capitol Hill have tried, unsuccessfully, to connect the dots.

I’ve written before about how the Department of Justice ends up prosecuting similar numbers of Democratic and Republican lawmakers. In New York this week, for instance, the bribery trial of New Jersey Democratic Sen. Bob Menendez – his second distinct corruption trial in recent years – is underway.

Trump may ultimately avoid federal prosecution. There is a very real possibility that Trump, while found guilty in a New York courtroom, will face neither set of the federal charges brought against him by special counsel Jack Smith before Election Day in November.

The US Supreme Court has yet to weigh in on Trump’s claim of absolute immunity, and the judge in his classified documents case has delayed proceedings indefinitely. The Georgia case is also delayed, and an appeals court may not consider whether Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis can stay on the case until October.

But while Joe Biden’s son and the senior senator from New Jersey are both in major legal peril, it is quickly becoming an article of faith among Republicans that they are a targeted species by the justice system.

“What people are seeing now is that they can’t trust our judicial system,” Republican National Committee co-chair Lara Trump told CNN’s Kasie Hunt on “State of the Union.”

The justice system “hunts Republicans while protecting Democrats,” said Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina, reacting to the Trump guilty verdict.

In a fundraising pitch on X, Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida encouraged supporters angry about the “travesty” to “get even.”

Appearing on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas took the conspiracy theorizing much further, arguing that the Department of Justice is only prosecuting Menendez and, separately, Rep. Henry Cuellar of Texas (who is also charged with bribery) because they have been critical of Biden on foreign relations and immigration policy – an allegation for which there is no evidence.

Cotton predicted Biden would ultimately pardon his son. The White House has said there will be no pardon for Hunter Biden.

Even Republicans who opposed Trump during the 2024 primary season are critical of Trump’s New York conviction.

New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu complained that Trump will face sentencing days before the Republican National Convention in Milwaukee. “That is a terrible idea,” he said. “That’s going to do nothing but rile everybody up. It’s going to look even more political than it is now, and just cast a shadow of a doubt on this entire case.”

The irony here is that Trump in 2020 actually did pressure the Department of Justice to investigate Hunter Biden. He also pushed Ukraine’s government to open an investigation, hoping to tie Hunter Biden’s work for a Ukrainian natural gas company to his father.

In 2016, Trump’s supporters would launch into “lock her up” chants targeting Hillary Clinton – behavior Trump encouraged at the time even though the FBI, in the form of then-director James Comey, announced before the election that there was not a strong enough case to prosecute Clinton over her private email server. Trump said on Fox News over the weekend that if elected again, he might feel differently about pushing for charges against Clinton.

“They all said ‘lock her up.’ But I felt – and I could have done it – but I thought it would have been a terrible thing. And then this happened to me. So I may feel differently about it,” Trump said.

Don’t expect Democrats to show the same level of support for Hunter Biden that Republicans have shown for Trump.

Rep. Jamie Raskin of Maryland, the top Democrat on the House Oversight Committee, promised Democrats would respect the process as it plays out against the president’s son.

“Democrats are not out there saying that Hunter Biden’s trial is a farce, it’s a fraud, it’s rigged. We’re not attacking the justice system,” he said.

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