Hunter Biden asked a federal judge Wednesday for authority to subpoena former President Donald Trump, former Attorney General Bill Barr and two other Justice Department officials as he fights criminal gun possession charges.
Biden faces three federal weapons counts after the collapse of a plea deal meant to resolve tax and gun charges in July. His lawyers want to explore whether the wide-ranging investigation that began in 2018, during Trump’s administration, was spurred by political pressure, according to the request from Biden lawyer Abbe Lowell.
"Mr. Biden seeks specific information from three former DOJ officials and the former President that goes to the heart of his defense that this is, possibly, a vindictive or selective prosecution arising from an unrelenting pressure campaign beginning in the last administration, in violation of Mr. Biden’s Fifth Amendment rights under the Constitution," Lowell wrote in the request to U.S. District Judge Maryellen Noreika.
The investigation of Hunter Biden has sparked complaints of political interference for years. Congressional Republicans complained that the plea deal was too lenient under his father, President Joe Biden. The latest filing by Lowell questions whether Trump tried to influence the case.
Besides Trump and Barr, Lowell asked the court to subpoena former Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen and former Deputy Attorney General Richard Donoghue. The request is to obtain documents and other materials by Dec. 1, to help prepare Biden’s defense.
Under Barr, the Justice Department asked Donoghue, who was then a U.S. attorney in New York, to coordinate information in the Hunter Biden inquiry from Rudy Giuliani, a personal lawyer for Trump, according to information released by the House Ways and Means Committee.
When Donoghue was promoted to deputy attorney general under Rosen, he continued to coordinate with prosecutors in Pennsylvania and Delaware. An Internal Revenue Service agent, Gary Shapley, testified that all aspects of the investigation were vetted by Donoghue and David Weiss, the U.S. attorney in Delaware who is now prosecuting the charges against Biden as a special counsel.
Barr wrote in his latest book that Trump, who repeatedly posted messages on social media about Hunter Biden, asked him about the investigation in October 2020. “Dammit, Mr. President, I am not going to talk to you about Hunter Biden. Period!” Barr said he replied.
On Dec. 27, 2020, Donoghue took handwritten notes of a call with Trump and Rosen showing that Trump instructed the Justice Department officials to “figure out what to do with H[unter] Biden” and indicated Trump insisted that “people will criticize the DOJ if he’s not investigated for real," according to Lowell's filing.
“These confirmations of communications give more than a mere appearance that President Trump improperly and unrelentingly pressured DOJ to pursue an investigation and prosecution of Mr. Biden to advance President Trump’s partisan ambitions,” Lowell wrote in requesting the subpoenas.
The indictment charges Hunter Biden with knowingly deceiving a firearms dealer when buying a Colt Cobra 38SPL revolver on Oct. 12, 2018. He is charged with falsely filling out a federal firearms form denying he was addicted to any narcotics. And he is charged with knowingly possessing the revolver despite the restrictions against people addicted to drugs owning firearms. He has pleaded not guilty.
The indictment came after a plea deal on tax and gun charges fell apart. The tax charges could still be refiled. The agreement would have allowed Biden to plead guilty to two misdemeanors for failing to pay his taxes in 2017 and 2018, and to enter a pretrial program for the gun charge that could have been dismissed if he complied. The deal might have allowed him to avoid prison.
But Noreika refused to accept the deal because of disputes between government and defense lawyers about whether it protected Biden from potential future charges.
Lowell said no additional evidence emerged between when the plea deal was presented to the court June 20 and when it collapsed July 26. Lowell argued it is essential for Biden to know “whether anyone improperly discussed, encouraged, endorsed, or requested an investigation or prosecution,” which is why he requested subpoenas for top officials overseeing the case.
“Thus, the prosecution’s change of heart appears to be in response to political pressure, rather than anything newly discovered in the investigation of Mr. Biden,” Lowell wrote.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Hunter Biden asks judge to subpoena Donald Trump in federal gun case