White House does not rule out switching Hunter Biden

Image source, Getty Images

  • Author, Caitlin Wilson
  • Role, BBC News, Washington

The White House has refused to rule out President Joe Biden commuting any criminal sentence against his son, a day after Hunter Biden was found guilty in a federal gun trial.

Asked about a commutation, Karine Jean-Pierre told journalists on Wednesday that she had “nothing” [to share] beyond what the president had already said about this matter.

A Delaware jury on Tuesday found Hunter Biden guilty of three counts of lying about his drug use when purchasing a gun in 2018.

Ms. Jean-Pierre, who stressed that she had not spoken to Biden about the commutation, instead pointed to an interview last week in which Mr. Biden said he would not pardon his son.

“He and the first lady love their son and they support their son, I just don’t have anything… other than that,” Ms. Jean-Pierre told a group of reporters aboard Air Force One .

She added that she would not release any information about Mr. Biden’s time with his family on Tuesday evening, when the president unexpectedly visited Wilmington, Delaware, following the jury’s guilty verdict in his son’s affair.

U.S. presidents have the power to commute the sentences of defendants convicted of federal offenses. They can also choose to pardon such convictions outright, setting them aside entirely.

Commuting a sentence would leave the conviction intact, but replace the sentence handed down in court with a lesser sentence.

Presidents do not have the power of commutation or pardon in state-level cases.

Ms Jean-Pierre also read a previous statement from Mr Biden regarding the conviction.

“I am the president, but I am also a dad,” the statement said. “Jill and I love our son and are very proud of the man he is today.”

“I will accept the outcome of this case and continue to respect the legal process while Hunter considers an appeal.”

Hunter Biden has pleaded not guilty to two charges related to lying about his drug use during a federal background check, and one for possessing a firearm while addicted or using drugs.

The 54-year-old said he was recovering when he purchased the gun in October 2018.

In total, Hunter Biden faces up to 25 years in prison, although legal experts say such a long sentence is very unlikely.

Flying to Italy – where the president is due to attend the G7 summit this week – aboard Air Force One, Ms Jean-Pierre also highlighted an interview with ABC News last week in which Mr Biden said he would not pardon Hunter Biden if he did. Convicted in the firearms case.

“We asked him for a pardon,” Ms. Jean-Pierre told journalists. “He was asked specifically about the trial, he answered it very clearly.”

Constitutionalists disagree on whether a president’s pardon power extends to himself, although Donald Trump — if he wins the presidency in November — could be the first to judge if he is convicted in either of the two federal criminal cases he faces.

Jean-Pierre’s comments mark a major shift since September, when she was asked during a briefing whether the president would “pardon or commute his son if convicted.”

“I already answered that question,” she replied.

“I was asked about it not too long ago, a few weeks ago, and I was very clear and said no.”

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