Hunter Biden pleads not guilty to federal gun charges: A guide to understanding his latest legal woes

The president's son was back inside a courtroom in Delaware on Tuesday.

Hunter Biden, wearing a dark suit and tie, smiles as he arrives for his arraignment at federal court.
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Hunter Biden pleaded not guilty to federal gun charges on Tuesday, less than three months after an earlier plea agreement he’d reached with prosecutors on tax and gun charges fell apart.

Appearing inside in U.S. District Court in Wilmington, Del., Biden was arraigned on three criminal counts: two related to false statements he allegedly made while purchasing the firearm and a third for illegal possession of a firearm while addicted to drugs.

The three charges carry a combined maximum prison sentence of 25 years.

Biden’s attorney, Abbe Lowell, entered the not guilty plea on his behalf. The hearing lasted less than a half hour. His next court date has not yet been assigned, but there is a pretrial motion deadline of Nov. 3, and Lowell said the defense plans to file a motion to dismiss the case.

What do the charges against Hunter Biden stem from?

Hunter Biden, with his lawyer, arrives for his court appearance in Wilmington, Del.
Hunter Biden, with his attorney, arrives for his court appearance. (Matt Rourke/AP)

According to the indictment filed by special counsel David Weiss last month, prosecutors allege that on or about Oct. 12, 2018, Hunter Biden knowingly deceived a firearms dealer in Delaware while buying a Colt Cobra 38SPL revolver by falsely stating on a federal firearms application that he was not addicted to any narcotics.

The 53-year-old Biden has since acknowledged he was a drug addict at the time.

The younger Biden allegedly certified on the form that "he was not an unlawful user of, and addicted to, any stimulant, narcotic drug, and any other controlled substance, when in fact, as he knew, that statement was false and fictitious," the indictment reads.

What are Hunter Biden’s other legal troubles?

Hunter Biden, wearing a dark suit and tie, leaves federal court.
Hunter Biden. (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

The Justice Department has spent years investigating Hunter Biden's business dealings and drug use. In June, he struck a deal with the U.S. Attorney's Office in Delaware, agreeing to plead guilty to a pair of tax-related misdemeanors in a deal that would have required him to acknowledge his failure to pay income taxes in 2017 and 2018 in exchange for probation.

But that deal fell apart during a court hearing in July after U.S. Judge Maryellen Noreika expressed concern over the structure of the agreement, which Republican critics had called a so-called sweetheart deal for the president's son.

Special counsel Weiss was appointed by Attorney General Merrick Garland in August to lead the Hunter Biden probe.

How does the case fit in with the GOP’s impeachment efforts?

President Biden with his son Hunter, both wearing sunglasses with open shirt collars and sport jackets.
President Biden with his son Hunter. (Andrew Harnik/AP)

Last week, House Republicans held their first public impeachment hearing against President Biden seeking to link the president to Hunter Biden's overseas business dealings.

The hearing came weeks after House Speaker Kevin McCarthy allowed the House Oversight, Judiciary, and Ways and Means committees to open the inquiry without a floor vote.

While Republicans have consistently said the president is tied to Hunter’s entanglements with foreign governments, they have yet to provide any evidence to support this.

They have proved that the elder Biden communicated with his son and that he attended two dinners in 2014 and 2015 with foreign individuals who had paid the younger Biden millions of dollars, but not that business was discussed or promises were made during the meals.

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Former President Donald Trump, facing a litany of his own legal issues, has privately encouraged the inquiry.

Some Democrats have suggested that the impeachment attempt will galvanize the party around the president, who has tepid approval ratings ahead of next year’s election.

“Go ahead, do it. I dare you,” Democratic Sen. John Fetterman told reporters last month. "Your man has, what, three or four indictments now? Trump has a mug shot, and he’s been impeached twice. Sometimes you just gotta call their bulls***.”