David Chipman Defends DOJ on Hunter Biden’s Plea Deal

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AP Photo/Andrew Harnik

Hunter Biden’s sweetheart plea deal is going to continue to cause problems for his dad on the campaign trail, and Biden’s allies in the gun control lobby know it. Since the news of the deal broke we’ve seen news outlets try to spin the plea bargain as no big deal and well within the bounds of how similar cases are normally handled by the Justice Department, despite protests to the contrary from others who’ve been sent to prison for the same crime of lying on the federal forms we fill out when buying a gun at retail.

Gun control groups, on the other hand, have been studiously avoiding discussing Biden’s plea deal at all, but now Giffords board member (and former senior advisor) David Chipman has weighed in, telling Daily Beast reporter Jose Pagliery, that there’s nothing unusual about a defendant being sent to pre-trial diversion on the felony charge.

The particular gun charge the feds brought against Biden—a drug user in possession of a firearm—is rarely brought as a standalone crime, especially now that roughly a fifth of the country uses cannabis—with an inevitably significant overlap with the nation’s estimated 80 million gun owners. When the feds do bring this type of case, they come down hard. But it’s usually a tool they use to take down tough to arrest criminals, like militant white nationalists, Islamist terrorists, or narcotraffickers.
Hunter Biden is none of those. And that situation is leaving former federal agents, prosecutors, and gun industry experts scratching their heads.
To some, it reads like favoritism.
“I don’t want to throw the book at people. And I don’t want to sound like I’m a Trumper. But this strikes one as really very specially favorable treatment,” said former FBI special agent David M. Shapiro, who now teaches at John Jay College of Criminal Justice.
To others, the mere fact that the feds brought this case at all indicates something of a compromise by Delaware U.S. Attorney David C. Weiss, a Trump-era holdover who stayed on the case to minimize the appearance of political meddling. It’s a “sensible bargain,” as Los Angeles Times columnist Harry Litman put it.
“I don’t see it as him getting some free pass. He’s admitted to a serious gun charge, and this diversion process is typical for someone with no criminal record or no backstory that suggests the only way the community can be safe if he’s incarcerated,” said former ATF agent David Chipman. “This seems absolutely legitimate, and he’s taking responsibility.”
I’m shocked, shocked I tell you, that Chipman has no problem whatsoever with the DOJ taking a soft approach to the federal statute in question when the president’s son is involved. Pagliery didn’t mention it in his story, but Chipman served as an advisor to the Biden campaign in 2020 before Biden nominated him to run the ATF; a move that was scuttled after key Senate Democrats including Angus King and Joe Manchin indicated they would not vote to confirm the gun control activist as the director of the government agency. Chipman’s complained that the Biden administration didn’t have his back during the confirmation fight, but he’s never once spoken out in disagreement about any of the president’s policies, and I don’t think he wants to make trouble for Garland or the DOJ heading into the 2024 campaign.
There are plenty of others who spoke to Pagliery who disagree with Chipman’s assessment, telling the reporter that this isn’t normally a charge that ends up with pre-trial diversion, though it’s often dangled as plea bargain bait to defendants facing even more serious charges.
Legal scholars and former federal investigators told The Daily Beast that this type of gun charge is normally used to pressure defendants into striking a deal, a method for squeezing information out of them and locking them away with a short stint in prison. It’s not something prosecutors drop, only to apply a slap on the wrist for a tax crime.
“It’s usually reserved for somebody that’s a real problem in the community—and when that’s the only thing we can get them on,” said one ex-ATF agent. “We can jumpstart gang cases, guys selling rock on the corner. You get them on (g)(3), then you start flipping people.”
Years ago, CNN profiled how the FBI orchestrated an elaborate sting operation to ensnare a depressed Michigan pizza delivery guy and actively guide his suicidal thoughts toward violent ISIS martyrdom. That violent terrorist attack never happened, and eventually, what appeared to be a terrorism case against Khalil Abu-Rayyan really just came down to two counts of drug-user-in-possession—all because he was pulled over by a Detroit cop for speeding and found with four plastic bags of marijuana, sleeping pills, and a revolver in his old Buick Century. A federal judge sentenced him to six years in prison, and Abu-Rayyan served most of it before his release in 2020.
On Tuesday, Abu-Rayyan told The Daily Beast that while the president’s son was clearly getting handled with kid gloves, at least the feds weren’t overreaching.
“I do feel like there’s special treatment,” Abu-Rayyan said. “My past self would say that’s not fair. But it’s a step in the right direction… why don’t we go after the mass shooters acquiring AR-15s and AK-47s and arsenals, rather than people with simple possession?”
With all due respect to Abu-Rayyan, this isn’t a step in the right direction. Merrick Garland isn’t changing his mind about prosecuting people for smoking pot and owning guns, and the DOJ is still arguing in court that even those who use cannabis in states where it’s been legalized are not “law-abiding citizens” and therefore have no Second Amendment rights. There’ll be no “Biden Rule” on these types of charges going forward, just the “Biden Exception”, and when a medical marijuana patient is facing the same charge with no plea deal in sight, I’m sure Chipman will find a multi-year prison sentence just as appropriate and understandable as Hunter Biden’s avoidance of a similar fate.

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