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Republicans stick to attacking criminal justice system, echoing Trump

PHOENIX — Republicans are responding to Hunter Biden’s conviction on federal gun charges with some version of, “That’s it?”

Loyal to Donald Trump, they largely echoed the former president’s claim that the Justice Department has treated President Joe Biden’s son with kid gloves while zealously prosecuting Trump. Using the attention given to Hunter Biden’s conviction for charges related to buying a gun while addicted to drugs, they pressed unsubstantiated or debunked allegations that Joe Biden — while vice president — acted to advance his family members’ foreign business interests.

The GOP’s argument that Joe Biden is ordering prosecutors to target political opponents has been hurt by the Biden-led Justice Department prosecuting the president’s son — with Biden declining to stop the investigation or pardon Hunter Biden. But in making that case, Republicans may be trying to deflect from Trump’s own stated intentions to wield the criminal justice system against opponents if he returns to the White House.

While president, Trump tried to undercut the Justice Department investigation into his campaign’s alleged ties to Russia and issued pardons to a raft of former campaign aides, friends and donors. And on the campaign trail, Trump has repeatedly declared he is the victim of a “rigged” system and promised to appoint a special prosecutor to target Biden and his family.

House Republicans voted Wednesday to hold Attorney General Merrick Garland in contempt of Congress, further escalating their battle with the Justice Department.

And Trump sent a fundraising email with the subject line, “Haul out the Guillotine!” The email claimed Trump’s critics have a “Sick Dream” to see him beheaded, the latest example of Trump’s inflammatory rhetoric since his hush money conviction.

In a deal with prosecutors last year, Hunter Biden was supposed to plead guilty to misdemeanor tax offenses and avoid prosecution in the gun case if he stayed out of trouble for two years. But the deal fell apart after the judge, who was nominated by Trump, questioned unusual aspects of the proposed agreement, and the lawyers could not resolve the matter.

He was convicted Tuesday and faces a potential 25 years in prison, though as a first-time offender he is likely to get far less time or avoid prison entirely.

He still faces a trial in September in California on charges of failing to pay $1.4 million in taxes, and congressional Republicans have signaled they will keep going after him in their stalled impeachment effort into the president. The president has not been accused or charged with any wrongdoing by prosecutors investigating his son.

Biden definitively ruled out pardoning his son during an ABC News interview last week. White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre on Wednesday did not rule out the president issuing a potential commutation that might reduce or erase a sentence while leaving the conviction intact.

Hunter Biden’s conviction came weeks after a New York jury found Trump guilty of 34 counts related to a hush money payment to a porn actor during the 2016 campaign. Trump falsely claims the verdict was “rigged.” Biden said he accepted his son’s verdict.

Trump’s campaign issued a statement calling the Hunter Biden verdict “nothing more than a distraction from the real crimes of the Biden Crime Family.” Several of his allies followed.

“Remember this was Joe Biden’s corrupt DOJ that tried to negotiate outside immunity unrelated to this case,” said Rep. Elise Stefanik, a New York Republican and a contender to be Trump’s vice presidential running mate. “Today is the first step in delivering accountability for the Biden Crime Family.”

Sen. J.D. Vance, an Ohio Republican and another vice presidential contender, shared a post by Ohio Republican Senate candidate Bernie Moreno saying the gun charges were meant to “insulate and protect” the president.

Republican House Speaker Mike Johnson said the guilty verdict was “appropriate” and didn’t undercut his own criticism of a two-tiered system of justice for Trump and the Bidens.

“Every case is different,” Johnson said. “And clearly the evidence was overwhelming here. I don’t think that’s the case in the Trump trial, and all the charges that have been brought against him have been obviously brought for political purposes. Hunter Biden is a separate incident.”

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