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A plea deal in the Hunter Biden case has been put on hold

A MARTÍNEZ, HOST:

Hunter Biden does not yet have a plea agreement on a gun charge.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

President Biden's son spent several awkward hours in court yesterday. This is a little complex, so it's worth taking a moment to run it down. Biden expected to plead guilty and avoid prison for tax and gun charges. Instead, the judge had questions about how this deal is supposed to work. Prosecutors filed the tax and gun charges during a wider investigation into Biden's business dealings. Republicans talk about those business dealings on Fox News all the time, so Biden wants assurance against future prosecution, especially if former President Trump returns to office. The judge held up the deal to clarify just how it would work and how much protection Biden would receive.

MARTÍNEZ: Republicans remain eager to connect the case to President Biden. Past investigations have failed to do that, but House Republicans have talked of trying again through an impeachment inquiry. NPR's congressional correspondent Deirdre Walsh joins us now. Deirdre, how are House Republicans messaging this?

DEIRDRE WALSH, BYLINE: I mean, they're saying this ongoing investigation proves that there are serious allegations around Hunter Biden's business dealings, and Congress should be looking at them. Beyond Hunter's plea deal about tax and the gun charge, Republicans are focused on other allegations, allegations that Hunter Biden involved his father, who was then vice president, in some of his business dealings with foreign companies. I talked to House Oversight Chairman James Comer, who says he's more focused on the president than Hunter.

JAMES COMER: At the end of the day, I'm investigating Joe Biden. Hunter Biden's the subject of that investigation because I think the president used his son to launder all this money.

WALSH: We should say that House Republicans have not corroborated any of the allegations about any payments involving President Biden. The White House says the president was never in business with his son.

MARTÍNEZ: How are Democrats responding?

WALSH: I talked to Jerry Nadler. He's the top Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee. He stresses that the prosecutor who's still investigating Hunter Biden was appointed by former President Trump, and he says there's no evidence linking the president to any wrongdoing. And Nadler says talk about impeaching Biden is all about the 2024 election.

JERRY NADLER: This is all, firstly, absurd and, second of all, really designed to take people's attention away from the real indictments of former President Trump.

WALSH: He's talking about indictments that former President Trump faces related to his handling of classified documents and other cases.

MARTÍNEZ: Do House Republicans agree that impeachment should be pursued?

WALSH: For now, House Republicans are pretty united on this idea that it's their responsibility to conduct oversight and investigate allegations, get testimony from witnesses and some Biden administration officials, but not all want a vote. You know, those on the far right want one and started calling for one right after Biden was elected - on impeachment. But more mainstream Republicans say the House needs to build any case using evidence first and then decide whether it actually rises to impeachment. But, you know, Speaker McCarthy has just a four-vote majority. He's facing a lot of pressure from members on the right, the Republican base and the former president to impeach.

MARTÍNEZ: What about Senate Republicans? Are they on board?

WALSH: You know, many are not. They see a chance for themselves to win back control of the Senate in 2024 and think impeachment could step on their message on the economy. I talked to Texas Republican Senator John Cornyn, who says even if the House impeached, there aren't the votes to convict Biden in the Senate. He wants to spend time on other, more productive things and legislating. Here's Cornyn.

JOHN CORNYN: I just think that we need to try to work out our political differences and not use tools like impeachment to try to redress our grievances.

WALSH: And the top Senate Republican, Mitch McConnell, said impeachment should be rare. He says he understands why House Republicans may want to go down that road because they oppose the two Trump impeachments. But he says multiple impeachments are not good for the country.

MARTÍNEZ: NPR's Deirdre Walsh, thanks.

WALSH: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Deirdre Walsh is the congress editor for NPR's Washington Desk.
A Martínez is one of the hosts of Morning Edition and Up First. He came to NPR in 2021 and is based out of NPR West.