Will Joe Biden Pardon Hunter?

AP Photo/Andrew Harnik

In the wake of the guilty verdicts against Hunter Biden, the question on everyone's mind is: Will Joe Biden pardon his son? Heck, the issue of a pardon had been discussed well before the trial began. During an ABC News interview in Normandy last week, President Joe Biden was asked about the possibility of pardoning his son, Hunter Biden, in the event of a conviction on the three felony gun charges, which could potentially result in jail time (although that's unlikely). President Biden unequivocally stated in an interview with ABC News's David Muir while in Normandy last week that he would accept the verdict and not grant a pardon. 

"Your son Hunter is on trial, and I know that you cannot speak about an ongoing federal prosecution. But let me ask you: will you accept the jury's outcome, their verdict, no matter what it is?" Muir asked.

"Yes," Biden replied.

"And have you ruled out a pardon for your son?" Muir followed up.

"Yes," Biden said.

Of course, the media has tried to pitch this as proof of Biden's faith in and respect for the system. But let's be honest here: politically speaking, Joe Biden can't pardon Hunter. Not before the election, anyway. 

If Joe Biden loses in November, and most experts would say that it's likely he will at this point, you can't tell me that he wouldn't use his presidential powers to keep his son out of prison. Keep in mind that while it is considered unlikely that Hunter will receive jail time for the gun charge, he still has his tax evasion trial — and his status as a convicted felon could potentially result in jail time in yet another open-and-shut case.

Related: The Hunter Biden Verdict Doesn't Disprove That We Have a Two-Tiered Justice System

Of course, there's another option for Joe Biden as well. Executive clemency isn't limited to presidential pardons.

"In the federal system, commutation of sentence and pardon are different forms of executive clemency, which is a broad term that applies to the President’s constitutional power to exercise leniency toward persons who have committed federal crimes," explains the Department of Justice. "A commutation of sentence reduces a sentence, either totally or partially, that is then being served, but it does not change the fact of conviction, imply innocence, or remove civil disabilities that apply to the convicted person as a result of the criminal conviction."

A commutation may include remission (release) of the financial obligations that are imposed as part of a sentence, such as payment of a fine or restitution. A remission applies only to the part of the financial obligation that has not already been paid.

To be eligible to apply for commutation of sentence, a person must have reported to prison to begin serving his sentence and may not be challenging his conviction in the courts. A pardon is an expression of the President’s forgiveness and ordinarily is granted in recognition of the applicant’s acceptance of responsibility for the crime and established good conduct for a significant period of time after conviction or completion of sentence. It does not signify innocence. It does, however, remove civil disabilities – e.g., restrictions on the right to vote, hold state or local office, or sit on a jury – imposed because of the conviction for which pardon is sought, and should lessen the stigma arising from the conviction.

Following Hunter's verdict, the president-ish said in a statement, "As I said last week, I am the President, but I am also a Dad. Jill and I love our son, and we are so proud of the man he is today. So many families who have had loved ones battle addiction understand the feeling of pride seeing someone you love come out the other side and be so strong and resilient in recovery."

Does that sound like the statement of someone who is going to risk letting his son serve time in prison? It sure doesn't to me. Joe sees Hunter's addiction as the real criminal here, not his son, and so he doesn't see his son as deserving any punishment at all. Make no mistake about it, Hunter will not serve any time if Joe Biden has anything to say about it. I would even bet that he'll bundle Hunter's pardon and/or commutation with pardons/commutations for a bunch of convicted addicts just to make it look like he's not giving his son preferential treatment.

It may be the last thing he does before leaving office.



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