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Hunter Biden Faces Nine Criminal Charges In Federal Tax Case; Republicans Push For President Biden Impeachment Inquiry; Lakers To Face Pacers In NBA In-Season Tournament Championship Game. Aired 5:30- 6a ET

Aired December 08, 2023 - 05:30   ET



KASIE HUNT, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning. Thanks for being up early with us. I'm Kasie Hunt. It's just before 5:00 a.m. (sic) here on the East Coast -- 5:30 a.m. here on the East Coast; 2:30 out west.

Hunter Biden, the president's son, under indictment this morning in a second criminal case. Among the nine counts filed yesterday, failure to file and pay taxes, evasion of assessment, and filing a false return.

Special counsel David Weiss alleges Hunter Biden quote, "Engaged in a four-year scheme" to avoid paying at least $1.4 million in taxes from 2016 to 2019. Instead, Weiss says he spent millions on an extravagant lifestyle, including drugs, escorts and girlfriends, luxury hotels and rental properties, exotic cars, clothing, and other personal items.

Hunter Biden faces up to 17 years in prison if convicted.

Let's bring in CNN legal analyst and criminal defense attorney Joey Jackson. Joey, good morning. It's always good to have you here.

Hunter Biden's attorney, Abbe Lowell -- he released a statement that said quote, "If Hunter's last name was anything other than Biden, the charges in Delaware" -- which is his first indictment -- "and now California would not have been brought."

What do you think of this strategy?

JOEY JACKSON, CNN LEGAL ANALYST, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY (via Webex by Cisco): Yeah. So, Kasie, good morning to you.

You know, I think the strategy is one that he's trying to really suggest that this is a politically motivated prosecution. We've heard that before, right? It comes from all angles.

And so, the issue is, is there justice in filing a multi-county indictment -- nine counts -- with respect to taxes that aren't paid in 2016, '17, '18, '19? Is there a better way? Should this be criminal or should it be assessed, really, in -- with respect to a civil type of proceeding? And so, I think that if it were not for the whistleblowers -- and obviously, we also know, Kasie, that the Republicans released a statement with respect to their committee saying that just the opposite of this, right? That because of the whistleblowers we're here. That he received favorable treatment from the special counsel Weiss and they should have run harder with him. But at the end of the day, it's about justice.

And we know -- you harkened back to Delaware -- that all of this was supposed to be resolved with a misdemeanor, far different from a felony -- so why are we here?

And so, I think the strategy is to suggest -- look, enough is enough. The system has to be just to everyone, not just a person because you're the president's son -- treating them differently.

HUNT: Yeah.

I mean, do you -- if you were the defense team here -- if you were Hunter Biden's team, what regrets might you have about that plea deal and how you handled those conversations and decisions?

JACKSON: Yes, so there are many, right? I mean, obviously, from a defense perspective, you want to limit the exposure that your client has. And that exposure should have been limited months ago and we shouldn't be here because now he's exposed to, as you noted, 17 years. Not that he'll get anywhere near that presuming that this case will resolve itself much more favorably than that.

But we're in a climate now where it's so politicized, right? Cases should be about truth and justice and the American way. It should be about right or wrong. It should be about treating everyone similarly. But if you treat his son differently, what about the Trump family? What about what you're doing with him?

And so, ultimately, I think the defense should have gotten out of this and ahead of this and resolved this along with, as you know, Kasie, the gun case. So I think there are multiple regrets. And when you have a hand, play it, right -- play it well and get out. And I think the fact that we're here now is problematic and it's troubling for them.

HUNT: Yeah.

Do you think it's going to go to trial -- the California charges?

JACKSON: Yeah, I don't think so. I mean, there's really no imperative to do that.

These tax cases are paper cases, right? Did you pay? Did you not? Did you know that you had an obligation to pay? Did you willfully not pay? Did you willfully file false statements or anything else?

And so, paper cases are very difficult to overcome. I think the best play of the defense is really to try to get this resolved much more favorably to indicate that other cases similarly were resolved, really, from a civil perspective and not really from a criminal perspective. And see if you can go back, get a misdemeanor plea, and get this out from under you. I don't see any basis to go forward.

And it's an embarrassing indictment, quite frankly. You read the 56 pages and, yeah -- you know, it's just a lot about him and his entertainment, and his prior habits and experiences. People have, sometimes, difficulties in life. Who wants to litigate that at all, much less before the public and in the press?

HUNT: Sure.

Let's -- you mentioned civil cases. Let's talk about Donald Trump's civil case because we expect him to be on the stand on Monday. He, of course, was out in front of the cameras complaining that he should be in Iowa, and New Hampshire, and South Carolina. I think it's important to underscore it was his decision to be there this week. He could have easily been in any one --


HUNT: -- of those early states instead, but he decided that's where he wanted to be.

What do you expect? What are you watching for on Monday when he takes the stand?

JACKSON: Yeah. So remember, Kasie, this is the second shot, right? He was testifying previously in connection to this case and I expect a lot more of the same.

In the first situation, he was entangling with the judge. He was giving speeches. The judge was telling his attorneys to control their client. But I think the judge would keep him on a -- not a short leash, a long one because you don't want to be perceived as unfair.


To answer your question specifically, I think there's two imperatives. One is, remember, he's got to play to his supporters. Yes, it's a case in a courtroom -- however, he understands it's going to be heard outside of that. It's a witch hunt. I shouldn't be here. I run a great company.

The attorney general -- I have so many grievances against her. There will be names about her. It'll be, "Judge, why did you stop this?" This is outrageous. So he has to give that bluster.

But from the perspective of the legalities of it, which is what we're here for, I think he'll address what the experts have been addressing.

Look, this is a subjective situation. We run a great company. My branding is worth significant amounts of money. We did everything above board. There are no victims. Everybody was happy. The banks made money.

We're going to hear that narrative, too. So look for both -- the political and the legal. I think those are the things that will come together. And I think look for a lot of bitterness, a lot of frustration, and maybe a little fireworks between him and the honorable one sitting on the bench who, of course, decides the case, and not a jury.

HUNT: Right, for sure.

All right, Joey Jackson, criminal defense attorney. Always grateful to have you on the program, sir. Thanks for being here.

JACKSON: Thank you.

HUNT: All right. Let's bring in Margaret Talev. She's a senior contributor at Axios and the director of the Syracuse University's Democracy, Journalism, and Citizenship Institute. Margaret, good morning. It's -- I'm very grateful to have you here.

I mean, let's talk about Trump. Let's do big-picture Trump legal woes here because this is obviously a civil case. He cares a lot about it because it's about his businesses.

But I want to show everyone what the calendar looks like starting in January of 2024 which, is, of course, an election year. You can see the orange are political events. The red are legal events. And it is all tied up together. In February, we have jury selection in his election subversion case. I believe that's just before the expected New Hampshire primary.

They seem to be viewing this as a political opportunity -- these cases.

How does the Trump campaign look at this entanglement? How should they be looking at these entanglements? And what are the risks here?

MARGARET TALEV, SENIOR CONTRIBUTOR, AXIOS, DIRECTOR, SYRACUSE UNIVERSITY DEMOCRACY, JOURNALISM, AND CITIZENSHIP INSTITUTE (via Webex by Cisco): I mean, Kasie, I think if you look at Donald Trump's performance during his presidency and before then, his strategy tends to be tactical. It's like a series of five-yard plays rather than trying to make, like, a 30-yard pass. And so, he's taking these as they come.

And in this particular case, he's absolutely tried to use the opportunities when he didn't need to be in court but chose to be in court to use the courtroom as a -- as a campaign podium -- a campaign stage.

And in this most recent case, they paid an expert half a million dollars or so to talk about patterns and practices and what's acceptable when you're evaluating your properties and stuff, and saying this is allowed within the law. That will be up to the judge to determine how seriously to take that.

But if you're taking that case to the voting public you are giving an expert's explanation, which then becomes sort of a permission structure to ignore this case and continue to support your candidate. And that's pretty good value compared to the price of a 30-second ad on a TV buy. So -- but I think once we enter 2024 the calendar does complicate the president's ability to sort of be able to fully concentrate. To be on the road when he wants to be. And it occupies kind of both headspace and time on the calendar. So -- and there could be either verdicts or at least pivot points in all of these cases that in theory could impact the way the voting public perceives him.

It may be more of a general election argument though in terms of the primary schedule. He's going to be pretty deep into crucial primaries before the reds and oranges on your calendar start to collide.

HUNT: Yeah. No, you're right. You're right. Really remarkable.

On the other side of the aisle but still in the legal realm, we -- Hunter Biden obviously was charged in California this time on a series of tax charges.

And his attorney, Abbe Lowell, who is rather famous here in Washington as a very pugnacious defender in politically charged cases -- he's represented a whole host of high-profile political people -- is very much saying this is political. Like, we're only getting charged with this because the last name is Biden. That's what he said.

How does the White House -- how are they going to view that strategy, especially when they're trying to run a campaign basically saying the legal system is credible in its charges on -- against Donald Trump?


TALEV: Well, I do think it sort of sets up this sort of false imagery where you've got Trump saying the system is rigged against me, this is a witch hunt -- and you've got Hunter Biden, who is not running for reelection or president and doesn't speak for his father, saying the system is rigged against me. This is a witch hunt. And you don't have President Biden saying that.

But it does, again, sort of politically or maybe to the American public create an impression that you've just got sort of both sides saying the system is rigged against me. It's a witch hunt. And I think that is complicated for President Biden.

What we're going to see is House Republicans are pushing a resolution -- a full House vote expected by next week -- that would authorize formally an impeachment inquiry against President Biden. I'm not sure exactly for what, but it's something to do with all of this. And this will give sort of fuel -- ammunition to that political argument.

It's interesting, though, Kasie. You've got Donald Trump, who has very much been leading an effort to try to gut funding for the IRS and saying the IRS is coming after you.

But you've got a case here where Hunter Biden is being asked to be held accountable for his nonpayment of taxes during what appears to be just like a sort of grotesque drug-fueled binge -- women, entertainment as the attorney said. Kind of everything but paying his taxes. And so, you kind of see those two things colliding. Like, really? Is

the IRS going after you, the common person sitting at home, or are they trying to collect taxes from people who have not paid their taxes?

So I think that's an opportunity for President Biden to make an argument if he wants to make it, but I don't think that Republicans will sort of acknowledge that. I think they're going to try to use this latest, very serious charges against Hunter Biden to try to make the case that President Biden had something to do with any of this.

HUNT: Right. And I think we should underscore that they have yet to make that link in this --

TALEV: Absolutely.

HUNT: -- story that they're -- they've undertaken.

All right, Margaret Talev. Thank you very much for being with us this morning. I really appreciate it.

All right. Up next here, House Republicans introducing their resolution for a President Biden impeachment inquiry. When they are planning to vote up next.

Plus, the Lakers now set to face the Pacers in the inaugural NBA In- Season Championship. How these two teams are stacking up against each other in the Bleacher Report next.



HUNT: Welcome back.

A formal Biden impeachment inquiry may be inching closer. House Republicans officially introduced their resolution yesterday with a vote planned for next week. Led by House Oversight Chairman James Comer, Republicans are hoping to find proof -- hoping to find proof that the president was directly involved and benefited from his family's business dealings. They have not yet found it to date.

The White House responding by calling the effort a quote "stupid stunt."

Let's bring in Tia Mitchell, Washington correspondent for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Tia, good morning.

The reality here is it's not clear yet that they have the votes to do this. There's a reason why Kevin McCarthy avoided this -- you know, sending this to the floor and formally opening it. But there are reasons why they want to open a formal inquiry.

What are those reasons, and do you think they can actually do it?

TIA MITCHELL, WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT, THE ATLANTA JOURNAL- CONSTITUTION (via Webex by Cisco): So, the reasons are that a formal inquiry will allow them a little bit more investigative power. Put a lot more kind of substance and teeth behind this investigation that's already underway. So, quite frankly, those Republicans who want to continue digging into President Joe Biden and his family's dealings and their finances need this authorization that the impeachment inquiry would provide.

Now, why it's likely to happen is Republicans have found their messaging in a way that will help those in swing districts or the more moderate Republicans stay aboard, which is their -- what they're saying is we're not saying we're ready to impeach. We're saying we're ready to authorize the formal investigation that is an impeachment inquiry. So they're making that clear this is about the inquiry.

What's wrong with more fact-finding? What's wrong with asking questions? If the president has nothing to hide then he has nothing to worry about. That's why the inquiry is likely to be approved next week.

HUNT: So, you mentioned moderate Republicans. They're the ones that have been a little bit more hesitant to authorize the inquiry as you say.

I want to show you a little bit of what Marc Molinaro, who is one of those more moderate Republicans, had to say about this yesterday -- watch.


REP. MARC MOLINARO (R-NY): The fundamental responsibility to provide oversight and check and balance on the Executive Branch isn't subjected to what's in the best political interest of everyone -- anyone. I didn't come to Washington to expel a member of Congress or impeach a president. The White House and the administration would do well by honoring subpoenas and participating in the investigation.


HUNT: What do you make of those comments and what he suggested to the White House?

MITCHELL: Yeah. I mean, again, what Republicans are messaging is that if President Joe Biden has nothing to hide why would he avoid an impeachment inquiry? Why would he have a problem with them looking into his family?

And again, that messaging is pretty good P.R. But at the end of the day, an impeachment inquiry is usually a serious thing. It should be rare. Ideally, there should already be some concern or already problematic behavior where the impeachment inquiry is to kind of substantiate and have a more formal reckoning of what is already thought to be true. That's what impeachments have been in the past.


But in this highly politicized environment that we have, now we have the House ready to move forward with just kind of innuendo, and that's what they are basing the impeachment inquiry on -- not necessarily any smoking gun right now. But I think what Republicans are hoping is that they dig enough, they find something.

HUNT: Yeah. Clearly, that's their hope.

I think it's also worth underscoring that this is -- they've got one more week left before they leave for Christmas. This is what they're doing while Israel, Ukraine still looking for aid, et cetera. There's a lot that Congress could be doing but this is what they're choosing to do.

Tia Mitchell of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, thank you very much for being with us this morning.

All right, CNN is following a developing story this morning. The U.S. Embassy in Baghdad hit by two rockets. Who officials believe is behind that attack. It's coming up on "CNN THIS MORNING."



HUNT: Welcome back.

A group of students in Utah now being hailed as heroes after racing to save the lives of a mother and her young children who were trapped under a car. The driver was blinded by the sun and accidentally hit them. Dozens of students, right away, ran to the car and lifted it off the ground to free the victims.

The school says the mother underwent surgery and is recovering. The children are also doing well.

All right, now to sports. The championship game for the NBA's inaugural In-Season Tournament is now set. It's going to be the Lakers taking on the Pacers.

Andy Scholes has this morning's Bleacher Report. Andy, good morning.

ANDY SCHOLES, CNN SPORTS ANCHOR: Yeah, good morning, Kasie.

You know, the story of the In-Season Tournament so far, other than those colorful courts, has been the Pacers and their star Tyrese Haliburton. The 23-year-old from Oshkosh, Wisconsin just putting on a show in Vegas.

We'll pick it up in the fourth quarter. Haliburton running the break and going to throw the alley-oop to Obi Topping who throws it down. It was a one-point game at that point.

Fast-forward to under a minute to go. Haliburton, a step-back three. Mom and dad just loving it. Haliburton looking at his wrist and says it's my time. And a nod to the Bucks Damian Lillard -- dame time celebration. So, Haliburton finished with 27 points, 15 assists, and no turnovers. The Pacers move on to the title game beating the Bucks 128-119.


TYRESE HALIBURTON, INDIANA PACERS GUARD: It's our time. It's our time as a group and we're playing the right way. And like I said, we're going to -- we're shocking the world right now and we're going to continue to do that. And as long as we play the right way, we know we're going to be in every basketball game.


SCHOLES: All right, so the Pacers will now play the Lakers, who just blew the Pelicans off the court in the nightcap. LeBron scoring 30 in less than three quarters of action. And he got to watch from the bench in the fourth because L.A. outscored New Orleans 43-17 in the third. The Lakers would win easily 133-89.

So, LeBron's going to play for the inaugural In-Season title, but after the game, he kind of downplayed the importance of Saturday night.


LEBRON JAMES, LOS ANGELES LAKERS FORWARD: Listen, it's still -- it's still December, so I'm not getting too crazy about the whole thing. I understand this is -- this thing has been a great In-Season Tournament but it's still December, you know. So -- but it is another game for us to get better and we want to -- we want to try to win the game because we're a team that wants to get better. Every single game we go out there -- every quarter, every possession. So we have another opportunity to do that.


SCHOLES: All right. So the stage is set. Lakers and Pacers, Saturday night at 8:30 Eastern in Las Vegas. And hey, each player on the winning team gets a cool half-million dollars, so you know they'll certainly be playing hard in that one.

All right, week 14 of the NFL season kicking off last night -- the Steelers hosting the Patriots. This was supposed to be a low-scoring game. The over-under was 30, the lowest in an NFL game since 1993.

But Bailey Zappe had other ideas. New England -- they had three touchdowns in the first half -- all touchdown passes from Zappe. Pittsburgh tried to make it a game. They scored 15 unanswered points to cut the deficit to just three, but that was as close as Mitch Trubisky and company would get.

The Patriots would win this one 21-18 to snap their five-game losing streak. But Patriots fans are not all thrilled because, at this point, they're playing for draft positioning and moved down with the win.

The Steelers, meanwhile -- they lose to a two-win team for the second time at home in a span of five days. Pretty rough. All right. And finally, reigning Masters champion Jon Rahm is jumping ship. The number-three golfer in the world announcing he's leaving the PGA Tour to join the Saudi-backed LIV Golf series. Rahm was a former critic of LIV Golf, saying just last year that he didn't like the format and respected golf's history too much to be influenced by money.

Well, he spoke about the blockbuster move on Fox News last night.


JON RAHM, 2-TIME MAJOR WINNER: The money is great. Obviously, it is wonderful. But what I've said before is true. I do not play golf for the money. I play golf for the love of the game and for the love of golf.


SCHOLES: And according to ESPN, Kasie, Rahm got more than $300 million to join LIV, so --

HUNT: Uh, Andy --

SCHOLES: -- I'm not sure if he's turning that down. I don't -- you know.

HUNT: I do not play golf for the money. I play it for love of the game. I mean, the actions seem to indicate aggressively otherwise.

SCHOLES: I don't know. I mean, Kasie, I -- could anyone turn down that amount of money to do the exact same thing and even do it a little bit less? So, I can't fault the guy.


HUNT: What do you think --

SCHOLES: I just wouldn't have gone publicly and said all these things knowing that the potential was there in the future.

HUNT: Yeah. I mean, it does argue for biting your tongue.

I mean, what do you think it means for golf?

SCHOLES: So, you know, LIV Golf and the PGA -- they have this December 31 deadline to strike a deal for whatever kind of merger they're going to have. What this signing of Rahm means, I don't know. But supposedly that's a hard deadline so we'll have to wait and see by the end of the year what happens in the world of golf.

HUNT: It does seem to give LIV a little bit of an edge.

All right. Thanks, Andy.

SCHOLES: All right.

HUNT: Always good to see you. Have a great weekend.

SCHOLES: You, too.

HUNT: And thanks to all of you for joining us. I'm Kasie Hunt. Have a wonderful weekend. "CNN THIS MORNING" starts right now.