Hunter Biden’s defense attorney Abbe Lowell has condemned prosecutors who charged the US president’s 54-year old son with tax fraud on Thursday, accusing special counsel David Weiss of “bowing to Republican pressure”.
“Based on the facts and the law, if Hunter’s last name was anything other than Biden, the charges in Delaware, and now California, would not have been brought,” Lowell said in a statement.
Related: Hunter Biden indicted on tax charges in California in new criminal case
Lowell accused Weiss, who is also the US attorney for Delaware, where Joe Biden was a senator from 1973 to 2009, of failing to meet him before filing the nine-count indictment in California.
If convicted, Hunter Biden could face 17 years in prison.
“I wrote [to] US Attorney Weiss days ago seeking a customary meeting to discuss this investigation. The response was media leaks today that these charges were being filed,” said Lowell.
He added that Hunter Biden “paid his taxes in full” more than two years ago.
The bombshell 56-page federal indictment filed in California follows state charges filed by Weiss in Delaware in October, alleging Biden unlawfully obtained a revolver in October 2018 after he falsely stated he was not using narcotic drugs.
Both sets of charges follow the collapse of plea deal on two misdemeanor tax crimes and a gun charge in August that – had it been approved – would have shielded the first son from further criminal exposure, including possible offenses stemming from his lucrative consulting deals with companies in Ukraine, China and Romania.
The new charges include three felonies and six misdemeanor offenses that the prosecutors now allege amount to “a four-year scheme in which he chose not to pay at least $1.4m in self-assessed federal taxes he owed for tax years 2016 through 2019 and to evade the assessment of taxes for tax year 2018 when he filed false returns”.
Weiss alleges Hunter Biden withdrew millions from his company, subverting the payroll and tax withholding process, and also “spent millions of dollars on an extravagant lifestyle rather than paying his tax bills”.
The charges were filed days before Biden could testify before a congressional oversight committee looking into Biden family business dealings that could be elevated into an impeachment inquiry into Joe Biden next week.
Hunter Biden has offered to testify if the hearings are public, but the Republican-controlled committee has said he does not have the option to dictate the terms.
In his statement, Biden’s attorney said Weiss, who was nominated to his job in Delaware by Donald Trump and made special counsel by the current attorney general, Merrick Garland, had “bowed to Republican pressure to file unprecedented and unconstitutional gun charges to renege on a non-prosecution resolution”.
“Now, after five years of investigating with no new evidence – and two years after Hunter paid his taxes in full – the US attorney has piled on nine new charges when he had agreed just months ago to resolve this matter with a pair of misdemeanors.”
The charges come after two IRS whistleblowers told Republican lawmakers that the five-year investigation into Hunter Biden’s affairs had been slow-rolled and mismanaged.
One of the whistleblowers, Joseph Ziegler, said tax attorneys at the justice department had been concerned that Biden’s substance abuse and the death of his brother, Beau, from brain cancer “could play a huge role and cause the jury to say, essentially … to have sympathy for him and to not convict on the charges”.
The new indictment talks extensively about the nature of Hunter Biden’s lifestyle, which he has detailed at length in a memoir, Beautiful Things.
The indictment, which alleges Biden was paid $140,000 for the memoir, quotes verbatim from a page in which Biden wrote he had associated with “thieves, junkies, petty dealers, over-the-hill strippers, con artists, and assorted hangers-on” during an addiction to crack cocaine.
It describes in detail how Biden allegedly gave hundreds of thousands of dollars to drug dealers and escorts, allegedly swerved alimony payments to his ex-wife, and allegedly sent a $1,500 Venmo payment to a nightclub dancer for “artwork”.
“The exotic dancer had not sold him any artwork,” prosecutors allege.
On Friday, the musician and producer Moby aired the first episode of a two-part podcast interview with Biden, recorded at Biden’s studio in San Francisco before the new indictments were filed.
In it, Hunter Biden discusses his shame at feeling like the Biden family “fuck-up”, and how he drank and used drugs before working hard to achieve sobriety four years ago.
“The hard part, the excruciatingly difficult thing to do, is to maintain that when you are literally the focus of a hatred and an intensity that is both specific and global,” Biden said.
He also described being doxxed – having his personal information and address published – by the New York Post, which led to Trump supporters wearing Maga hats shouting through bullhorns outside his house and shining a digital billboard on a flatbed truck through his windows.