Federal prosecutors indicted Joe Biden’s son, Hunter Biden, over illegally possessing a firearm in Delaware on Thursday. The indictment comes a month after the US attorney general, Merrick Garland, appointed the US attorney David Weiss, a Trump nominee, to oversee the investigation as special counsel.
Hunter Biden has been at the center of a years-long investigation into his tax affairs that was set to close with a guilty plea. But that plea deal fell apart at a Delaware courthouse after the Trump-appointed judge said she could not agree to the agreement, which ensured Biden would avoid jail time in a separate case of illegally possessing a gun while using drugs.
Amid the controversy, the president has repeatedly said he supports his son and Hunter has been seen regularly at family events. Asked if President Biden would pardon his son in the event of any conviction, Karine Jean-Pierre, the White House press secretary, told reporters: “No.”
But the younger Biden has been embroiled in a list of unrelated controversies for years, including his overseas dealings and struggles with addiction, which ex-President Trump and his allies have regularly sought to use as fodder for attacks.
Related: Merrick Garland appointing special counsel in Hunter Biden investigation
Here’s a comprehensive timeline of the moments that have propelled Hunter Biden into the limelight.
Joe Biden Senate tenure: Hunter’s consulting work for MBNA Corporation, a large Delaware-based banking chain, sparks backlash as his father, then a senator, was pushing for legislation favored by the online banking industry. The Obama-Biden 2008 campaign later rebuffs claims of improper action.
Vice-presidency: Hunter Biden joins the board of Burisma, a private Ukrainian energy company, in 2014. Years later, House Republicans and Donald Trump spread baseless claims of wrongdoing by the Biden family, including that the vice-president helped push out the Ukrainian prosecutor general for failing to crack down on corruption in 2016 in order to protect his son.
Administration officials say at the time there was no conflict of interest since the president’s son was a private citizen. Hunterlater says it was “poor judgment” to take the paid post but insists he did nothing wrong.
October 2014: The Wall Street Journal reports Hunter was discharged from the US navy reserve in 2013 after a test returned positive for cocaine.
2016: After his brother Beau Biden’s death in 2015, Hunter increasingly struggles with addiction, according to his memoir, released in 2021. He begins an affair with his late brother’s wife, Hallie Biden, afterwards. His wife, Kathleen Buhle, files for divorce in December, saying her husband spent extravagantly on alcohol and on gifts for other women.
2018: Federal prosecutors reportedly launch an investigation into Hunter’s finances, including his tax affairs and business dealings in China, as early as 2018. Hunter allegedly failed to pay taxes between 2017 and 2018 and separately inked deals with Chinese executives.
May 2019: Huntermarries Melissa Cohen, an environmental activist and film-maker from South Africa, days after meeting.
August 2019: An Arkansas woman, Lunden Roberts, files a lawsuit asking Hunter Biden for child support, claiming her daughter, Navy, is his.
Trump impeachment: Trump seeks to divert attention from his impeachment inquiry towards Hunter’s business dealings in China and Ukraine.
2020 presidential election: Trump repeatedly attacks Joe Biden over his family’s overseas business ties.
December 2020: A month after his father wins the presidential election, Hunter confirms a Delaware attorney has been investigating his “tax affairs”. He says he had learned of the investigation, overseen by Trump-appointed US attorney David Weiss, from his lawyer a day before he confirmed it publicly. The investigation had been temporarily paused in the months leading up to the election.
2021: Hunter pays back the amount he owed in taxes. He also gets back into art. Insider later reports that the younger Biden sold one of his paintings to a Democratic donor, Elizabeth Hirsh Naftali, whom the president appointed to a commission in 2022.
April 2023: An anonymous IRS whistleblower sends a letter to Congress saying the investigation into Hunter’s finances was mishandled.
20 June 2023: Hunter is expected to plead guilty to two tax misdemeanors after a federal court in Delaware announced it had reached a deal that was set to shield him from jail time over gun charges in a separate case.
29 June 2023: Hunter settles the lawsuit with Lunden Roberts and agrees to pay a monthly sum in child support, as well as turn over several paintings.
19 July 2023: Two former agents at the IRS, including the previously anonymous whistleblower, testify at a GOP-lead House oversight hearing that DoJ officials “constantly hamstrung, limited and marginalized” the US attorney, Weiss, in his investigation into Hunter.
26 July 2023: In a reversal, Hunterpleads not guilty to two tax misdemeanor charges after the judge, Maryellen Noreika, says she cannot accept the deal over a disagreement between the prosecution and Hunter’s legal team.
The two sides settled a disagreement over whether Hunter could face future charges for violating foreign lobbying laws. After a short recess, his lawyers said they agreed with the DoJ’s interpretation that he could face additional charges, subject to further investigation.
But Noreika again raises a question regarding a diversion agreement – where the prosecutor agrees to dismiss charges, with conditions – that would have cleared Hunter of his gun charges after two years if she found him to be compliant with the terms. Noreika said that power belonged to the DoJ, not her, and thus could not approve the deal.
1 August 2023: Joe Biden says in an interview he “has seven grandchildren”, acknowledging for the first time Navy, four, the daughter of Hunter Biden and Lunden Roberts.
August 2023: This is the deadline Noreika sets for the two sides to file additional briefs defending the constitutionality of the original plea deal.
Republican lawmakers are separately targeting the entire Biden family. The GOP-led House oversight committee is investigating whether the family’s business dealings harm US national security, and some extreme members are calling for impeachment.
11 August 2023: Merrick Garland, the attorney general, appoints special counsel David Weiss to oversee Hunter’s case.
14 September 2023: Hunter Biden is federally indicted with three felony counts, for illegally possessing a gun and making false statements when filling out paperwork to do so in 2018.