I’m Isaac Saul, and this is Tangle: an independent, nonpartisan, subscriber-supported politics newsletter that summarizes the best arguments from across the political spectrum on the news of the day — then “my take.”

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We drafted a new Congress.

On the Sunday podcast, I did a little experiment with Tangle Managing Editor Ari Weitzman. We created a hypothetical where Congress had been dissolved, and Ari and I were elected co-presidents. Our task was to draft a 15-person congress using only people who are currently serving in the House and Senate. The result was a surprising and fun discussion of what we each value in our leaders, paired with a lot of fun facts about current members of Congress. You can listen to the episode here.

Quick hits.

  1. An Israeli special forces operation in Central Gaza freed four living hostages who were captured on October 7. More than 270 Palestinians were killed in the operation, the Hamas-run Gaza health ministry said, as combatants and Israeli soldiers fought inside and around two residential apartment buildings where the hostages were being held. (The rescue) Separately, opposition leader Benny Gantz announced his resignation from Israel's war cabinet after a deadline passed for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to set a postwar plan for Gaza. (The resignation)
  2. Robert F. Kennedy Jr. has reached 15% in three approved national polls, one short of the four required to participate in CNN's presidential debate on June 27. (The polling)
  3. French President Emmanuel Macron dissolved the lower house of parliament to call for snap elections after the far-right National Rally party defeated pro-European centrists in elections to represent the country in European Parliament. (The decision)
  4. Former Trump adviser Steve Bannon was ordered to report to prison on July 1 to begin a four-month sentence for criminal contempt of Congress. (The order)
  5. The United States is planning to offer a landmark defense treaty to Saudi Arabia in an effort to spur a normalization of relations with Israel. (The agreement

Today's topic.

Hunter Biden's trial. On Friday, federal prosecutors rested their case against Hunter Biden, President Joe Biden’s son, who is facing three felony charges related to a 2018 firearm purchase he allegedly made while using drugs.

The case: Hunter Biden is accused of falsely stating on a gun purchase form that he was not illegally using or addicted to drugs in October 2018. Prosecutors allege that he then unlawfully possessed the handgun for 11 days. Last year, Biden had reached an agreement with the Justice Department to plead guilty to two misdemeanor tax charges and avoid prosecution on the gun charge. The deal would have insulated Biden from ever facing any criminal charges for his past unlawful behavior, but collapsed amid criticism that the terms were too lenient.

If prosecutors prove Biden was on or addicted to drugs at the time he purchased the weapon, he could face up to 25 years in prison. A sentence of that length would be unusual for a first-time offender like Biden, and presiding judge Maryellen Noreika may not sentence him to prison even if he is found guilty. Separately, Biden still faces a federal trial in California later this year for failing to pay $1.4 million in taxes.

What happened: During the trial this week, prosecutors played the jury recordings from an audiobook of Hunter Biden's 2021 memoir “Beautiful Things” that detailed his addiction before, during, and after the gun purchase. Prosecutors argued that the four-year period of crack cocaine addiction that Biden described in his memoir covered the time when he purchased the firearm.

"Addiction may not be a choice, but lying and buying a gun is a choice,” one of the prosecutors said in court. “Nobody is above the law.”

Hunter Biden's lawyer Abbe Lowell has argued that Biden was not using drugs when he filled out the form, asserting that he bought the gun in a time of relative sobriety following a two-week stint in rehab in August 2018. However, one witness for the prosecution testified that she met Biden at a gentlemen's club and saw him using drugs in September of 2018, the month before the gun was bought.

One of the witnesses called by the defense was Hunter's 30-year-old daughter Naomi, who they hoped would portray her father as a more sympathetic character. However, the strategy seems to have backfired. While Naomi testified that her father appeared to respond well to drug treatment in the weeks before purchasing the gun, during cross-examination prosecutors presented old text messages from that October in which Naomi seemed exasperated with her dad over his drug use.

The prosecution's star witness was Hallie Biden, the widow of Hunter Biden's brother Beau, with whom Hunter had a brief relationship after Beau died of brain cancer in 2015. Hallie testified that she discovered Hunter Biden’s Colt revolver and ammunition in his truck, and that she "panicked" before deciding to throw it away in a trash can outside a market near her home. She added that she saw what she believed was drug residue when she discovered the gun in Hunter’s truck.

Now what: The trial will continue on Monday, as the defense prepares to rest its case. Biden’s lawyers have decided not to call Hunter Biden to the stand and, after Naomi's testimony seemed to backfire, they scrapped plans to call President Biden's brother James to the stand. Once the defense rests, both sides will present their closing arguments. President Biden has continued to express support for his son, but has pledged not to pardon him if he is convicted. 

Today, we're going to look at some arguments from the left and right about the latest in the trial, then my take.

What the left is saying.

  • The left says the case against Hunter Biden is strong but questions why it was brought to trial at all. 
  • Some suggest the trial invalidates the right’s claims of a two-tiered justice system.
  • Others say Biden is being prosecuted for political reasons.

In Politico, Ankush Khardori wrote “the Hunter Biden case is solid. There’s something rotten about it too.”

“Almost every federal prosecutor — myself included — will at one point prosecute a case involving the unlawful purchase or possession of a firearm. Along with immigration and drug cases, gun charges are the bread and butter of federal prosecutors, for better or worse,” Khardori said. “These cases almost always result in convictions, but they usually end in plea deals, not jury verdicts. The statutes in this area are both broad and punitive, and the elements of the offenses are relatively easy to prove. As a result, there are very few credible lines of defense at trial, and the logic of a guilty plea — which ensures at least some time off of the ultimate sentence — tends to be inescapable.”

“Federal prosecutors often charge defendants with lying on federal forms to purchase guns for other people — usually convicted felons who cannot lawfully buy guns on their own. But it is rare for prosecutors to charge someone with lying about being a drug user at the time of the purchase,” Khardori said. “If I had been asked to prosecute a case against a former drug addict using his memoir of recovery as the centerpiece of the case, I do not think I would have been able to bring myself to do it. That’s particularly true because it is far from clear that the conviction of Biden — to say nothing of a potential prison sentence — would serve any meaningful purpose.”

In CNN, Oliver Darcy argued the “Hunter Biden trial shows America’s justice system isn’t so rigged after all.”

“The same media outlets and figures who have told their audiences that there is a ‘two-tiered justice system’ in America are now prominently covering a trial in which Biden’s own Justice Department prosecutes his son. If Biden is rigging the justice system, he is doing a lousy job,” Darcy wrote. “To be clear, the unprecedented nature of a president’s own son going on trial for felony charges warrants significant coverage. However, while Trump’s trial was treated as an illegitimate ‘sham’ by the MAGA Media machine, the Hunter Biden trial is being portrayed in a markedly different light. Oddly, the charges brought against President Biden’s son don’t represent ‘election interference.’”

“These same outlets are also dishonestly attempting to tie President Biden to the alleged crimes of his son, despite the fact that the GOP has been unable to uncover any evidence establishing such a link,” Darcy said. “Regardless of what happens in the Hunter Biden trial, however, Trump’s media allies will still undoubtedly claim that the justice system is rigged… Even if Hunter Biden is found guilty, audiences will be told that he got off easy and should have been hit with more severe charges.” 

In USA Today, Charles M. Oberly said “I ran the office prosecuting Hunter Biden. I can't fathom why this trial is happening.”

“Even accepting all the government’s allegations as true, it’s hard to understand why it is prosecuting the younger Biden: At the time he purchased a firearm, Biden was a nonviolent, 40-something struggling drug addict with zero criminal history. He proceeded to possess a firearm for 11 days and did not use it for any purpose (let alone in a crime),” Oberly wrote. “The office prosecuting this case – the office I once led – now rarely prosecutes even the most violent gun offenders. Of the thousands of gun charges in Delaware, the U.S. Attorney’s Office prosecutes very few.”

“The purpose of prosecutorial discretion is to make the law work for its intended purpose. Addicts and nonaddicts alike make mistakes every day; no office has the ability or desire to prosecute each infraction. And certainly no office should chase felony convictions and jail time in a misguided effort to appease either side in Congress,” Oberly said. “On the federal side, this is where the attorney general’s guidance is important. Here, he has strained to stay far away from the case. I do not know his motives. But I fear his desire to tell investigating Republicans that he did not interfere has caused the pendulum to swing so far that this particular defendant is being targeted in a way that no other individual would.”

What the right is saying.

  • The right believes Hunter Biden is clearly guilty and says President Biden is to blame for the case getting to this point.
  • Some say Hunter has built-in advantages that could help him escape a guilty verdict.
  • Others explore whether Hunter will be exonerated via jury nullification. 

The Wall Street Journal editorial board wrote about “the sad case of Hunter Biden.”

“Hunter’s defenders say he is being singled out for unfair treatment because few people are tried for lying on the gun application form. But former federal prosecutor Andrew McCarthy says that’s true only when the purchase isn’t fulfilled,” the board said. “Hunter purchased the gun and handled it irresponsibly. He would have retained it for more than those 11 days if Hallie Biden hadn’t found it and tossed it in a grocery store dumpster. A Republican Senate and Democratic House increased the penalty for this gun offense to 15 from 10 years in 2022, signaling that they want those cases prosecuted. Joe Biden signed that legislation.”

“It’s fair to ask why this case took six years to bring to trial. Thank U.S. Attorney David Weiss and the way the President handled the evidence of his son’s laptop when the New York Post reported it in October 2020,” the board wrote. Merrick Garland “boxed himself into a political corner after he had named Jack Smith a special counsel to investigate Mr. Trump. Mr. Weiss followed with the gun and tax indictments against Hunter. As we warned when Mr. Smith was appointed, using the legal system against political opponents would inevitably hurt Democrats too.”

In The Federalist, Margot Cleveland argued “Hunter Biden’s trial does not exonerate America’s two-tiered justice system.”

“One obvious difference between the criminal cases of Donald Trump and Hunter Biden concerns the involvement of politically motivated investigators and prosecutors. Both the Manhattan prosecutor, Alvin Bragg, and Fulton County DA Fani Willis are card-carrying Democrats who became party favorites by targeting Donald Trump,” Cleveland said. “In contrast, it was career investigators who worked the Hunter Biden investigation, and political appointees and D.C. bureaucrats who mucked up their case.”

“There is one similarity between the current trial of Hunter Biden in Wilmington, Delaware, and Trump’s just-ended Manhattan trial: the political predilections of the jury pool. In 2020, Biden won Manhattan by 84.5 percent to Trump’s 14.5 percent, with the breakdown in Wilmington slightly higher at 87 percent for Biden, to Trump’s not-even 12 percent. This similarity, though, may soon provide the final proof of the two-tiered system of justice — by acquitting the president’s son.”

In The Hill, Jonathan Turley suggested “Hunter Biden may be seeking jury nullification rather than vindication.”

“Why wouldn’t Hunter just plead guilty? Even without his earlier plea deal, a guilty plea could significantly reinforce a request to avoid jail time in the case. It would also avoid an embarrassing trial for himself and his father during a presidential election,” Turley wrote. “While Hunter could always throw in the towel before the start of testimony, there is currently no discernible strategy beyond hoping that a pending case in the Supreme Court might undermine the indictment. There may also be another possible strategy in play: jury nullification.”

“Biden may be hoping that testimony on his travails with drugs will prompt one or more jurors to ignore the law and vote to acquit. Notably, virtually all of the selected jurors have said that they know of someone who has struggled with drugs,” Turley said. “Biden’s case has all of the characteristics of a nullification defense. Even if he cannot secure acquittal, the combination of political and social elements at play in Delaware could produce a hung jury. Trying a Biden in Delaware is a challenge for any prosecutor, even without the potential sympathies for a reformed drug addict.”

My take.

Reminder: "My take" is a section where I give myself space to share my own personal opinion. If you have feedback, criticism, or compliments, don't unsubscribe. Write in by replying to this email, or leave a comment.

  • Hunter’s trial reminds me a lot of Trump’s “hush-money” case — he seems guilty, prison time seems harsh, and it’s not the worst thing he’s accused of.
  • Furthermore, the details of this case are unseemly and it reads like a tabloid affair.
  • That we’re seeing so many political prosecutions tells me our justice system is healthy, but that our politicians are not.

Oddly enough, and in contrast to what some other writers have said, the similarities between this Hunter Biden trial and the Donald Trump trial we just witnessed pop off the page to me.

For one, I thought both were pretty obviously guilty of the actions they were accused of. The evidence Hunter Biden was using and addicted to drugs at the time he purchased this firearm is pretty overwhelming.

Second, I don't think this case would have gone to trial if the defendant wasn't politically relevant. It is obviously excessive for the Justice Department to spend five years and significant resources prosecuting a normal defendant for lying on a form to apply for a gun.

Third, I don't think either Hunter Biden or Donald Trump should spend a day behind bars for these alleged crimes. Hunter could technically face 25 years in prison, but a harsh prison sentence for a first-time offender is quite rare, and I don’t see any reason to make an exception here.

And finally, neither case has anything to do with the most serious allegations the person in question is facing. For Biden, that would be selling his family connections in corrupt deals with Ukrainian and Chinese-linked businesses.

That last point is definitely the most resonant for me. I had a hard time getting excited about Trump's hush money trial in New York, and I feel similarly blasé about this case. Hunter Biden is obviously not a very sympathetic character. He seems like a sleazy guy who was born into a powerful and close-knit family (and the trial once again confirmed the contents of his laptop that show just how corrupt he was at least attempting to be).

But he also just seems deeply troubled. Remember: Hunter was in a car accident when he was a child that killed his mother and baby sister. The trial has made it clear he went off the rails after his brother died in 2015, and the evidence presented against him also paints the picture of a dad attempting (but failing) to rebuild a relationship with his daughter. So while he’s not a very sympathetic character, it isn’t hard to have some sympathy for him. Even former President Donald Trump, who has used the case to his political advantage, expressed sympathy for Hunter.

“Look, I feel very badly for them in terms of the addiction part of what they have right now,” Trump said. “Because I understand the addiction world. And I have also—not only a brother. I have lost a lot of friends to addiction, drugs, alcohol.” 

If Hunter Biden was in the throes of his addiction when he bought this gun (which I think he clearly was), that means he is guilty of the crime he is accused of. And if his lawyers and the Justice Department hadn't pushed the envelope as far as possible in last year's plea deal, he probably wouldn't be standing trial right now. And yet, this trial still seems gratuitous, like one giant tabloid grab. Reading testimony about all the different relationships Hunter ruined through his addictions, the pleading texts from his daughter to spend more time with him, and stories from his ex-girlfriends or escorts depicting how out of his mind he was makes this trial feel more like reality TV. That doesn’t make me feel bad for the guy, but it does give me the slimy feeling that I’m peering too deeply into someone’s personal life.

However, even though this case has gone on too long and probably could have been resolved last year, I do think it reflects somewhat positively on the Justice Department. At a time when Merrick Garland is being accused of all sorts of political partisanship, the DOJ is now prosecuting President Biden's son, Democratic Sen. Bob Menendez (NJ), and Democratic Rep. Henry Cuellar (TX). To bring us back to reality: These are not the signs of a banana republic. The U.S. is not a country defined by political prosecutions. People who gain political power have abused that power since forever, and these cases are just what happens when law enforcement prosecutes the powerful without political favor. In fact, I’d say that the number of recent trials and indictments reflects much more poorly on those being prosecuted than it does on the Justice Department itself.

Here’s one more similarity between this case and Trump’s: I really don't know what will happen if Hunter gets convicted. I have a hard time imagining him going to jail as part of his sentence, and I also think it is incredibly unlikely (and would be very unwise) for President Biden to get involved in any way (like by trying to pardon him). What I do think, though, is that the odds of Hunter getting convicted in this trial are strong, and then just as the 2024 campaign comes into its final weeks, he will have to take the stand in his trial over unpaid taxes. For the president, it's a headache that will not go away anytime soon. And for Hunter, it’s genuine legal peril.

Take the survey: Do you think Hunter Biden should face prison time? Let us know!

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What I got wrong.

Remember: My take is just one opinion, and I’m not always right. On Friday, we published a subscribers-only piece where I highlighted three things I’ve gotten wrong in the last few months (and one thing I got right). You can read a free preview of the article here, or subscribe to read the full thing.

Your questions, answered.

Q: Do you choose some of the more extreme examples of what the left and right are saying to paint the whole spectrum of the argument or is that actually the best representation of what that side is saying? Sometimes I read what the right is saying, and think: that is way too conservative, the typical Republican can't be thinking that. And vice versa, with what the left is saying, and find it crazy to think that is the most representative response of what the left is saying as it seems far too left. I sometimes wonder if Tangle sometimes chooses the most extreme viewpoints to further the point that traditional media is too biased and partisan, and dashes my hope for America that we can have rationality on either of the political spectrums that isn't oozing in partisan bias.

— Christian from Houston, TX

Tangle: Generally speaking, I think that if you read Tangle top to bottom without finding some opinions you think are a little out there, we probably aren’t doing our jobs.

Collectively, the perspectives we choose to highlight should represent a full spectrum of opinions we’re reading in the media ecosystem. If we only cited center-right or center-left opinions, then you wouldn’t get a sense of what is actually out there — you’d be getting a more milquetoast and less realistic version of the country. Conversely, if all we did was publish more fringe views, then you’d be left with the inaccurate perspective that there aren’t a lot of moderates on both sides.

So, yes, some of the opinions we publish will be towards an end pretty far from where you are, but only because those opinions are held by a lot of people. Since we always want to include a range of opinions from the right and left, they shouldn’t all strike you as too far “out there,” but odds are at least one will feel pretty far removed from the way you’d interpret the events we cover.

I can actually put it pretty simply: If there weren’t thousands of people willing to read an article, or click on it to drive ad revenue or buy a subscription to support a publication, then the media outlet publishing it wouldn’t exist. Partisan media, as a business, works. It’s the uphill battle we’re always fighting at Tangle — trust me, if I wanted to cynically find the easiest path towards riches in journalism, there are easier ways than exaggerating the extent of media bias to try to paint myself as “one of the sane ones.” If tomorrow, I said “actually, the right is all crazy” or “you know what, the left has lost its collective mind,” I’d make a killing.

But maximizing my profits with Tangle is not what motivates me. I’m genuinely interested in trying to get people of all political stripes under one roof, reading and trusting one source of news (we are trying to be a big tent at Tangle). And hopefully we’ll get people with different perspectives to better understand each other along the way. At the same time, I don’t want to pretend more radical or fringe views don’t exist — I even hold some radical and fringe views myself!

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Under the radar.

GameStop’s stock, after recently seeing another meteoric rise, is plummeting again. Meme stock leader Keith Gill, also known as Roaring Kitty, was behind the recent push, returning to YouTube after three years away from the platform with a livestream that generated more than 600,000 viewers. GameStop reported its quarterly results four days ahead of schedule on Friday, which sent the stock shooting up 50% before Gill went live. Investors exchanged $10 billion worth of GameStop shares on Friday, more than any other stock on Wall Street except Nvidia and Apple, and the stock finished trading at $28.22 after trading was halted several times ahead of and during the much-anticipated livestream. After briefly trading above $60 per share on Thursday, the stock has fallen back to below $27. Fox Business has the story.


  • 58%. The percentage of Americans who say Hunter Biden’s legal troubles have no impact on their likelihood of voting for Joe Biden, according to a February 2024 Reuters/Ipsos poll.
  • 23%. The percentage of Americans who say Hunter Biden’s legal troubles make them less likely to vote for Joe Biden.
  • 59%. The percentage of Americans who say Hunter Biden is receiving favorable treatment from U.S. prosecutors because he is President Biden’s son.
  • 50%. The percentage of Americans who said Hunter Biden was receiving favorable treatment from U.S. prosecutors because he is President Biden’s son in June 2023.
  • 50%. The percentage of Americans who say Hunter Biden’s indictment on criminal charges was politically motivated.
  • 34%. The percentage of Americans who said Hunter Biden’s indictment on criminal charges was politically motivated in June 2023.
  • $150,000. The approximate amount in cash withdrawals made by Hunter Biden between September and November 2018, including $5,000 on the day he bought the gun at the center of his criminal trial.
  • $750,000. The maximum fine Hunter could face if convicted in the trial.

The extras.

  • One year ago today we had just covered Pence and Christie jumping into the presidential race.
  • The most clicked link in Thursday’s newsletter was the ad for the Flex Jump jump rope in the free version (use code ‘TANGLE’ at checkout).
  • Nothing to do with politics: The Ohio arcade owner with the record for most pinball machines.
  • Thursday’s survey: 893 readers answered our survey on Biden’s executive order on asylum with 33% mostly approving. “This merely seems like a ploy to reduce criticism going into the election, but I'll still take it for now. It's better than nothing, I suppose. Congress needs to get with it so that immigration can become manageable again,” one respondent said.

Have a nice day.

The United Nations released its mid-2024 World Economic Situation and Prospects report, and the outlook is pretty good. The U.N. expects the world economy to grow by 2.7% in 2024 (surpassing the 2.3% prediction made in January), attributing the jump to growth in the United States’s economy with additional significant improvements in several large emerging economies, particularly Brazil, India, and Russia. The report also projected a 2.8% increase in 2025. “These changes are actually coming from better-than-expected performance in some of the large developed and emerging economies,” said Shantanu Mukherjee, director of the U.N.’s Economic Analysis and Policy Division. Nice News has the story.

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