This week in politics: Hunter Biden’s plea deal collapses; Mitch McConnell freezes

Talk about drama in Delaware.

Hunter Biden’s plea agreement with federal prosecutors was already a political thriller, but few predicted it would crash and burn during a 3-hour hearing after the two sides squabbled over the details.

The judge refused to accept the terms on his tax-evasion charges, which keeps President Joe Biden’s son in the headlines as congressional Republicans continue to circle the controversial deal.

The case isn’t a whodunit legally speaking, and a clearer deal is expected to be provided by both sides within the next month. But the younger Biden’s saga remains a distraction for Democrats and catnip for the GOP as Congress heads home and the 2024 presidential campaign simmers.

July 26, 2023: Hunter Biden, son of U.S. President Joe Biden, departs the J. Caleb Boggs Federal Building and United States Courthouse in Wilmington, Delaware. Biden pleaded not guilty to two misdemeanor tax charges in a deal with prosecutors to avoid prosecution on an additional gun charge. However, the federal judge overseeing the case unexpectedly delayed Biden's plea deal and deferred her decision until more information is put forth by both the prosecution and the defense.

It was an awkward 28 seconds of silence that made the most noise in Washington this week.

Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., froze while speaking during a press conference and had to be escorted away by GOP colleagues. It was a stunning episode and sparked concern given the 81-year-old lawmaker had suffered a concussion months earlier.

The incident, coupled with Democratic Sen. Diane Feinstein, D-Calif., being confused about a vote, has once again put the age of elected leaders in the spotlight.

Republican presidential candidate Tim Scott has largely been playing the nice guy in the GOP field as most of his campaign focus remains on his agenda and drawing contrasts with Biden.

But asked about new Black history standards in Florida public schools the South Carolina lawmaker, who is the lone African-American Republican in the Senate, started a skirmish with Gov. Ron DeSantis that might be a new contrast in the primary.

The decorum of lawmakers is becoming more of an issue. This week, Rep. Derrick Van Orden, R-Wisconsin, yelled and cursed at a group of high school-aged Senate pages.

More frequently we are seeing shouting matches between members, particularly on the House side where lawmakers of the same party are having nasty confrontations. Remember a fist fight almost broke out in January during the speaker vote.

On a slightly lighter note, President Biden’s dog is in the dog house after a report came out showing the first family’s pup keeps biting people, including a Secret Service agent.

Hunter Biden’s legal saga continues after plea collapses

The five-year federal investigation into Hunter Biden was supposed to end this week with the 53-year-old hedge fund investor pleading guilty to two misdemeanor charges that he failed to pay his taxes in 2017 and 2018, thus avoiding jail time for that and a separate gun case.

But that quickly unraveled during the hearing when prosecutors and defense lawyers disagreed about the fine print, and almost ripped up the entire deal in court.

U.S. District Judge Maryellen Noreika, who presided over the hearing, was also skeptical. She lobbed several questions about the agreement, and ultimately Hunter Biden entered a not guilty plea until the two sides draft a clearer deal.

“I know you want to get this over with and I am sorry,” Noreika told Biden. “But I want to be careful.”

As the younger Biden works to end his legal mess, the White House made it clear that President Joe Biden would not use his presidential pen to pardon his son.

Mitch McConnell 28 seconds later

July 26, 2023: (L-R) Sen. John Barrasso (R-WY) reaches out to help Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) after McConnell froze and stopped talking at the microphones during a news conference after a lunch meeting with Senate Republicans U.S. Capitol in Washington, DC. Also pictured, L-R, Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), Sen. Steve Daines (R-MT), Sen. John Thune (R-SD), and Sen. Joni Ernst (R-IA). McConnell was escorted back to his office and later returned to the news conference and answered questions.

Mitch McConnell is known as the unflinching conservative leader of the Senate who rarely shows a chink in the armor when jousting with political foes.

But for almost a half a minute the Kentucky Republican didn’t utter a word during a Senate GOP press conference this week, which drew many to speculate about how bad his previous fall in March was. At the time he suffered a concussion and broke a rib.

The GOP leader’s office said he was “lightheaded” and has continued with his normal duties.

USA TODAY confirmed McConnell fell two other times this year, and now uses a wheelchair in certain spaces, which hadn’t been known before.

McConnell’s office again held a stiff upper lip going into the weekend, saying despite speculation he, “plans to serve his full term in the job they overwhelmingly elected him to do.”

Democrats have issues with aging leaders too, namely concerns about President Biden — whose falls make headlines — going into his reelection campaign, and with Sen. Dianne Feinstein, who has faced calls to resign back home in California.

This week the 90-year-old senator mistakenly started reading a statement during a routine committee vote.

Scott rips DeSantis, Florida on teaching ‘benefit’ of slavery

DES MOINES, IOWA - JUNE 03: Republican presidential candidate Senator Tim Scott (R-SC) greets guests during the Joni Ernst's Roast and Ride event on June 03, 2023 in Des Moines, Iowa. The annual event helps to raise money for veteran charities and highlight Republican candidates and platforms. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images) ORG XMIT: 775985049 ORIG FILE ID: 1495687317

Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., hasn’t shied away from talking about his racial heritage in the pursuit of the GOP presidential nomination, and has regularly blasted Democrats in defense of the country’s record on race.

During a stop in Iowa, he didn’t mince words about new school standards in Florida backed by Gov. Ron DeSantis, which say Black people benefited from slavery because it “developed skills” that could be used “for their personal benefit.”

“There is no silver lining in slavery,” Scott said.

DeSantis, who is also campaigning in Iowa this week, shot back, however, casting Scott’s criticism as being a patsy for Democrats.

“I think part of the reason our country has struggled is because D.C. Republicans all too often accept false narratives ∸ accept lies that are perpetrated by the left,” he said.

Congressman yells, curses at teen Senate pages

Republican Derrick Van Orden arrives at the U.S. Capitol on a Harley-Davison on Jan. 3, 2023.

Rep. Derrick Van Orden is new to Congress, and has already generated controversy for berating a group of youth in the Capitol.

When a group of high school-aged Senate pages were lying on their backs in the Capitol Rotunda taking pictures of the building’s dome, the Wisconsin Republican called the pages “lazy s—-“ and told them to “get the f— up” off the floor.

Senate Democratic and Republican leadership condemned the outburst, which Van Orden refused to apologize about.

“I would think that it’d be terribly disrespectful to lay on the grave of a soldier that died fighting for freedom,” he said. “And I don’t know anybody that disagrees.”

Bad dog! Biden’s pup bites Secret Service agent

First lady Jill Biden tosses a ball to President Joe Biden as they take their dog Commander for a walk in Rehoboth Beach, Del., Tuesday, Dec. 28, 2021.

President Biden’s dogs are still biting people.

This time it is Commander, a German Shepherd, who was involved in 10 biting incidents, according to records obtained by the conservative organization Judicial Watch.

In one case it was a Secret Service agent who had to go to the hospital.

After the attack, an officer who reached out to the hurt agent called the account “freaking crazy” and referred to Commander as “that stupid dog” in a redacted email.

This isn’t the first time one of Biden’s dogs has bitten someone.

In December 2021, Major, another German Shepherd, had to live with family friends following a series of biting incidents.

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