What’s next for Hunter Biden, now that his plea deal is on hold?

Washington — After what was expected to be a perfunctory initial appearance by Hunter Biden in federal court on Wednesday descended into chaos, with his plea deal with federal prosecutors falling apart, the path forward isn’t so clear cut for the president’s son.

The younger Biden, who hoped to close the door on his legal woes after a years-long federal investigation into his finances, must now wait as his legal team and federal prosecutors prepare to brief U.S. District Court Judge Maryellen Noreika. 

Their tentative plea agreement fell apart Wednesday, after Noreika said she couldn’t sign off on the deal, which would have had him plead guilty to two misdemeanor tax charges and enter a diversion program to avoid a gun charge. The judge cited a disagreement between prosecutors and the defense team over whether the deal meant Biden would be shielded from prosecution on other charges in the future.

“I have concerns about the agreement,” she said. “I can’t let him plea to something if he thinks he has protection from something and he doesn’t.” 

The judge decided to defer action on the plea agreement. Without a deal in place, Biden entered not guilty pleas to the two tax charges. 

Noreika gave federal prosecutors and Biden’s defense team 30 days to brief her and present a potential revised plea agreement. After that, she said she would review the matter, meaning a ruling on any plea agreement could be delayed for weeks. The judge did not set a date for the next court appearance. 

“I think that both sides have a sincere interest in getting this resolved as soon as possible,” CBS News legal analyst Rikki Klieman said on “CBS Mornings” Thursday. “The government really doesn’t want to try this case in Delaware. You’ve got a family with a favorite son of Delaware. You have someone who has a real defense about being a drug addict, an extraordinary, out of control drug addict who did not face his responsibilities, that they would rather not try the case. And the defense obviously has an interest in not having him prosecuted for other crimes. They’ve got enough time … that they could try to work this out.”

When the judge asked prosecutors Wednesday if the government could still potentially charge Biden under the Foreign Agents Registration Act — a law governing lobbying on behalf of foreign entities — an assistant U.S. attorney responded that yes, prosecutors could still explore potential FARA violations. An attorney for Biden disagreed and said they were “going to have to discuss things with the government,” declaring the plea agreement “null and void.”

“Now the question becomes your issue, which is, can they work out a new plea agreement with this foreign lobbying issue holding over them?” Klieman said. “Hunter Biden’s lawyers and Hunter Biden cannot afford the possibility that if Donald Trump or another Republican should be elected president in 2024 that they might not come back and prosecute him. So they need to resolve this, even if there is an investigation that continues.”

As Klieman, the judge and prosecutors noted, the investigation into the president’s son is still ongoing. 

Clare Hymes contributed to this report.

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