From the time of the Enlightenment, there has been the widespread belief in equal treatment under the law. That pillar of Western civilization is now under attack, as shown by the shameless and disgusting statements by three Ivy League university presidents who claimed that advocating elimination of Jews was OK in the proper “context.” Other examples include the destruction of certain women’s sports by allowing athletes who were biologically male at birth but claim to be female to compete with women and the failure to allow a major undefeated college football team (Florida State) to compete in the playoffs for the national championship while giving the playoff slot to a team with a loss, Alabama. I could go on, but the most serious breakdown of consistent standards is the disparate treatment of former Vice President Spiro Agnew and President Biden, both of whom are credibly alleged to have taken bribes.

For those who were not yet born or have forgotten the Agnew case (which in many ways is similar to the Biden case), here is a brief review. Spiro Agnew had served as Baltimore County executive and subsequently as governor of Maryland before Richard Nixon selected him as his vice presidential running mate in 1968. In 1972, Maryland’s U.S. attorney opened an investigation of possible corruption in Baltimore County involving political leaders and private contractors. Since Agnew had not been county executive since 1966, the assumption was that he was not involved, and furthermore, the statute of limitations had expired.

During the investigation, one of the contractors admitted as part of a plea agreement that he had been kicking back 5% of the value of some contracts to Agnew, and that the payments had continued into Agnew’s vice presidency, even though he had not held office in Maryland in years. When Agnew learned of the investigation alleging tax fraud and corruption, and when it was subsequently leaked to the press, he publicly proclaimed his innocence and called the stories “damned lies.” (Note: President Biden as used almost identical language in denying that he received any benefits from the payments from Ukraine and China to his son.) In 1973, Attorney General Elliot Richardson, who had an impeccable reputation for competency and honesty (unlike the current attorney general, Merrick Garland) was given responsibility for the investigation by Nixon. (Note: The Agnew case was completely separate from the Watergate case.)

As the evidence mounted, Agnew, who was being pressured to resign, took the position that a sitting vice president could not be indicted — based on the precedent of an 1826 charge against Vice President John C. Calhoun, who was alleged to have taken improper payments when he was a Cabinet member. Agnew continued to insist that he was innocent, but he entered plea negotiations on the condition that he receive no jail time. In October 1973, Agnew pleaded no contest to felony tax evasion and agreed to resign as vice president, pay a $10,000 fine, and serve three years’ unsupervised probation. Later, Agnew denied wrongdoing, saying he had resigned in the best interest of the nation to prevent prolonged division and uncertainty.

At the time, there was widespread agreement among Republican and Democratic leaders in Congress that Agnew was unfit to serve as president (given the increasing likelihood of a Nixon resignation because of Watergate). Agnew’s agreement to resign on the condition of no jail time was widely applauded and accepted as the best outcome. House Minority Leader Gerald Ford was then selected by Nixon and overwhelmingly approved by Congress as the new vice president.

The bribery allegations against Mr. Biden are much more serious than those against Agnew because they involve payments by foreign state entities for alleged attempts to influence U.S. policy in both Ukraine and China. Mr. Biden’s defenders claim that there is no evidence that he directly received payments from Chinese or Ukrainian government officials or from people in state-owned companies. (Note: It is not necessary to have received a direct payment to be an indirect beneficiary of a bribe.) There is concrete evidence that Biden family members shared in the foreign-supplied funds, which were run through numerous shell companies.

The Justice Department has yet to charge Hunter Biden or other members of the Biden family for failure to register as foreign agents, even though it is clear that Hunter was required to do so under the law. In addition, the money laundering regulations are broad, in part, because they not only apply to the person or entities that acquired ill-gotten funds but also require that institutional recipients of funds from questionable sources know the source of such funds. In many respects, the case of former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort was similar. Mr. Manafort was sent to jail for failing to register as a foreign agent and for money laundering, among other charges.

The House committees investigating the Biden family’s activities need answers to the above questions and many others. President Biden resigning without jail time, like Vice President Agnew, would not be the worst outcome.

• Richard W. Rahn is chairman of the Institute for Global Economic Growth and MCon LLC.


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