President stood by son Hunter before gun trial

Susan Walsh/AP

President Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden, center, ride bikes together near Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, June 1, 2024.


In the days and weeks leading up to Hunter Biden’s trial on felony gun charges, President Joe Biden made a small attempt to distance himself from his son. Instead, Hunter Biden was seen at the White House and in Delaware alongside his father, amid what the president’s allies acknowledge was a difficult moment for both men.

They attended a White House state dinner for Kenya last month; marked the ninth anniversary of the death of Beau Biden, the president’s eldest son, at church last week; and rode bikes together along a trail in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, on Saturday.

The president also plans to spend most of Monday in Wilmington, where jury selection for the trial — the first of a child of the sitting U.S. president — is expected to begin. He went there on Sunday evening, arriving earlier than initially planned.

Hunter Biden, 54, is accused of illegally purchasing and possessing a firearm while abusing or being dependent on drugs, a violation of federal law. He has pleaded not guilty to all three charges, although he has spoken openly about his problems with alcohol and crack addiction.

For the president, the legal problems his son faces are a reason to bring him together rather than push him away. Joe Biden has not paid attention to some of his allies who question this approach. Instead, her concern for her son’s well-being outweighs any potential political fallout, advisers said.

This concern has at times felt all-consuming, including in the darkest moments of Hunter Biden’s addiction, when the president and his family were desperate to avoid a self-destructive cycle.

Joe Biden continues to talk or text his son almost daily, especially as his legal problems mount.

The president told an interviewer last year that his son had “done nothing wrong” and that the only way Hunter Biden’s legal troubles affected his presidency was by creating a surge of paternal pride.

“It impacts my presidency by making me proud of it,” he said on MSNBC.

As the gun trial begins, Biden will travel overseas to mark the 80th anniversary of D-Day. There is no doubt he will stay in regular contact with his son overseas and meet will update on the trial amid a busy schedule of commemorations, speeches and a state visit to Paris with French President Emmanuel Macron.

But neither he nor the White House should speak proactively about the trial. Biden Hunter’s legal team generally operates separately from the president and his campaign, and few think there would be much benefit from the president weighing in publicly.

Prosecutors said they plan to call about a dozen witnesses in their case.

Most notably, they gathered testimony from three of Hunter Biden’s former romantic partners to testify about his drug use at the time he purchased the gun. This includes his ex-wife, Kathleen Buhle; his late brother’s widow, Hallie Biden, whom Hunter Biden later dated; and Lunden Roberts, the mother of one of his children.

Their testimony could bring back to life a period that Hunter Biden has described as his lowest, during which he was almost always using drugs or trying drugs. During his attempted plea hearing last year, Hunter Biden said he had been sober since May 2019.

There was a time last summer when the president and his orbit believed Hunter Biden’s legal ordeal would end with a plea deal and the family would be able to close a dark chapter.

Those hopes were dashed when the deal collapsed and, weeks later, a special counsel was appointed to oversee the investigation into the president’s son, raising the prospect of protracted legal battles overlapping with Joe Biden’s candidacy to re-election.

But many in Biden’s orbit suggest his son’s legal troubles won’t be a major concern for voters heading into the November election.

Yet few issues are more sensitive in the White House than that of the president’s son, from his struggles with addiction to his legal woes.

That largely left Hunter Biden and his team to launch their own offensive, accusing Republicans and others of trying to use his addiction issues for political gain.

“They are trying, in the most illegitimate, but rational way, to destroy a presidency,” Hunter Biden said in a podcast released late last year. “And so, it’s not about me, and… what they’re trying to do is they’re trying to kill me, knowing that it will be a greater pain than my father could supporting and thus destroying a presidency in this way.

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