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Tue. Jun 18th, 2024

The verdict regarding Hunter Biden’s guilt may have personal and political consequences for the president

By meerna Jun12,2024

Hunter Biden’s Tuesday guilty verdict, coupled with a trial that revealed dark moments in the Biden family’s history, could weigh heavily on the president in the final months of a grueling re-election campaign, privately worrying many of the president’s allies.

The political impact is less clear, and even some Republicans on Tuesday dismissed Hunter’s crime — purchasing a gun six years ago — as relatively minor. Republican Party leaders remain hopeful that the verdict will find the Bidens violating the law and compensate for Donald Trump’s conviction. Meanwhile, Democratic strategists argued that voters were unlikely to hold the president accountable for his son’s behavior.

However, the personal toll of the president, who has already experienced the death of two children and struggled for years with his son’s addiction, may be much more serious.

“What normal person wouldn’t be torn to pieces if they saw their family’s suffering unfolding in a courtroom before the whole world?” said David Axelrod, former senior adviser to President Barack Obama. “And to see the people you love have to testify, not just your son, but your daughter-in-law and your granddaughter, all reliving the most painful moments of their lives – who wouldn’t be devastated by that?”

Axelrod added: “I don’t think voters will hold Biden responsible for his son’s addiction or inappropriate behavior. But I think the real question is the cost to him and his family.”

The dramatic and often sordid trial, in which prosecutors maintained that Hunter was using illegal drugs in 2018 even though he made statements to the contrary, unfolded in Biden’s hometown of Wilmington, Del., a few blocks from Biden’s headquarters for re-election. Two of President Biden’s former daughters-in-law – Kathleen Buhle, Hunter’s ex-wife, and Hallie Biden, Biden’s widow – testified for the impeachment. Naomi Biden, Hunter’s daughter and Biden’s granddaughter, testified for the defense.

The president released a statement of support for his son on Tuesday, shortly before speaking at a gun control event.

“As I said last week, I am the president, but I am also a dad,” the statement said. “Jill and I love our son and are so proud of the man he is today. “So many families whose loved ones have struggled with addiction understand the feeling of pride in seeing someone you love come out the other side and be so strong and resilient in recovery.”

The president, who has emphasized his determination to avoid the appearance that he was exerting undue influence over a case brought by his own Justice Department, was largely absent from the hearing itself. But his family members were present often enough that prosecutors urged the jury Monday not to let them influence the case.

“None of this constitutes evidence,” prosecutor Leo Wise said during closing arguments, waving toward the packed courtroom that included first lady Jill Biden, who attended almost every day of the trial. “People sitting in the gallery are not evidence.”

During the trial, the president visited his home in Wilmington several times. He was there on the first day of the trial before leaving for an official visit to France, and returned on Sunday after returning to the United States.

After the verdict was announced Tuesday, the White House unexpectedly announced that Biden would travel to Wilmington that afternoon before heading to a summit in Italy on Wednesday. The daily White House briefing, usually led by press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre, was also canceled at the last minute on Tuesday.

Hunter Biden was convicted on all counts Tuesday as jurors accepted prosecutors’ claims that he falsely stated on a federal gun purchase form that he was not using or addicted to illegal drugs and then illegally possessed a gun for 11 days.

For months, House Republicans have been conducting a broader investigation into Hunter and the Biden family, arguing that Hunter improperly benefited from his father’s position as vice president. That investigation has largely stalled.

On Tuesday, several Republicans said that while they still believe Hunter Biden committed financial misconduct, gun crime is minor at best.

Rep. Matt Gaetz (Fla.), a Trump loyalist who has frequently attacked Hunter Biden, dismissed the outcome of the case. “Hunter Biden’s gun verdict is kinda stupid,” Gaetz wrote on X, using the shorthand for “honestly.”

Rep. Thomas Massie (Ky.), another staunchly conservative lawmaker, wrote in X: “Hunter may deserve prison time for something, but buying a gun isn’t everything.” He added: “There are millions of marijuana users in this country who own guns, and none of them should be in prison for purchasing or possessing firearms contrary to applicable laws.”

Some Democrats said that since American families of all kinds have suffered from addiction, they could sympathize with Hunter Biden’s struggle with substance abuse.

President Biden expressed pride in Hunter’s newfound stability, including his marriage to his second wife, Melissa Cohen-Biden.

However, he faces further challenges, especially since the president announced that he will not pardon his son. This means Hunter Biden faces a sentence including prison time. Given his status as a first-time nonviolent offender, his legal team is hoping for a more lenient sentence.

Moreover, Hunter Biden will face another trial in September, this time for alleged tax evasion.

It is no secret among President Biden’s close advisers that he is deeply concerned about his son’s state of mind.

Biden’s advisers have often expressed reluctance to talk to the president about his son’s problems. Some advisers have tried to limit Hunter’s public appearances in the past, angering Hunter and those close to him.

The president has long tried to keep his son close to him. When news broke years ago that Hunter had been discharged from the Naval Reserves for cocaine use, Joe Biden was quick to break the news to his family.

“As good as it might be,” he wrote in an email reviewed by The Washington Post. “It’s time to move on. I love daddy.”

According to Hunter’s account, also included in his memoir, the president offered his son unconditional love, sometimes came to his door to tell him he needed help and repeatedly told him he loved him no matter what. President Biden is in daily contact with his son, making phone calls and, when those go unanswered, sending text messages, according to the president’s friends and associates, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive matters.

Biden’s advisers are also acutely aware of the tragedy he has already experienced. In 1972, his wife and infant daughter died in a car accident shortly after he was first elected to the Senate. In 2015, his son Beau, who was 46 years old at the time, died of brain cancer.

“For a guy who has already experienced great loss and tragedy, this is another heavy brick in the bank,” Axelrod said. “And it’s going to take a tremendous amount of strength to carry that burden, given all the other bricks that are on the deck when it comes to the presidency and being a candidate.”

Some Democrats and Republicans questioned whether the case would have been brought had Hunter not been the president’s son.

“I think any average American who paid taxes like Hunter Biden would probably be prosecuted,” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) recently told HuffPost. “But I don’t think the average American would be charged with possessing a gun. I don’t see anything good coming from this.”

Trump’s campaign, like other Republicans, sought Tuesday to focus not on the conviction but on the money Hunter Biden made from foreign business dealings.

“This trial was nothing more than a distraction from the true crimes of the Biden crime family, which pocketed tens of millions of dollars from China, Russia and Ukraine,” Karoline Leavitt, national press secretary for the Trump campaign, said in a statement.

Although Hunter used his name frequently throughout his business career, there is no significant evidence that Joe Biden played an active role or profited from these transactions.

Hunter’s allies say he is now trying to end his battle with addiction by partially acknowledging and making amends for his mistakes.

His 2021 memoir, “Beautiful Things,” was in some ways a confession that prosecutors adopted during the trial. Hunter Biden has taken on a more public profile in recent months, opposing the GOP investigations.

The September tax trial, like the one that just concluded, is being handled by special counsel David Weiss and could similarly create embarrassing moments for Hunter and the Biden family.

As part of that trial, which will be held in Los Angeles, prosecutors are expected to outline the various ways Hunter spent his money – much of it, the indictment says, on “drugs, escorts and girlfriends, luxury hotels and rental properties, exotic cars, clothing and other personal items, in short, everything except taxes.

Hunter’s lawyers say he paid his taxes in full three years ago and say that, as with the gun case, prosecutors wouldn’t bring a case against an ordinary citizen.

The trial is scheduled to start on September 5 – exactly two months before election day.

By meerna

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