Days after Trump’s guilty verdict, Hunter Biden heads to court

The trial in Delaware will test the president’s focus and mental discipline during a pivotal stretch of his presidency.

 Three days after Joe Biden proclaimed that “no one is above the law,” his lone surviving son faces a criminal trial on federal gun charges that could potentially land him in jail.

Biden was speaking about Donald Trump, the once and possibly future president who was convicted on 34 counts of falsifying business records.

Now Biden must practice the high-minded principle he defended in his White House remarks Friday, waiting for a verdict in Hunter Biden’s case like any other anxious parent and trusting that the judicial system will be fair.

The younger Biden’s trial opens Monday in Wilmington, Delaware, with the guilty verdict in Trump’s case still reverberating through the presidential race.

A question surrounding Trump’s conviction is what it all means to voters. Will they pull away from Trump as he awaits sentencing, or rally behind him in the belief he was unfairly prosecuted?

In Hunter Biden’s trial, the electorate isn’t so much the issue. Voters aren’t likely to blame Biden even if his son is convicted, polling shows. More than half credited Biden with being a good father by supporting his son through myriad legal difficulties, a Reuters-Ipsos survey in January showed.

A bigger question is whether Hunter Biden’s fate will distract or distress a sitting president in the throes of a tough re-election bid. The son’s trial is the father’s as well, in that sense, testing Joe Biden’s focus and mental discipline during a pivotal stretch of his presidency.

Soon after the trial gets underway, Biden will leave for his first overseas trip of the year. He’ll give a speech in France on Thursday marking the 80th anniversary of the D-Day landings that led to the allied victory in World War II.

Later in the week, he’ll meet privately with French President Emmanuel Macron, where they are expected to discuss a grinding war between Russia and Ukraine that has cost U.S. taxpayers $175 billion.

Biden will return to Europe midmonth for a summit meeting in Italy with America’s closest democratic allies, and at the end of June he’ll take part in his first debate with Trump.

“He has always put his family at the center of his life,” Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del., a friend of the president’s, said in an interview. “He will be able to do both. He has shown for decades an ability to both tend to difficult and pressing family needs and carry out his office.”

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The Bidens are a family drawn close by tragedy. Hunter Biden and his brother Beau were both seriously injured in a car crash in 1972 that killed their mother and baby sister, just weeks after Joe Biden won his first Senate bid.

Beau Biden died of brain cancer at age 46 in 2015, leaving what Hunter Biden described in his 2021 memoir as a “hole that was hard to fill.” He used the book to describe a crack cocaine addiction that could have killed him.

“It will likely be very personal and very painful,” an adviser to the president said of of Hunter Biden’s trial.

In the run-up to the trial, the two have been virtually inseparable. Privately, some Biden allies have questioned whether it’s smart for Biden to give his son a public platform that makes the entire family a target for GOP attacks. Yet if anything, Biden wrapped himself around Hunter more tightly ahead of the trial.

The younger Biden was a guest at a state dinner at the White House on May 23 for the visiting president of Kenya.

He joined his father and other family members on Thursday as they visited Beau’s gravesite in Wilmington on the ninth anniversary of his death. The next day, Hunter Biden joined his father on Air Force One as they flew to Washington.

On Saturday, as the president bicycled during his stay at his Rehoboth Beach home in Delaware, his son cycled behind him, according to a White House press pool report.

Michael LaRosa, a former spokesman for first lady Jill Biden, said that “the Bidens are remarkably normal parents and when their kids are hurting, they’re hurting, too.”

“Biden communicates daily and directly with his children and I would not expect that to change during the trial,” LaRosa added. “This is a father and son who have had an especially close relationship their entire lives, and based on how often they talk to and rely on each other, I expect the president will always be in the loop on the developments, no matter where he physically is in the world.”

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The Biden and Trump campaigns are taking vastly different approaches to the trial. Trump’s team is drawing an equivalence between the ex-president’s predicament and that of Hunter Biden. In a Fox News appearance on Thursday after the verdict, Trump spokesman Jason Miller was asked what Trump would say if Biden were to start calling his rival a “convicted felon.”

“Where’s Hunter?” Miller replied.

Biden allies say they aren’t worried about that line of attack. “Where’s Hunter?” was a Trump mantra during the 2020 campaign. Yet Trump lost.

“It hasn’t stuck. So, it doesn’t strike me as likely that a trial of Hunter Biden in a crowded media environment will break through,” said Dmitri Mehlhorn, a Democratic strategist and fundraiser.

As the trial unfolds, the Biden campaign plans to keep quiet. There won’t be any rapid-response statements coming from the Wilmington headquarters about developments inside the federal courthouse, people familiar with the matter said.

One of Biden’s aims is to show that he’s not abusing presidential powers by meddling in independent law enforcement investigations. He said little about Trump’s case until the verdict was rendered. Though he told MSNBC’s Stephanie Ruhle last year that his son had “done nothing wrong,” he wants to avoid any impression that he’s trying to influence the outcome one way or another, Biden advisers said.

A hands-off approach could also help undercut Trump’s claim that Biden has weaponized the justice system to sway the election.

“Maybe this [Hunter Biden’s trial] addresses all those Trump disciples who believe that the federal government is out to get Donald Trump,” said Alan Kessler, a Philadelphia-based attorney and longtime Democratic fundraiser. “If anything, it levels the playing field and shows there is not some great conspiracy by the government to just go after Donald Trump.”

Hunter Biden was indicted in September on three counts involving possession of a gun while using narcotics. He has pleaded not guilty. The trial may feature moments of personal drama and anguish. Prosecutors have been permitted to delve into Hunter Biden’s past drug use. They are expected to call as witnesses his ex-wife Kathleen Buhle, as well as Beau Biden’s widow, Hallie Olivere Biden.

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A hope among Biden advisers is that voters prove sympathetic to Hunter Biden’s struggle with addiction, a nationwide scourge. In 2022, the most recent year in which data was available, nearly 49 million people in the U.S. over the age of 12 had a “substance use disorder” involving alcohol or drugs, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Many voters have struggled with drug or alcohol dependence and should be able to empathize with what the Bidens have endured, said a Democratic fundraiser who is close to the Biden campaign.

“Twenty-five years ago, this might have been scandalous. But things have changed,” this person said, speaking on condition of anonymity to talk freely. Voters are more accepting of “imperfect families” and don’t tend “to look down on them and think he [Joe Biden] must be a bad dad.”

A verdict in the case doesn’t end the Hunter Biden saga. In September, he is scheduled to go on trial in California in a separate case involving tax charges. He has pleaded not guilty.

Biden aides are anxious about the timing of the tax trial. It will happen just two months before the election and may spill into the early-voting period in some states.

Though Trump was indicted in three other cases, he isn’t expected to face any more trials before the election. That could set up an unhelpful split screen, as Biden’s advisers see it: Trump will be out campaigning, while the president’s son will be sitting in a courtroom defending himself against charges that he failed to pay taxes.

But a focus group conducted in December with swing voters in North Carolina suggests that people may be forgiving. When the moderator asked one woman whether she was troubled by Hunter’s indictment on tax charges, she replied: “No.”

“Why not?” the moderator asked in the focus group conducted by Engagious/Sago as part of its Swing Voter Project.

“He’s not the president,” she said. “I’m not voting for him.”

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