5 takeaways so far from Hunter Biden’s trial

Hunter Biden’s trial will enter its fifth day in Wilmington, Del., Friday.

The president’s son is on trial for three alleged offenses pertaining to his purchase of a gun in October 2018.

The central question is whether he lied by denying he was an addict when he filled out a form in the process of buying the firearm.

The charges are lying to a federally licensed gun dealer, making a false statement on the form, and illegally being in possession of the gun. The gun was in Biden’s possession for 11 days.

Biden wrote extensively about his struggles with addiction to crack and alcohol in a 2021 memoir.

He has pleaded not guilty. If he is convicted, the president’s son could theoretically face up to 25 years in prison. But such a sentence would be extremely unusual given that he would be a first-time offender and there are no major aggravating circumstances.

The prosecution is expected to rest its case Friday.

Here are the main takeaways so far.

Trial brings grim details of addiction to the surface

Even though Hunter Biden has documented his travails with addiction, the trial has shone a spotlight on grim details that are tough to listen to — especially for the millions of Americans of all political persuasions who have seen family or friends in the grip of drug and alcohol abuse.

Texts between Hunter Biden and Hallie Biden included one instance in which he wrote that he was “sleeping on a car smoking crack.” They also included messages that, she surmised, alluded to him meeting a dealer and others where he confessed to being “a drunk” and “an addict.”

Hallie Biden is the widow of Hunter’s brother, Beau, who died from brain cancer in May 2015. According to her, she and Hunter began a romantic relationship in late 2015 or early 2016.

She testified that she began using drugs during this time and that it was Hunter who had introduced her to narcotics. According to The Associated Press, Hunter “rested his face on his left hand and looked down” as she offered that detail.

Previously, Hunter Biden’s ex-wife Kathleen Buhle had testified that she realized her then-husband was using crack when she found a crack pipe in an ashtray in 2015.

There were plenty of other similar details. Not all of them are directly relevant to Hunter’s guilt or innocence, but they weren’t comfortable moments for him or anyone in his family.

<em>Hallie Biden departs from federal court, Thursday, June 6, 2024, in Wilmington, Del. (Matt Rourke, Associated Press)</em>
Hallie Biden departs from federal court, Thursday, June 6, 2024, in Wilmington, Del. (Matt Rourke, Associated Press)

No presidential pardon if convicted

President Biden, who is in France to mark the 80th anniversary of D-Day, told ABC News on Thursday that he would not pardon his son if Hunter were to be convicted.

Asked by ABC “World News Tonight” anchor David Muir if he would accept the verdict and if he would rule out a pardon, Biden replied “yes” to both questions.

The president has mostly sought to avoid getting drawn into extended comment about his son’s legal woes.

But in a statement as the trial began Monday, Biden noted his dual roles as the president and “also a Dad.”

The statement paid tribute to Hunter’s “resilience in the face of adversity” and said that the president and first lady Jill Biden are “going to continue to be there for Hunter and our family with our love and support.”

The first lady has been a near-constant presence in the courtroom in Wilmington until Thursday, when she joined her husband in France. She is expected to be back for Friday’s proceedings.

“As the President, I don’t and won’t comment on pending federal cases, but as a Dad, I have boundless love for my son, confidence in him, and respect for his strength,” the president said in his Monday statement.

Defense tries to create slivers of doubt

Many legal observers think the defense attorneys face stiff challenges in the trial, given their client’s open acknowledgment of his addiction troubles during the general period in which he bought the gun.

The defense seems to be pinning its hopes, in part, on the suggestion that Hunter was not using drugs during the precise period when he purchased and possessed the gun.

For example, on Thursday, defense attorney Abbe Lowell wrung from Hallie Biden the admission that she did not witness firsthand Hunter using drugs during that period.

There have also been suggestions that some of Hunter Biden’s texts that appear to acknowledge drug use could have been inventions to dodge his partner or to conceal time spent in the company of other women.

Time will tell how persuasive the jury finds that explanation.

GOP issues request for new Hunter Biden prosecution

Besides the specifics of the gun case, Republicans in Congress have long had Hunter Biden in their sights — for his business dealings, as well as his personal peccadilloes.

On Wednesday, the GOP chairs of three House committees sent letters to the Department of Justice recommending the prosecution of Hunter Biden and James Biden for allegedly making false statements to Congress. James Biden is the president’s younger brother.

The letter came from Oversight and Accountability Committee Chair James Comer (R-Ky.), Judiciary Committee Chair Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), and Ways and Means Committee Chair Jason Smith (R-Mo.).

Such referrals do not obligate the Justice Department to act, and this one does not directly relate to the events being scrutinized in the Delaware courtroom.

Lowell, Hunter Biden’s attorney, shot back in a statement that the GOP was trying “to twist Hunter’s testimony so they can distract from their failed impeachment inquiry and interfere with his trial.”

Hunter’s wife confronts a Trump ally

Hunter Biden has never sought elected office, but politics has, of course, reared its head at the courthouse — sometimes in unexpected ways.

One of the most striking such moments came on Tuesday when Hunter’s wife, Melissa Cohen-Biden, was seen by reporters confronting Garrett Ziegler, a one-time staffer in the Trump White House.

Ziegler has “fashioned himself into a Hunter Biden specialist, compiling personal and financial records from anywhere he can get them,” according to The Washington Post. “Then, his nonprofit posts them online.”

NBC News staffer Sarah Fitzpatrick wrote that, during a break in the proceedings Tuesday morning, she witnessed Cohen-Biden approach Ziegler, point her finger at him and tell him, “You have no right to be here, you Nazi piece of s‑‑‑,” before walking away.

Cohen-Biden soon after alleged to NBC that Ziegler had called her “the most horrific Jewish slurs,” which Ziegler, in turn, called a “preposterous” suggestion.

Ziegler added, “For the record, I’m not a Nazi. I’m a believer in the U.S. Constitution.”

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