Hunter Biden's family banded together for his trial. A bigger challenge awaits.

Updated

WILMINGTON, Del. — Moments after a jury convicted him on three felony gun charges, Hunter Biden vowed to family members and friends who had sat through nearly each day of his weeklong trial that the verdict “will not stop us from moving forward.”

The small group was gathered in the defense room, just steps from the courtroom where he had just learned his fate. Hunter Biden choked up when he singled out his parents and his wife, Melissa Cohen Biden.

Without her, he said, “I’d be dead.”

First lady Jill Biden appeared to cry, as did several other people in the room.

“We had our hopes up,” a person who was in the room said. “We thought there were strong defenses that would resonate with at least a few jurors.”

The conviction shook the close-knit Biden family. President Joe Biden changed his plans and flew to Wilmington to be with his son, who met him on the tarmac at the airport and embraced him with a hug.

Despite the brave faces father and son put forth publicly Tuesday, the road forward may only get more difficult for both men — personally, politically and legally.

Within hours after the verdict, Republicans were already telegraphing that while they may have largely held their fire during a trial that dealt with the sensitive issue of addiction, they will be unsparing when the focus turns to a potential tax case set for trial in September.

“This trial has been nothing more than a distraction from the real crimes of the Biden Crime Family,” Karoline Leavitt, former President Donald Trump’s campaign spokesperson, said in a statement.

Biden aides are already looking ahead to that trial anxiously. While the gun charges trial put humiliating, personal family dynamics and history on display, the one in California on accusations of tax evasion could expose controversial information about Hunter Biden’s business dealings, which Republicans have long sought to tie to his father, without evidence.

The timing of the trial raises the stakes. A pretrial hearing is scheduled for mid-August, just before the Democratic National Convention, with jury selection beginning weeks later as Biden and Trump would be meeting for their second and final debate. A verdict could come as early voting begins in some key states ahead of the November election.

Aides and allies close to the Bidens say that family matters are some of the most sensitive topics for those working in the White House and the campaign — and that the scrutiny would only get more intense as focus now turns to the September trial. Conversations about public comments concerning the family are typically handled through “discrete channels,” said a former aide. And only a select few are allowed to craft statements to the media.

President Joe Biden hugs his son Hunter Biden upon arrival at Delaware Air National Guard Base in New Castle, Del., on June 11, 2024. (Andrew Caballero-Reynolds  / AFP - Getty Images)
President Joe Biden hugs his son Hunter Biden upon arrival at Delaware Air National Guard Base in New Castle, Del., on June 11, 2024. (Andrew Caballero-Reynolds / AFP - Getty Images)

A former Biden campaign official said: “Matters involving the family were always so paramount for Joe Biden, so any matter involving family, particularly one in the public eye, was going to be something that would be handled with the greatest degree of care. You just didn’t want to shoot from the hip on something involving the family. If they were to see it and be unhappy with it — that would not be good.”

A former White House official said that could complicate the messaging around the fall trial, because of the Bidens’ tendency to severely limit comment around sensitive family issues.

“If they’re not talking, others will, and so the vacuum gets filled, the story gets told in a narrative that’s not shaped by the campaign” or the White House, the former official said. “And I’m sure Democrats everywhere will be wringing their hands. Can I say anything? Can I react at all?”

Biden issued only written statements at the start and the end of his son’s first trial. Both stressed that he would “respect the judicial process” as it relates to his son — just as he said in a statement after Trump was convicted in a New York trial.

But similarities end there.

Biden and his re-election campaign have mocked Trump as a “convicted felon.” They’ve used his conviction in New York on 34 felony counts to raise money for the Biden campaign. And they have pointed to it to argue that Trump is unfit to serve another term in the White House.

The Biden campaign plans to keep its distance from Hunter Biden’s legal troubles, though its approach to Trump is not expected to change.

“Republicans have been trying to attack Hunter Biden and tie him to his father for, like, five years now, and it’s never been effective,” said Josh Schwerin, a Democratic strategist. “If anything ... it will just show that the legal system is not rigged against Donald Trump, that there is no two-tiered justice system like Trump tries to say, and it undermines his core defensive talking point.”

As much as Trump and his allies try to tie the president to Hunter Biden’s tax charges, the president and his allies will try to separate the two. His team also will seek to repeatedly draw a distinction between felony charges against a candidate running for the White House and those against a relative of a candidate seeking the same office.

“It’s obviously an awful day for Hunter and a bad day for the Biden family, but as they have done in tragedies past, so many of them, unfortunately, is that they will be there for each other,” said Bill Russo, who worked in Biden’s vice presidential office, on his 2020 campaign and in the State Department.

President Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden (Demetrius Freeman / The Washington Post via Getty Images file)
President Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden (Demetrius Freeman / The Washington Post via Getty Images file)

Russo, though, pointed to Republicans’ disjointed reaction to the verdict as an indication that the opposing side did not exactly see Hunter Biden’s guilty verdict as a win.

“If your political response to this is to attack the DOJ and go unhinged, that does not suggest that you see this as a kind of political winner,” Russo said.

House Oversight Committee Chairman James Comer, R-Ky., reacted quickly to the verdict Tuesday, saying it was “a step toward accountability,” but he said the Justice Department continues “to cover for the Big Guy, Joe Biden.”

Last week, Comer and other top Republicans sent criminal referrals to the Justice Department recommending that Hunter Biden — along with the president's brother James Biden — be charged with making false statements to Congress. The referrals stem not from the gun charges, but from their depositions to Congress around House Republicans' impeachment inquiry into the president.

Rep. Mariannette Miller-Meeks, R-Iowa, who represents a more politically competitive seat, was more measured even as she walked a fine line with her party’s nominee.

“I think for most of us who want to have faith in the criminal justice system, this is reassuring, especially given what happened in New York last week with President Trump,” she said.

For Democrats, the more important question may be how the weight of Tuesday’s convictions adds to the burden on a family that has already endured tragedy in the public eye and for a president, in particular, as he prepares for a debate in two weeks against Trump that could be a turning point in his final campaign.

The uncertainty of whether Hunter Biden will go to prison in either case weighs heavily on the first family. Two of the gun-related counts carry maximum prison sentences of 10 years, while the third has a maximum of five years.

A supporter noted how difficult it was for the president to watch his son endure the public airing of his personal struggles. But Joe Biden’s public handling of the charges, respecting the outcome and vowing not to interfere, was evidence, the supporter said, that the president was more concerned about protecting the country.

“He knows how he feels as a parent for his son. He’s proud of the fact that [Hunter Biden’s] been strong enough to recover, but at the same time, Biden has shown his true colors when it comes to integrity,” the supporter said. “He understands that the choices he makes as president could severely hurt the rule of law. He has said from the beginning he would not interfere and has not ever interfered.”

A source close to the family who was at the courthouse Tuesday said the family “cares deeply about their service to this country” and would rally around one another.

“Nothing is going to stop them,” they said.

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