A Guilty Verdict for Hunter Biden Weighs on a Worried President Biden

A Guilty Verdict for Hunter Biden Weighs on a Worried President Biden

Hunter Biden was waiting for his father on the tarmac.

He had just been convicted on three felony gun charges by a jury in Wilmington, Del., his hometown. His father had hastily rearranged his schedule and rushed up from Washington.

Within hours of the verdict, President Biden traveled home, disembarked from Marine One and embraced his son. The president hugged Hunter Biden’s son and wife, as well, and bent over to kiss the head of his grandson, Beau Biden.

To call the relationship between father and son battle tested is an understatement.

Together they have survived the deaths of Mr. Biden’s first wife, eldest daughter and eldest son. They have weathered the fallout of crack addiction and alcohol abuse that has plagued Hunter Biden as well as several other members of the family. Over the past three years, they have been targeted by Republicans who have accused them of corruption and financial crimes.

But for all of the challenges that have tested them and ultimately brought them closer together, a guilty verdict in a federal courtroom — rendered in the middle of Mr. Biden’s final presidential campaign — is a first.

People close to Mr. Biden say he still believes in his son and his ability to stay clean. Hunter Biden has maintained that he has been sober since 2019. But the president has come to terms with the fact that there will be no easy end to his son’s legal problems.

He has also grown more resigned and worried than ever about what the future might hold for his son, the people said, speaking on condition of anonymity to relay private conversations.

Hunter Biden has faced serious legal problems for many years. Most recently he has relied on a wealthy benefactor, the Los Angeles lawyer Kevin Morris, to pay his multimillion-dollar back taxes bill and legal expenses. But as his legal problems continue, his cash crunch is only growing.

Mr. Biden, who said last week that he would not pardon his son, said in a statement after the verdict that he would accept the outcome of the case.

“As I said last week, I am the president, but I am also a dad,” Mr. Biden said. “Jill and I love our son, and we are so proud of the man he is today,” he added, referring to the first lady, Jill Biden, who was in the front row of Hunter Biden’s trial for most of the weeklong proceedings.

“So many families who have had loved ones battle addiction understand the feeling of pride seeing someone you love come out the other side and be so strong and resilient in recovery,” the president continued. “As I also said last week, I will accept the outcome of this case and will continue to respect the judicial process as Hunter considers an appeal. Jill and I will always be there for Hunter and the rest of our family with our love and support. Nothing will ever change that.”

Since the beginning of the trial, Mr. Biden’s schedule has kept him physically away from the proceedings in Wilmington, Del. He honored World War II veterans in France and, shortly after the jury began deliberating on Monday, hosted a Juneteenth celebration at the White House. He is scheduled to leave for Italy on Wednesday to attend the Group of 7 summit.

But people close to the Bidens say the president was in frequent touch with family members and his son. And this week, the people around Hunter Biden had been hopeful, even confident, that the jury would turn back a verdict of not guilty. They had appreciated that several jurors had relatives who had battled drug abuse.

Still, less than 24 hours after the lawyers delivered closing arguments, the jury’s decision was reflected on the grim face of Hunter Biden, who sat with his arms crossed as the jury turned back its verdict.

It surprised other members of the Biden family as well: The first lady and James Biden, Mr. Biden’s brother, did not make it through security in time to be in the courtroom as the verdict was read. When Hunter Biden left the courthouse, he clasped hands with the first lady, and they were followed outside by his wife, Melissa Cohen Biden, who sat just behind him every day of the trial.

He was convicted of lying on a federal form while applying for a handgun, lying to a federally licensed gun dealer and of illegally possessing a firearm during an 11-day period in 2018.

There was a time last year when the family believed Hunter Biden might have put the gun case behind him. Last June, Hunter Biden’s legal team had reached a deal with David C. Weiss, a federal prosecutor who was appointed by President Donald J. Trump, for him to plead guilty to two misdemeanor tax charges and accept terms that would allow him to avoid prosecution on a separate gun charge.

The deal would have brought a multiyear investigation to a close, but it quickly fell apart in public view when prosecutors and lawyers for Hunter Biden failed to agree on wording surrounding the conclusion of the gun investigation. Later, the judge in the case, Maryellen Noreika, picked apart the deal, exposing the substantial extent of the disagreement between both sides over Hunter Biden’s immunity from future prosecutions.

The no-nonsense Judge Noreika said at the time that she would not be a “rubber stamp.” Her refusal to sign the deal is the main reason Hunter Biden stood trial.

Now, nearly a year later, the president’s fears about the legal problems seem to be coming true.

Over years of personal and legal scandals surrounding his son, Mr. Biden has refused to shut out his son or treat him as a political liability — in fact, the president has a tendency to pull his son closer the worse things seem to get.

In 2019, just as he was launching his campaign for president, he sent a text message to his son as he was being treated for addiction.

“Good morning my beautiful son. I miss you and love you. Dad,” Mr. Biden wrote in 2019, just as he was launching his campaign for president and his son was being treated for addiction. The exchange was among a trove from a laptop abandoned by Hunter Biden in a Delaware repair shop.

Mr. Biden, who is scheduled to debate Mr. Trump later this month in Atlanta, got a glimpse of an attack line from his challenger after the verdict was read. The Trump campaign released a statement calling the trial a “distraction” from what the former president has described as the “real crimes” of the family.

Shortly before he left for Wilmington, Mr. Biden was also reminded of the political reality he is facing ahead of the election in November. A speech he delivered on gun control on Tuesday afternoon was interrupted by several protesters of the war in Gaza. He paused briefly before continuing his remarks.

Other business at the White House was canceled on Tuesday: The daily press briefing was removed from the schedule, and around 3 p.m., Mr. Biden left Washington, bound for Delaware.

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