In Hunter Biden Trial, Focus Turns to the Biden Women

In Hunter Biden Trial, Focus Turns to the Biden Women

One by one, the women drifted into the courthouse: The wife. The ex-wife. The daughter. The sister-in-law who, through the fog of tragedy and drug abuse, ended up an ex-girlfriend.

Once inside the courtroom, they locked their eyes past the many strangers who watched them — people who wondered if they would break down, or say the wrong thing. If they would cry.

Hunter Biden is the one on criminal trial, staring down gun charges. But the spectacle in the courtroom has forced the Biden women into an uncomfortable spotlight.

In the family, public life has often revolved around the men. The women called to testify had, at different points, tried to support and protect the one who was the troubled husband, father and son — and whose ruinous history of addiction continues to hit them with shrapnel. The women who didn’t speak sat in the courtroom, playing parts of nurturers and sentinels.

The pain of this responsibility was written on the face of Hunter Biden’s eldest daughter, Naomi Biden Neal, who testified on his behalf on Friday.

“He seemed great,” a nervous-sounding Ms. Biden Neal, dressed in black with her hair pulled back, told the court on Friday. “He seemed hopeful.”

Ms. Biden Neal, 30, was describing a period in October 2018 when drug addiction was again overtaking her father’s life. That month, Hunter Biden had bought a gun and filled out a federal form attesting that he was not using drugs — a decision that is at the heart of the prosecution’s case against him.

Ms. Biden Neal had to revisit painful text messages with her father in which she begged for his time.

“I’m really sorry, dad, I can’t take this,” she wrote to him on Oct. 18 after the two repeatedly tried and failed to coordinate a time to see each other. In particularly stinging questioning on Friday, prosecutors implied that Mr. Biden had been preoccupied with contacting drug dealers while ignoring his daughter’s messages.

“I don’t know what to say, I just miss you so much, I just want to hang out with you,” Ms. Biden Neal wrote, adding an unhappy-face emoji.

Her father appeared to fight back tears as she spoke. When she finished testifying, Ms. Biden Neal crossed the courtroom and gave him a long hug.

Addiction is a hell that touches many American families, and the particulars of this trial — the desperate text messages, the stomach-turning worry and the terror — will be familiar to anyone who has seen it up close.

But the backdrop of this personal drama is singular: While the women in the family dealt with the fallout of Hunter Biden’s choices in a courtroom this week, his father, President Biden, has been on a trip to France, honoring the contributions of World War II veterans.

There were other complicated dynamics on display. Hallie Biden, who was married to Beau Biden, the president’s eldest son, was summoned by the prosecution to relive a period of her life she’d called “a terrible experience.” She bonded with Hunter Biden over the tragedy of her husband’s 2015 death. Eventually, the two of them began dating, and using crack cocaine.

In court on Thursday, Hallie Biden said she would often lose touch with Mr. Biden for weeks, only to have him show up late at night, burned out and exhausted, looking for a place to crash.

“It was a typical pattern,” she said.

Kathleen Buhle, who was married to Hunter Biden for 24 years and shares three children, including Naomi Biden Neal, with him, was called by the prosecution to describe how addiction had harmed her life and marriage.

Ticking through the times she stood by her husband as he sought treatment for alcoholism — including in 2003 and 2012— she spoke more solemnly about the period after 2015, when her discovery of his cocaine habit and later his affairs cracked open the life that she knew.

Adding to the spectacle is the presence of Jill Biden, the first lady of the United States, whose entourage this week has included a Secret Service detail and Anthony Bernal, a senior adviser to the Bidens. She left the high-profile trip to France at President Biden’s side on Thursday to return to court, and is scheduled to resume the trip on Saturday.

In court on Friday, the first lady sat with Valerie Biden Owens, the president’s sister, and Melissa Cohen Biden, whom Hunter Biden married in 2019. He has credited Ms. Cohen Biden with his sobriety, and she has been by his side all week as his most spirited defender. On Tuesday, Ms. Cohen Biden caught sight of Garrett Ziegler, the operative who had worked to disseminate the contents of Hunter Biden’s laptop on the internet after it had been left in a repair shop. She called him a “Nazi,” and a curse word.

Other women in her family remember a version of him that Ms. Cohen Biden does not, and share a past they have all tried but failed to outrun.

Ashley Biden, the president’s daughter, cried quietly. Other women in the family sat in stone-faced silence as jurors were picked, testimony was delivered, and snippets of Hunter Biden’s memoir were read, by the author, for the world and for them to hear.

Glenn Thrush contributed reporting from Wilmington, Del.

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