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President Biden shows support for his son Hunter after being convicted in gun case

ROB SCHMITZ, HOST:

President Biden made a quick, unexpected trip to Delaware yesterday to support his son.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Yeah. The president traveled to an Air National Guard base in Delaware, and on the tarmac, he hugged Hunter Biden, who a federal jury had just convicted on felony gun charges. Hunter denied his drug addiction when filling out a form to buy a firearm. The trial revealed many details of his addiction and persuaded a jury.

SCHMITZ: NPR justice correspondent Ryan Lucas attended every single day of this trial. Ryan, good morning.

RYAN LUCAS, BYLINE: Good morning.

SCHMITZ: You've reported elsewhere on the evidence against Biden and the verdict. Now we have the president's reaction. He says he's a dad, too. What is the toll this has had on the Biden family?

LUCAS: So, look, this case against Hunter Biden was brought by special counsel David Weiss. And Weiss spoke a bit after the verdict yesterday. Here's a bit of what he said.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

DAVID WEISS: Ultimately, this case was not just about addiction, a disease that haunts families across the United States, including Hunter Biden's family. This case was about the illegal choices the defendant made while in the throes of addiction.

LUCAS: Still, Hunter's addiction struggles were really the central feature of the trial, and members of the Biden family were in the front row of the courtroom every day of the trial. Hunter's wife was there. First Lady Jill Biden and other family members showed up for several days as well. And at times, they were in tears listening to the ugly, sordid testimony about Hunter's addiction to crack cocaine. Now, the government introduced the evidence to make their case to the jury. And ultimately, the jury found that evidence convincing and convicted Hunter on all charges.

The president in his statement yesterday noted that a lot of families in this country have loved ones who have battled addiction. And interestingly enough, the degree to which addiction hits American families was apparent during jury selection for Hunter's trial when some of the members of the jury said that they had either friends or family who had struggled with addiction.

SCHMITZ: You know, Republicans had been demanding investigations of the Bidens for years. How have they responded?

LUCAS: It's interesting. The response from Congressional Republicans has varied. Representative Thomas Massie from Kentucky, for example - he said on X that Hunter might deserve to be in jail for something, but purchasing a gun is not it. Speaker Mike Johnson said on X that Hunter was only prosecuted because House Republicans had sounded the alarm, and he called on the Justice Department to investigate the Biden family.

Now, some of that sentiment is rooted, of course, in anger over the criminal cases against former President Trump, including his recent conviction on state charges in New York. Trump's legal troubles have fed into Republican claims that the Justice Department targets Republicans, but it goes easy on Democrats. But here with this case against Hunter, you have the son of the sitting Democratic president charged and now convicted of federal gun crimes. There's also the ongoing federal trial in New York against Democratic Senator Bob Menendez on corruption charges. And another Congressional Democrat, Henry Cuellar of Texas, he was indicted last month on corruption charges as well.

SCHMITZ: I want to note one thing you said there. Some Democrats have insisted that Hunter Biden would not have been prosecuted for the statement on a form, except for the political pressure by Republicans. You just said, Speaker Mike Johnson agrees with this. He was prosecuted because Republicans demanded it. Does Hunter Biden appeal this conviction?

LUCAS: We don't have a definitive answer to that question right now. His attorney said that they would pursue all legal challenges available. But there is another trial on the horizon for Hunter already. Remember, special counsel Weiss also charged Hunter Biden with tax crimes. That's a separate case in California. He faces nine counts there, and that case is currently scheduled to go to trial in September.

SCHMITZ: That's NPR's justice correspondent Ryan Lucas. Thanks, Ryan.

LUCAS: Thank you.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Ryan Lucas covers the Justice Department for NPR.
Rob Schmitz is NPR's international correspondent based in Berlin, where he covers the human stories of a vast region reckoning with its past while it tries to guide the world toward a brighter future. From his base in the heart of Europe, Schmitz has covered Germany's levelheaded management of the COVID-19 pandemic, the rise of right-wing nationalist politics in Poland and creeping Chinese government influence inside the Czech Republic.
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